The Telegraph was rather poor in its choice of leader to quote from at the African Union: Omar Bongo of Gabon is unlikely to criticise a fellow 'Big Man' for the mere formality of rigging.His rhetoric of heroism only draws attention to his own hollow leadership and allow one to muse whether he and his cronies should also be targeted by sanctions.
More surprising and damning is the leak to the Mail and Guardian, where a memorandum by Thabo Mbeki predicted the Zimbabwean crisis that he singularly failed to prevent.
His paper, leaked to the Mail and Guardian, a South African weekly, amounts to a point by point critique of Mr Mugabe's decisions. Mr Mbeki urged him to avoid confrontation with Britain, take concerted action to revive the economy and stop employing the rhetoric of the anti-colonial struggle.
"In conditions of growing impoverishment among the people, it becomes impossible to mobilise these masses on the basis of the anti-colonial struggle," he wrote.
Mr Mbeki said that Zanu-PF should "encourage free, open and critical discussion" and "ensure the freedom of the press".
He criticised Zanu-PF's recruitment of veterans of the war against white rule, saying they would only "use force against the people" and undermine the party's support.
Mr Mbeki urged Zanu-PF to "understand that the great strategic challenge that faces Zimbabwe today is economic recovery". He added: "To resort to anti-imperialist rhetoric will not solve the problems of Zimbabwe, but may compound them."
Without economic revival, Zimbabwe would endure a "general crisis that
will destroy the independent national democratic state".
Thabo Mbeki's prediction of national failure places his inaction in stark contrast. Now that he has failed to provide any leadership in the South African Development Community and the African Union, Mbeki should step aside and allow other democratically elected leaders to condemn Mugabe. The ructions in the AU meeting at Sudan have re-enacted the understandable faultline between representative liberal democracy and authoritarianism.
This also presents a visible watershed for the West between the post-colonial generation that often blamed empire for the problems that they inherited or created. The transition from a colonial mindset to sovereign responsibility has now taken place across most of Africa with Mugabe acting as an ideological outlier for kleptocrats and reactionaries. It is insufficient to condemn the President of Zimbabwe as a throwback, since the rhetoric of victimhood and violence appeals to the disaffected and the armed thug, providing a justification to cow opponents and redistribute existing assets. In poor countries, Mugabe acts as the voice of the zero sum; though even the most supportive may now begin to see that his approach has resulted in a sum approaching zero.
With the ruination of Zimbabwe and the reviling of Mbeki, we may begin to see a democratisation of foreign policy in southern Africa, as actions are taken to cow and control regimes that immiserise their own people and threaten the security of their neighbours. Perhaps.