(Photo: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
With nearly all aspects of Zimbabwean life spiraling out of control, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu are sharpening their attacks against President Robert Mugabe, demanding that the six-term leader step down from office.
Rice, speaking in the Danish capital Friday, said it was “well past time” for Mugabe to leave his post. She also called the general election this year “a sham” that was followed by a sham sharing of power, according to The Associated Press.
Furthermore, the current outbreak of cholera - an infectious intestinal disease caused by consuming contaminated food or water - is only further evidence that Mugabe is not suitable to lead Zimbabwe, she said.
“If this is not evidence to the international community to stand up for what is right, I don’t know what would be,” Rice said. “And frankly the nations of the region have to do it.”
Zimbabwe is suffering from a cholera epidemic that is linked to its political and economic problems. U.N. estimates place the death toll from cholera at nearly 600 people since August.
The country also has the highest inflation rate in the world, currently at 231 million percent and rising, according to CNN.
Basic necessities such as food and clean water are hard-to-find items in Zimbabwe. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have instead crossed the borders to neighboring countries to find food or to work and send money back to their family in Zimbabwe.
Desmond Tutu, the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, this week also stated that Mugabe should step down from office. He went further than Rice and said African nations should even resort to military force if necessary to remove Mugabe from office, during an interview with Dutch TV program Nova on Thursday.
Another option to force Mugabe to step down, Tutu said, is to threaten him with prosecution at International Criminal Court. But the former archbishop did not specify what Mugabe would be charged of.
Mugabe “is destroying a wonderful country,” Tutu laments. “A country that used to be a bread basket … has now become a basket case itself needing help.”
The South African activist has long been one of Mugabe’s harshest critics.
Rice has noted that despite the United States’ differences with Mugabe, it will still support Zimbabweans who are the victims of the regime.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has said it will provide an additional $600,000 to help combat the cholera outbreak. The money is in addition to the $4 million water, sanitation, and hygiene emergency program USAID already has in place in Zimbabwe.