South African president Thabo Mbeki has finally decided to visit Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe to try to negotiate an end to the crisis caused by Mugabe’s electoral theft and campaign of terror against dissidents. Perhaps Mbeki, who notoriously declared that no crisis existed two weeks ago, can ask Mugabe about this BBC report of plans to use “war veterans” in police uniforms to intimidate voters into supporting Mugabe in a run-off election. Would that qualify as a crisis to the leader of a nation which rightly demanded global support to instill real democracy and end a racist regime?

Zimbabwe’s “war veterans” militia plan to intimidate voters by posing as police officers during the presidential run-off, a policeman has told the BBC.

He said they would be based inside polling stations during the vote, whose date has not yet been fixed. …

The BBC’s Orla Guerin met the police officer deep in Zimbabwe’s bush, as he was afraid of being identified.

“The war veterans will be wearing police uniforms,” he said.

“They will be given ranks and force numbers. They’ll be part and parcel of the police deployed in every ward. So when people come in to vote they will see war veterans from their area in among the police, and they will be intimidated.”

Guerin’s source says that many junior officers in the police force want change, but have themselves been intimidated by senior leadership that has benefited from Mugabe’s dictatorship. He also clarifies the definition of “war veterans” to the BBC, saying that many of them were far too young to have fought in the war. These are nothing more than gangs and irregular militias that work for the Mugabe regime as free-lance terrorists.

Now Mugabe wants to suit these gangs up in police uniforms to impose his will on the run-off election.  Not only does this subvert democracy, but it completely undermines any pretense at civil authority.  How can Zimbabweans trust anyone on the police force after concocting this scheme?  Even if Mugabe lost or got overthrown, the police force will be fatally compromised.  Once given the uniforms, the “war veterans” will not surrender them without a fight.

Mugabe wants to burn Zimbabwe to the ground in order to maintain his grip on power.  Mbeki thus far has stood by the dictator and kept the international community on the sidelines to allow him to do it.  When Zimbabwe finally rids itself of Mugabe, one way or the other, Mbeki and South Africa will have to answer to their neighbors for their gutlessness and complicity.