Ciro De Siena on lions, soccer and get well soon cards

South Africans generally have high fences. This generally keeps the dog in and any unwanted elements out, but it also creates a barrier between yourself and your neighbours. Neighbours are strange things. We get a bit grumpy if we get woken up by them at an early hour, but if there’s smoke rising from over the wall we try to see what’s happening, lending a hand if necessary. And right now we can see Zimbabwe’s smoke signals from here.

 Morgan Tsvangirai, opposition leader of the MDC, was beaten by police to the point where he needed a stay in ICU. They cracked his skull, and he could barely see through his swollen eyes. Maybe I’m simplifying this a bit, but if you hit someone over the head hard enough to crack his skull, I’d imagine that you had intended to kill that person.

 We don’t know what stopped this police brutality, but thank goodness it did at some point, because Africa would have been minus one incredible human being. He started out as a mineworker, and now he’s probably the only hope that Zim has, because crikey: no one else seems to want to step in and set things straight.

 And he’s no quitter either, a couple of years back two of Bob’s goons tried to shove him out of a 10th floor window, after beating him over the head with a pole. Hard-headed chap, our Morgan. With the sincerest of respect to Mr Tsvangirai, he’s unfortunately the butt-end of a long-running cruel joke. Because it seems that whenever a crackpot regime feels a bit threatened, they invariably turn to cracking heads. It’s a sign that the seat of power is getting a bit hot; and that the loony perched on top is feeling the heat. As hot as it gets though, the loony always seems intent on hanging on.

 However there is some hope amidst the bloodshed, and it all comes down to soccer. South Africa’s FIFA World Cup 2010 would have fallen in the same year that popular elections would have been held if Bob the Destroyer (can he ruin it…oops, did I put that in there?) had got his way. But now the Mail &Guardian reports that he’s gone all gooey and agreed to hold elections for the presidency in 2008, as scheduled. Apparently, Thabo and Bob had a quiet little chat in Ghana two weeks ago, at that country’s 50 year independence jubilee. Thabo, no doubt pipe in mouth, reasoned with Bob that Zim’s elections might take the shine off the big soccer thingy that we’ve got planned. And goodness me, Bob agreed.

 Now if I was Mr Tsvangirai, I’d be mighty pissed off at this. Why should he (literally) put his head on the block if all it takes to sort out a dictator is a big soccer show? Because he has the heart of a lion, and he simply doesn’t know how to give up. What he will be chuffed about though is that he can face up to Mugabe sooner rather than later, in what needs to be a free and fair election.

 All that we have to do, as an international community, but especially as South Africans, is get behind our good neighbour. And perhaps bring him a nice cake and a “get well soon” card for his troubles.Now that’s not too much to ask, is it?

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