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JOHANNESBURG – South African President Thabo Mbeki has ruled out the use of sanctions under the African Peer Review (APR) system, accusing critics of the concept of wrongly assuming that African leaders could only embrace good governance under threat of punishment.
Mbeki, heavily criticised for failing to take a robust stance against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s controversial rule, said the APR was a departure from the old African practice of non-interference in the internal affairs of another state even in the face of gross human rights violations.
Writing in his weekly online column, Letter from the President, Mbeki however said it was wrong to believe the APR would be ineffective simply because it was "voluntary and does not include sanctions".
The South African leader, who has steadfastly refused to publicly condemn Mugabe opting for his quiet diplomacy approach that critics say has achieved little, said the APR would succeed on the back of commitment by ordinary Africans and their leaders to a renaissance of the world’s poorest continent.
He wrote: "Clearly these sceptics have not understood the commitment of the masses of the African people to overcome the problems that have afflicted our continent for a number of decades.
"They believe that these masses and their leaders should be threatened with punishment to persuade them seriously to engage the challenge of the renaissance of Africa".
Under the peer review system, African governments voluntarily submit themselves to a review by their peers on the continent. The review process, based on a set of agreed principles, examines the government as well as general country performance with the reviewers recommending action to correct whatever shortfalls discovered.
Several governments on the continent have already subjected themselves to the review process but many of Africa’s controversial rulers such as Mugabe have so far stayed clear of the APR.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of an economic and political crisis which critics blame on repression and mismanagement by Mugabe. Fuel, food, electricity, hard cash and nearly every other basic commodity is in critical short supply in Zimbabwe.