The two Big Brothers of Africa must be brought to heel

Before he replaced Sean Connery as the world's most famous spy, Roger Moore was a moderate celebrity as that suave do-gooder and rescuer of damsels in distress, The Saint, aka Simon Templar.

Before he replaced Sean Connery as the world's most famous spy, Roger Moore was a moderate celebrity as that suave do-gooder and rescuer of damsels in distress, The Saint, aka Simon Templar.

As James Bond, his fame soared. It was probably his celebrity as the former licensed-to-kill 007 that he met Nelson Mandela at the United Nations in New York.

After that meeting he was smitten. Most people meeting Madiba are disarmed by his humility and awed by his steadfastness on the side of righteousness. Moore was asked in a recent interview who he most admired. He named Mandela.

Most Africans, particularly those sympathetic to the continent's underclass, hold Mandela in the highest esteem. To them, he symbolises the inherent huge-heartedness of the African, the capacity to forgive and forget and the determination to move forward against the real African enemy - poverty.

Most of us appreciate why many other African leaders would not name Mandela among their most admired statesman. Very few would lower their own stature in favour of an old man who negotiated his country's freedom from apartheid by talking at length to FW de Klerk.

Mandela persuaded De Klerk to buy into his courageous notion that there would be no black revenge for hundreds of years of white persecution.

Today, the party that has ruled the country since 1994 and for whose near-placid transition he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is on the verge of a rupture.

It's hard to imagine Madiba feeling anything but the deepest sorrow and revulsion at this prospect. In what might turn out to be a tragic irony, it is now the ANC that urgently needs a mediator, as its former leader was mediator for a peace pact among warring Zimbabweans.

Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma seem so far incapable of examining their differences in the cold, sober light of logic without the dark cloud of their own personal, petty rivalries.

Nigeria and South Africa, the most economically and politically powerful states on the continent, have, for far too long, harboured a myopic concept of how to set a shining example for Africa.

Nigerians have had a virtual rebellion in one of their oil rich regions for years. People have been killed, as will others be killed, if the threat of machine guns being brought out to spit their death-dealing fire in South Africa is implemented.

The African Union seems helpless to mediate. It displays the same impotence to halt the blood-letting in Nigeria over the distribution of oil wealth.

The two Big Brothers of Africa have to be brought to heel, somehow.

The Organisation of African Unity was launched in Addis Ababa in 1963, with Emperor Haile Selassie presiding. Mengistu Haile Mariam overthrew him in a coup in 1974. He himself was overthrown in 1991 and has been sheltered by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe ever since.

Meles Zenawi, the new dictator, is no better than Mengistu. Ethiopia is a tragic example of African failure to mediate. South Africa must not be allowed to perpetuate that syndrome - settling disputes through murder, as has happened in Zimbabwe.

l Bill Saidi is deputy editor of The Standard in Zimbabwe

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