Thursday, July 18, 2024

Farewell Mr. Khama and Zimbabwe thanks you very much

So, President Ian Khama steps down to make room for another leader to run with the baton.

That is the way things should be.

But “automatic succession” is a system of transition that many Batswana detest, citing a lack of popular national input into the choice of a successor, a choice limited to one political party and its followers.

Presidential transitions in Botswana deviate from the norm on the continent but some argue that it offers a skewed and false glimpse of democracy at work. But, even then, the fact that an African ruler adheres to a limited term of office and vacates (without tinkering with the constitution) after serving two terms or less is something that Africa is still discovering.

Look at what South Africa does to its presidents a year before their term of office is up.

Look at what they are doing in DR Congo and elsewhere on our continent. It is an endless string of violating people’s rights as far as choosing their preferred leader is concerned.

But I digress.

My intention is to bid Mr. Khama a farewell and express some relief that, unlike what was always being whispered since he took office, he has not refused to vacate office.

Now Batswana can turn their vitriol to someone else. And I am hoping that it is not going to be more of the same.

As a Zimbabwean, I cannot ignore how much appreciation many of my compatriots have for Mr. Khama’s role in attempting to curtail Robert Mugabe’s excesses but, more importantly, the assistance he gave to the late Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mr. Khama’s behavior and attitude towards Mugabe played a key role in strengthening the hand of the opposition while spotlighting Mugabe’s excesses to the world.

It was Mr. Khama who forced the sterile SADC to sniff at the edges of the crisis in Zimbabwe, drawing the world’s attention towards what was happening in Zimbabwe.

South Africa did us wrong. SADC did us worse. And the African Union can go to the nearest tree and hang itself.

Thabo Mbeki betrayed the people of Zimbabwe when he had the opportunity to bring Mugabe to his senses. Whatever his intentions were, we loathe the betrayal by a foreigner who strengthened the yoke of oppression around our necks.

Then came the joke of the century, Jacob Zuma, who, unlike Mbeki, can be forgiven because of his inadequacies. He never claimed to be an intellectual, and he wasn’t, but one does not need to be an intellectual to be repulsed by oppression, murder, abuse of children and the elderly or protecting genocidal leaders.

It was Khama, all by himself, who put the spotlight on Zimbabwe and, I ask, how can we not appreciate that?

So, I am just writing to muse about the hopelessness of events and sequences. It bothers me very much that we only react to heat when we fear to get burned, not bothering to stay away from fire in the first place.

Many people in Zimbabwe appreciate Mr. Khama’s stand towards Zimbabwe and the assistance, in whatever form, he gave to Mr. Tsvangirai.

By standing with the suffering people of Zimbabwe, Botswana, unlike South Africa that stood with our oppressors, thieves and murderers in Zimbabwe, played a big role in shaping the events that led to our current situation in Zimbabwe.

Not everything can be done for us, we will have to complete our own emancipation, but we do acknowledge the assistance and role that Mr. Khama played.

Personally, I would have loved to see Mr. Khama and Mr. Tsvangirai standing together as heads of state because the friendship between these two men trickled down to be felt by ordinary Zimbabweans.

If you doubt me, I dare Mr. Khama to enter a football stadium in Zimbabwe and see if a soccer match will be completed after his appearance…I dare him walk down a street in Harare.

Conversely, I dare both Mbeki and Zuma to do the same too and see if they emerge with their pants, shirts and shoes.

We are, indeed, thankful that Mr. Khama stood by the people of Zimbabwe. We applaud the help by a neighbour who loosened the yoke of oppression around our necks.

Yes, I do remember how irritating it was to hear my Batswana colleagues praising Mugabe and piling all sorts of accolades on him.

Of course, it was terribly infuriating, and I can only imagine how they feel when I, a foreigner, say what I am saying about Mr. Khama.

The difference is that Mugabe stood for his own selfish self while Khama stood on the side of the Zimbabwean people.

Outsiders do not have an idea of what we went through. We are still not out of the woods, but an opportunity was created to give us breathing space. We are not completely free yet, but we will finish the job ourselves. Enough cracks were created to slip our fingers through for leverage.

So, Mr. Khama, I am one among many millions of people who want to say thank you for standing up for us.

You put your own reputation on the line; you endangered the wellbeing of your country and stirred the wrath of your compatriots to help the people of Zimbabwe.

Other African leaders, cheered along by some of your own people, tried to humiliate you while criticizing you but you stood by the people of Zimbabwe.

As you take your farewell bow, we wish you the very best and can’t help to send another ‘thank you’ to you, Sir.

We mourn your departure but with joy and celebration because you made yourself one of us.

We hold Botswana dear to us, not only because we are more than neighbours but that we are one only separated by imaginary lines.

If Africa could understand what you understood and showed that artificial boundaries are only artificial boundaries, maybe, just maybe, Africans would understand how much of a single nation we are.

We thank you, Sir, and I hope I have not botched an opportunity that my more eloquent fellow Zimbabweans would have utilized in more superb ways to express our heartfelt appreciation for what you did for us.

Yes, it’s a mourning of sorts, Mr. Khama, but we are dancing in celebration of what you did for us.

We are also very happy because we know you will be alright.


Read this week's paper