African American civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson has called on all former anti-apartheid forces to assist the people of Zimbabwe find a way out of their current political crisis. Jackson, who is president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, also urged President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to demonstrate their commitment to peace through negotiation. He has even offer himself, if need be, to help bring about what he called the restoration of growth in Zimbabwe.
Jackson told VOA he is aggrieved by the suffering of the Zimbabwean people.
"We are pained, given the tremendous role that Zimbabwe played in liberating southern Africa from colonial rule. Now we must work diligently, together with President Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai to get Zimbabwe back into a reconstruction mode again," he said.
Jackson called on all anti-apartheid forces to assist the people of Zimbabwe find a way out of their current political crisis.
"If this were a white regime in Zimbabwe seen as holding up an election, the world would cry out to ask for fairness and open, free fair election without violence so we can again begin to get resources back into Zimbabwe to reduce inflation, to revive the economy. Zimbabweans need food and health and housing and capacity to restart their economy," Jackson said.
He said statements last week by South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) that Zimbabweans be given the chance to resolve their own political crisis is contrary to what the ANC asked the world for when it was fighting to end white minority rule.
"That is inconsistent with what ANC asked of the world when they under apartheid. ANC asked the world to help, and the U.S. Congress passed action against apartheid in South Africa. We had demonstrations around the world against apartheid South Africa. So there are some crises that cannot be left to isolation into their own device. South Africa of course shares border with Zimbabwe, and there are some diplomatic sensitivities, but I hope ANC would see itself playing a more aggressive role in bringing about a plan to reconciliation and growth in Zimbabwe," he said.
Jackson called on leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who are holding an emergency meeting Wednesday in the Swaziland capital Mbabane, to make a choice against violence and tyranny.
"I recommend to reach out to President Mugabe and the opposition leader and urge that we mobilize other leaders of substance who care to try to do our very best to get them on the track of reconciliation and security and economic growth," Jackson said.
Some Africans have accused the West of duplicity when it comes to promoting democracy in Africa. They said some Western countries did not speak out openly about elections in some African countries which the opposition there had characterized as fraudulent.
Jackson agreed that some Western voices have not been loud enough about elections in other countries where the opposition there had complained about irregularities. But he said Africans should not look for a reason not to work for peace.
"We should not stand idly by and by some romantic notion of friendship be too weak to take a stand for openness, fairness and democracy for all of the people. If the AU (African Union) cannot resolve this crisis, it weakens itself by its inaction. If it cannot address in a meaningful way Zimbabwe, it cannot address in a meaningful way the Congo, Kenya, or Liberia, or Ethiopia, or any place else on the continent," Jackson said.
He added his voice to the international cry that any election without the participation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change cannot be meaningful.
Jackson said it is time for leaders to step forward to help build a bridge over Zimbabwe's troubled waters. He said if need be, he's willing to make himself available to help bring about what he called the restoration of growth in Zimbabwe."We must attempt to get some leaders who will take the risk and the burden of trying to build a bridge. And I'm certainly willing to reach out to other leaders and be available myself to help do what must done to help bring about the restoration of growth in Zimbabwe. It's our moral obligation. We did it for the freedom of South Africa and we cannot stop now in this quest for people to live freely and without fear and with hope," Jackson said.