President Ian Khama was appointed Vice Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at the just ended summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. A communiqu├® from government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay indicates that one of the outcomes of the 34th SADC summit was President Khama’s selection as the new SADC Vice-Chairperson, which among other things means that Botswana will be expected to host next year’s summit.
Ramsay added that as this year’s host the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, was selected to Chair the regional bloc, taking over from his Malawian counterpart, President Peter Mutharika.
It remains to be seen how Khama and Mugabe would work together as SADC leaders. The two have over the years squabbled and differed tremendously especially over the SADC’s stance on Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe.
In the past, Botswana has openly supported Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and refused to recognize Mugabe as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe.
At one point, Zimbabwe accused Botswana of harboring MDC-T militias and plotting a coup in Zimbabwe. In 2011, media reports surfaced that Botswana had approached the United States for arms of war and related military equipment in preparation for an expected attack by Zimbabwe, as tensions escalated between the two countries over claims that Khama was harboring MDC-T militias.
Khama and Mugabe clashed once again after last year’s general elections when Botswana broke ranks with the rest of SADC and called for an independent audit of Zimbabwe elections to investigate allegations of irregularities.
Botswana boycotted further participation in SADC observer missions in protest against the SADC’s failure to respond to concerns it had raised about the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.
In a statement, Botswana said it had suspended participation in SADC observer missions because of concerns about lack of compliance with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Botswana also said its decision was based on principle and not targeted at any institution or state.┬á┬áAt the time, Khama also challenged the SADC to uphold its guidelines for free and fair elections. He accused the SADC of ignoring the findings of some observer missions, and revealed that Botswana has written to the SADC to raise concerns about the manner in which member states repeatedly flout the organization’s election rules and guidelines.
“While waiting for feedback, we will not waste funds sending observer missions to SADC until the issue is resolved,” said Khama at the time.
However, Botswana later reneged on its decision after a hasty response from SADC, immediately sending an observer mission to the Malawi elections. Khama has also vowed to never shy away from taking a stand whenever there is transgression from SADC’s shared Election Guidelines which are intended to ensure transparency and credibility of the entire electoral process.
The Summit’s theme was “SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development.”
Among the just concluded summit’s other highlights was the launch of the Hashim Mbita Project Publication, which highlights the history of the liberation struggle in the region, including the important role played by Botswana and Batswana in supporting the struggles against minority rule in neighboring states. During the course of the summit, the SADC leaders discussed key issues affecting the┬á15-member grouping, including regional integration, economic cooperation, intra-regional trade and Ebola threat.
Khama’s delegation included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Phandu Skelemani, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Hon. Kenneth Matambo and Minister of Trade and Industry Hon. Dorcus Makgato – Malesu, who attended the SADC Council of Ministers from 14-15 August 2014.