Though his absence risks harm to South Africa's reputation as a continental leader on human rights issue, South African President Thabo Mbeki -- successor to Nelson Mandela -- remains quiet on the political turmoil in Zimbabwe. Though his approval would be critical for any plan to address Zimbabwe's mounting election crisis, Mbeki has yet to publicly criticize dictator Robert Mugabe, a decision that has drawn sharp words from Mandela, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and Mbeki's peer African leaders.

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