Nuanced African political analysis in the New York Times?!

We’ve all wondered the same:

Mr. Mbeki’s biographers, his colleagues, even his brother debate why he has stuck with his approach despite years of bad faith by Mr. Mugabe. Mr. Mbeki’s consistency is variously attributed to a hubristic resistance to admitting failure, a world view deeply suspicious of Western interference in African affairs, a hard-nosed calculation of political interests and a realistic assessment of the limits of South Africa’s power when confronted with an unrelenting autocrat.

The answer?

Mr. Mbeki’s policy, typically called “quiet diplomacy,” is built on the staunch conviction that his special bond with Mr. Mugabe can resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe through patient negotiations, his colleagues and chroniclers says.

…South African officials contend that Mr. Mbeki’s mediation led to a relatively fair election in the first round of voting in March, with tallies posted at polling stations, a plurality of votes for Mr. Tsvangirai and a majority in Parliament for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

“His approach has produced results,” said Themba Maseko, the spokesman for the South African government.

Read the full article

While almost everyone may disagree, I think this is exactly the right approach. And almost no leader in the world has had more experience or success negotiating the end to armed (and unarmed) conflicts in the region.

(I’m also willing to bet that Mbeki is being quietly encouraged to maintain his stance by the other world leaders. It’s called Good Cop, Bad Cop.)

This deal is time-limited, however–Mbeki is obliged to step down in 2009, and his likely replacement (Zuma) is not nearly so conciliatory.

Okay, I promise to stop writing about Zimbabwe now.