Mandela has a profile, status and standing that is unsurpassed of anyone in Africa. While he has used this before to criticise Mbeki on HIV, he has resisted commenting on Zimbabwe, for a man of his considerable bravery it is negligent for him to remain silent.
David Blair of the Daily Telegraph does not believe he can speak up nor should he. I disagree.
Yes he is retired, yes he has called on Mugabe to retire before. However the argument of Blair is that he does not wish to undermine Mbeki his successor - but you must ask why? Misguided loyalty to the ANC - loyalty which is costing lives. Maybe he believes Mbeki will ignore him, but can he? Can he ignore the national hero, Nelson Mandela? How could he dare turn on Mandela?
After all the choice is clear for Mandela:
- Keep quiet, don't use your tremendous influence, and watch Zimbabwe burn, bleed and starve while Thabo Mbeki shrugs; or
- Upset Mbeki, some of the ANC (and certainly Mugabe), and shame a change in stance by any of them that may help end the violence.
Yes Mandela isn't obliged to do anything, but a man who is far from poor, who travels extensively being lauded for being a hero, who does nothing while his neighbour's backyard burns, is either resting on his laurels, too tired to care or simply too old to know his mistakes.