Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ian Khama’s earlier stand on Zimbabwe was not a waste

Only two days after Ian Khama became president of Botswana, he grabbed the Zimbabwean issue without flinching and with utter determination.

The first thing he did was to get hold of the late Zambian president, Levi Mwanawasa, who was then SADC Chairman, and simply said, “Botswana has a problem.”

The result was a hastily-called extraordinary SADC summit in Lusaka, where the Zimbabwean issue was the primary item on the agenda.

For the first time at SADC and, indeed in Africa, African heads of state and government were meeting to discuss the intransigence of one of their own.

SADC, a basically useless organisation created to pumper regional leaders, foolishly imported and adopted the dim-witted practices of the defunct Organisation of African Unity (now falsely renamed the African Union – AU).

In the AU Charter, as was in the OAU Charter, is a section that warns fellow members from “interfering in the internal affairs of another country”.

The fact that such simplistic instructions and na├»ve demands are antiquated is not the issue; what’s at stake is the reason behind such a self-defeating directive.

The OAU, ECOWAS, the AU, the UN, or any other ‘U’ or organisation, is formed to harness and pool the resources of member states in an effort to improve their lot.

It meant that member states were working towards the same goal and could benefit from each other’s strengths.

It meant that member states could inter-depend and their citizens could collectively benefit from the organisation or grouping.

But there was intended discrimination.

It meant that, for example, if Botswana let its citizens go to work in the mines of Zimbabwe, the government of Botswana could approach the government of Zimbabwe to seek the proper handling and protection of its citizens.

That was okay. That was expected.

But then Botswana would not be allowed to complain to the government of Zimbabwe about the abuse and killing of Zimbabweans at the same mine.

Look at it! It is tribalism in camouflage.
African leaders crafted and legitimised discrimination of its own citizens, a practice that still continues today.

The AU and SADC say that Ian Khama can complain about the abuse of Batswana in Zimbabwe but cannot complain about the abuse of any other ‘people’ there.

After the extra-ordinary summit in Zambia, Khama was relentless and piled pressure on Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

He boycotted some regional meetings, rightly pointing out that Mugabe could not be accorded the status of president from what had transpired at the 2008 elections.

But African leaders are still not ready for the kind of stance that Khama took.

Khama rattled the old boys’ club and the old dictators and despots did not like that at all.
Clearly, SADC and AU leaders have isolated Khama as punishment for him daring to put one of their own on the spot.

Khama was trying to break with the old senseless tradition of looking the other way while a dictator slaughters innocent people within his borders.

The OAU/AU should be ashamed of itself over Rwanda…if only they had interfered in the internal affairs of a member state!

The AU should hide in the mountains for being so impotent in Somalia.

The AU should be chased out of earth for their tragic failure in Sudan.

SADC should just dissipate for allowing that little boy Mswati to abuse women the way he does in Swaziland. For good measure, Mswati invites other heads of state to come and gaze at young naked school girls.

He calls this tradition.
Back to Khama.

As a Zimbabwean, it goes without saying that I was pleased silly with Khama’s foray. After all, he owed no allegiance to the old, out of touch so-called liberators.

But what Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade once called “a trade union of despots” hit back and isolated Khama, a move that could very well have repercussions on Batswana as a nation.
But that is the price of belonging to an organisation; it’s give and take.

Even my namesake, young Joseph Kabila owes his position to violence and oppression “donated” by Robert Mugabe.

I find it appalling that there are knowledgeable Batswana who actually accuse Khama of having strayed on the Zimbabwean issue.

Unbelievably, they are saying that even though what other African leaders are doing is wrong, Khama should have joined them to avoid being isolated. They say that Khama should have kept quiet even in the face of brutalities and stolen elections in Zimbabwe, both of which were severely affecting Botswana in economic and social terms.

That is not the Batswana way of doing things, unless they have been lying to the world.
I thought Batswana want to stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences.

I cannot, however, ask Batswana to make sacrifices on behalf of any other people; they have their own problems and have to watch out for their own interests first.

After all, look at how South Africans are treating foreigners, especially Zimbabweans.
Keep in mind that you can never and will never enjoy your freedom and independence if your neighbour is not free or independent.

Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola could not enjoy their independence because Zimbabwe was not free.

Today, South Africa and Botswana cannot enjoy their freedom because Zimbabwe is not free.
South Africa is not going to enjoy its freedom because of Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Until Africa learns to elect leaders who are accountable to the people, we shall remain slaves of these ‘come from nowhere presidents’.

I applaud Khama’s earlier stand on Zimbabwe not because I am a Zimbabwean under duress.
I am looking at it from the continent’s point of view.

I am hoping that African leaders can be open and honest with each other like this.
It is time they are.

It is time they stopped protecting and supporting those among them who not only abuse their citizens but who tarnish the image of the region and of Africa.

It is a shame that Khama and Botswana are being penalised for doing the right thing.
That should tell us about our African presidents. That should tell us about what we tolerate from our leaders.

Today, it is Zimbabwe or Mozambique or Zambia.

Tomorrow it is Botswana, South Africa or Namibia.
African people (not fake Africans like Gaddafi, Mubarak and their ilk up north) are resilient but our leadership is always working against us.

Is there something in us that does not like us?

After putting so much faith and hope in Morgan Tsvangirai, there is no denying that Tsvangirai betrayed Khama, compounding Khama’s isolation.

Khama helped and stood by a person who did not want to be helped.
The MDC’s behaviour in Zimbabwe today is not, by a long shot, what Botswana had in mind.
His political problems back home notwithstanding, I thank President Khama for his earlier stand on Zimbabwe.

What he did was not in vain and was not meant for Zimbabwe alone.
Now African presidents at least know that one among them may, at any time, break with the ranks and confront others.

The trade union of despots has to be broken up and Khama marked the cracks.
I hope those cracks widen.

Thank you, President Khama. Your stand on Zimbabwe was a courageous and pioneering effort in both SADC and the AU.

Regardless of the fall-out, your initial stand and effort will never go to waste.
Pioneers never enjoy what they discover; they are busy patching themselves up with Band-Aid and antibiotics for having ventured in unknown terrains where no one had ever been.
And all for those who come after them!

But you opened the door, Sir. You may want to concentrate on your internal problems for now but leave that door open, Ian.

There are some who will want to enter soon.


Read this week's paper