Mugabe "a mad dictator", UN rights expert says

GENEVA – Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is "a mad dictator" who has lost all sense of reality, a United Nations human rights expert said on Monday.

The only way Mugabe can be removed from power is for Europe to convince his "great protector South Africa" to withdraw all support for him, Jean Ziegler, an adviser to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, told Swiss Radio.

Mugabe, Ziegler declared, "is a former hero of the liberation struggle who has lost all sense of reality…. and become a mad dictator." He added: "The horror in Zimbabwe today is absolutely intolerable."

The comments from the Swiss sociologist, who has little sympathy for the Western countries most critical of Mugabe, reflected the despair over Zimbabwe on the rights council.

Four other U.N. rights experts said Zimbabwe could not control a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1,100 people.

The four — who report to the Human Rights Council on food, health, drinking water and the situation of rights defenders — said Mugabe’s "violations of civil and political rights" made it difficult to get a united response to the crisis.

But the comments from Ziegler, long associated with left-wing causes and development issues and who has good contacts among African leaders and diplomats, were seen as a sign of the wider gloom over Zimbabwe.

While most African governments have been pressing for the formation of a unity government between Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Ziegler said power should go to the MDC.  

"After all, they won the elections," he said, referring to a presidential vote earlier this year. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round but then pulled out of the run-off after a wave of violence against his supporters.

Ziegler, whose new book "The Hatred of the West" on attitudes in the developing world, has become a best-seller in France and other French-speaking countries, said U.N. military action to remove Mugabe was prevented by Russia and China.

These two, he argued, would veto any move in the Security Council to despatch U.N. forces to protect the Zimbabwean people, unless such action was supported by the African Union and above all by South Africa.

South Africa had strong historic links with Mugabe, who provided support during the struggle against apartheid, but was "a deeply civilised country" that would be open to real dialogue with the European Union on the issue, Ziegler said.

"Europe should call on South Africa to abandon its support for this mad dictator so as to open the way to a government of the opposition, which won the elections," he declared.