Nelson Mandela 'speaks out' on Zimbabwe

There has been a great deal of irritation in Britain that South Africa has failed to bring Robert Mugabe to heel. President Thabo Mbeki is blamed for this because he has steadfastly (and sensibly) refused to denounce Mugabe in public. But there has even been some veiled criticism of ex-President Nelson Mandela for failing to “speak out” on this matter.

On his recent visit to Britain as part of his 90th birthday celebrations, he did “speak out”. Here is the full text of what he said (at a dinner in Hyde Park on 26 June 2008): “Friends, thank you for joining us here this evening, and your support for our causes. “It is a great privilege having been able to travel here in our 90th year and be in the presence of so many good friends. “Thank you for the continuing support in the fight against the terrible scourge of HIV and AIDS.

You understand that it is in your hands to make a difference. “The world remains beset by so much human suffering, poverty and deprivation. It is in your hands to make of our world a better one for all, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalised.

“We look back at much human progress, but we sadly note so much failing as well. In our time we spoke out on the situation in Palestine and Israel, and that conflict continues unabated. We warned against the invasion of Iraq, and observe the terrible suffering in that country. “We watch with sadness the continuing tragedy in Darfur.

“Nearer to home we had seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe. “It is within this context that we should also see the plight of those affected by HIV and AIDS. “It is now in the hands of your generations to help rid the world of such suffering. “I thank you.” There, he also “spoke out” on Palestine and Iraq. That portion of his remarks was under-reported in Britain.