Dock Workers, a Priest and a Judge Stop Weapons

When heads of state won’t use their power to do the right thing, thankfully there are sometimes ordinary people who will. The front page of today’s New York Times tells the story of South African dock workers, an Anglican arch bishop and the South African justice system all playing a part in stopping a shipload of $1.24 million of Chinese weapons bound for Zimbabwe.

If you’ve missed the news lately, Zimbabwe is facing a political crisis following presidential elections held 3 weeks ago. The final results of the election haven’t been released yet, a problem in and of itself, but all reputable sources believe the opposition candidate, Tsvangirai, likely received more votes than the incumbent Robert Mugabe. Mugabe now seems poised to do whatever it takes to retain his hold on power, including resorting to violence.

Union dock workers in Durban, South Africa refused to unload the shipment of weapons yesterday, despite the fact that the South African government basically did everything it could to clear the cargo quickly through customs to speed it along its merry way. When the Anglican archbishop of the province caught wind of the shipment he appealed to the South African justice system to ban the shipment, which they quickly did. By the end of the day the ship had pulled up anchor and left South Africa, a victory for everyday people.

Why doesn’t the South African government use its power to push for democracy in Zimbabwe? Would that be so difficult?  Apparently it would be.  Although South African president Thabo Mbeki is the region’s official mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, a spokesman for his government is quoted in the NY Times as saying “It would be difficult for South Africa to prevent the delivery of goods, including weaponry…it is our hope that these arms…will not be used to resolve the political problems in Zimbabwe.”

If that doesn’t make you feel better consider China’s concerned response, this from their Foreign Ministry: “China has always had a prudent and responsible attitude toward arm sales.”

I feel so much better.

If world leaders will not stand up to tyrants such as Mugabe and even go so far as to become complicit with him, I am thankful for everyday people who refuse to stand idly by and do what they can to see justice served.