Mandela's words on Zimbabwe resonate widely

The South African statesman spoke critically in London about Robert Mugabe's crackdown.

Simon Dawson/AP
Nelson Mandela: In London, the former South African president criticized Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's actions.

Nelson Mandela uttered just four words criticizing Zimbabwe's leadership, but they were enough to resonate around the world.

The South African statesman is in London to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday, including meetings with the prime minister and the queen and a concert for 50,000 fans on Friday.

That event now is being overshadowed by events in troubled Zimbabwe, where widely condemned elections are due to be held on the same day.

Mr. Mandela, seen as a moral authority, has been under increasing pressure during his stay in Britain to condemn Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

In a speech Wednesday, Mandela highlighted several global crises including poverty, the Middle East, Iraq, and Darfur before referring to a "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe.

While brief, the phrase hit the headlines with many commentators reporting Mandela had "broken his silence." He retired from politics nine years ago.

Friday's concert will raise funds for Mandela's AIDS/HIV charity called 46664, named after his prison number during more than 25 years behind bars for his stand against South African apartheid.

It gives Mandela a more public platform to expand on his comments about Zimbabwe, but some of the performers argue such an approach could backfire. "That would not help," argued Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese hip-hop artist based in London. "The more we finger-point him [Mugabe], the more the people in Zimbabwe suffer.

"The only way to save Zimbabwe is if he travels to Zimbabwe. Let it be a secret meeting, do things underground, find out what is in his [Mugabe's] mind."

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