JOHANNESBURG - South Africa is the main obstacle to the implementation of United Nations sanctions against those responsible for the recent violence in Zimbabwe, as well as the imposition of an arms embargo against that country.
A draft Security Council resolution drawn up by American officials would impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, as well as place travel and financial restrictions on key members of the Zanu-PF regime. The New York Times, which was given sight of the draft, reports that sanctions would be targeted against those individuals who "engaged in or provided support for actions or policies to undermine democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe including having ordered, planned or participated in acts of politically-motivated violence."
Opposition to the resolution is being led by South Africa's permanent representative to the UN, Dumisani Kumalo. In an interview with Bloomberg he said "The text is too over the top, I don't think this is the kind of pressure that will work."
As permanent members of the Security Council China and Russia have the power to veto the resolution. Envoys from these countries have indicated they will defer to South Africa's lead on this issue.
In reply to a question about Kumalo's opposition to the resolution, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin told Bloomberg: "If there is any kind of threat they should be in a better position to tell us if it is proper for the Security Council to move in that direction. I don't recall a precedent for the Security Council to consider a sanctions resolution on the basis of elections."
The resolution is due to be discussed by the Council later today (Wednesday).
On Monday last week Kumalo worked to water down the presidential statement issued by the Security Council on Monday last week, after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal from the presidential run-off.
On Friday he tried to stop the Security Council issuing any statement at all on Zimbabwe's one-man presidential run-off. Again, he managed to secure a watered down version, this time expressing "regret" at the poll.
The Sunday Telegraph (London) quoted one Western diplomat as saying of South Africa's attitude: "We talk to the South Africans endlessly but we just hear rants about colonialism. They don't care that Mugabe is damaging the reputation of Africa - for them it's all about solidarity. They've done nothing. It's pathetic."
On Sunday the Zanu-PF leader, Robert Mugabe, thanked President Thabo Mbeki profusely in his inauguration address. "We are grateful to SADC", he stated, "and the role of statesmanship played by President Thabo Mbeki, the SADC-appointed mediator of the inter-party dialogue between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations. Zimbabwe is indebted to his untiring efforts to promote harmony and peace."
In an apparent reference to South Africa's efforts on his behalf at the UN, Mugabe also acknowledged the support from "[our] allies and friends in the United Nations Security Council ... and thank them for their unwavering solidarity with us."
Click here to receive daily news updates about the crisis in Zimbabwe, and other political developments in Southern Africa.