An Open Letter to Nelson Mandela

Dear President Mandela:

First of all, please accept my sincere congratulations on your impending 90th birthday. I am sure that most, if not all of the world echoes me in the sentiment that a happy, restful retirement is your just reward, as are the accolades you continue to receive.

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen about the present situation in Zimbabwe. I know that you are probably receiving many letters like this one, but I hope that I can re-emphasise the contribution you can make towards resolving the crisis.

I am sure that you are kept in the loop as to the full nature of the horror going on in Zimbabwe. Only yesterday, President Mugabe’s thugs broke into the headquarters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and captured those seeking refuge within its walls. Their fate is unknown.

Meanwhile, hyperinflation has achieved new heights. According to Channel 4 News, it is in the region of 2,000,000 %. The stores are empty. Unemployment is rife. The country is in a state of collapse. All that seems to be holding the regime in place is Mugabe’s unflinching use of extreme violence against his own people.

In spite of this, the reaction of the African and international community is muted, blunted. Kofi Annan stated yesterday that African leaders were “too polite” to each other to speak up. You, sir, may be the only person who can “speak up” and thus change the entire tone of the discussion.

A clear statement from you stating that what is going on in Zimbabwe is thoroughly reprehensible and that Mugabe should let go of the reins of power would have an electric effect. Your prestige is such that the ZANU PF line that anyone who opposes it is somehow a Western stooge would look ridiculous. The fact that a living, breathing icon of the struggle against apartheid had said “enough” would embolden the other African leaders to be less polite, and perhaps stiffen the will of the international community. With a bit of luck, it might even persuade President Mbeki to stop supplying the regime with the economic and political aid it desperately needs to survive.

I realise that after a lifetime of struggle, that you may not want to engage in politics any longer. The burdens of the past accumulate and draw one to rest. But as you know, sometimes injustice is so great that repose is not possible, and indeed, it could be shirking one’s duty to humanity.

I implore you, sir, please speak as soon as possible. Help end the bloodshed, shake the loathsome Mugabe regime to its core with your moral force. It will represent a final triumph: not only will you have achieved a long march to freedom for the people of South Africa, but you will have advanced the cause throughout the continent.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,


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