International pressure seems to have finally had an effect on South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.  The man who almost singlehandedly shielded Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from regional and global efforts to oust him has finally told his crony that he has two choices — resign or face prosecution for a myriad of crimes.  Mugabe must hand real power to his political enemy, Morgan Tsvangirai, or else face complete isolation:

THE president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been warned by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, that he faces prosecution for the crimes he has committed during his 28 years in office unless he signs a deal to give up all effective power.

Mbeki, who has done all he can to shield and support Mugabe for the past eight years, has come under overwhelming western pressure and has had to tell Mugabe that he could no longer protect him and his key cronies from being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The power-sharing talks between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are shrouded in secrecy. But The Sunday Times has learnt that Mugabe, who has vowed that Tsvangirai will never be in government and that “only God can remove me from power”, faces humiliation over the terms of the deal that he will be forced to sign next month.

He will remain as president in name only and all real power will be held by a 20-member cabinet under Tsvangirai as prime minister. The opposition MDC will have 11 cabinet posts to nine for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

Mugabe won’t have his henchment around to protect him, either.  Under the terms of the deal, all senior officials in the police, military, and intelligence services will have to resign as well.  The entire power structure of the Mugabe reign will have to be dismantled in order for Mugabe to avoid a call from South Africa for prosecution of Mugabe by the ICC.

Mugabe and his regime didn’t expect this from the man who had been a reliable toady for years and who had run interference for the past few months while Mugabe stole another election.  In fact, the Zanu-PF leadership had congratulated itself for outlasting international condemnation and avoiding UN sanctions, thanks in large part to Mbeki himself.  Instead of celebrating, the South African envoy bluntly told Mugabe that a failure to hand over power would result in his prosecution — and certain conviction — for decades of murders, terrorism, and abuses of power.

Not only did Mugabe sign the agreement, he acquiesced to Tsvangirai’s demand that they sign it on neutral grounds.  Free and fair elections will follow in eighteen months.  In the meantime, the committee will run Zimbabwe with Tsvangirai as its chair, and the food aid so desperately needed will finally get distributed, hopefully without being used as a political tool, as the Zanu-PF had exploited it.

The US, UK, and most of Europe can congratulate themselves on keeping pressure on Mugabe and Mbeki.  Russia and China should be ashamed of their intercession at the UN on Mugabe’s behalf.  And South Africans should take a long, hard look in the mirror to see the dissipation of their moral high ground in their country’s active protection of Mugabe for most of the last decade.