Sunday, May 29, 2022

Nothing sinister about Botswana’s u-turn on Zimbabwe

We once became hopeful when Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade fired salvos at Robert Mugabe.
It still remains rare for an African president to criticise another.

I am not sure, though, if Wade ever wants to hear about Mugabe again.

Ghana’s John Kufuor was next to throw pebbles at Mugabe but retired without ever hitting the target.
Then Mwai Kibaki of Kenya was next. He said encouraging things on Zimbabwe just after dethroning Daniel arap Moi.

But Kibaki sunk into the same political whirlpool and, later, pioneered the refusal to leave office after losing elections.

For this, Mugabe is very grateful to Kibaki.

I would have liked to see how the late Zambian president, Levi Mwanawasa, would have progressed after implementing his imperatives over the Zimbabwean issue.

As SADC Chairman, it was Mwanawasa’s action and support that ushered in Khama as a pragmatic president dealing with Mugabe’s bad politics.

No one doubted Mugabe’s abuse of the people, the rigged elections, the murders or the raids on national coffers.

But it took Khama to cause a debate over Mugabe’s shenanigans, excesses and legitimacy.
Mwanawasa also acquired the support of Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and, with Khama as the lightning rod, a small group of African leaders was amassing against one of their own.

Ironically, Kibaki and Mugabe, the two men who lost elections and refused to vacate the presidency in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are still very prominent.

Mwanawasa is late now.

Wade was stung and recoiled into silence.
Kufuor is retired.

Kibaki appears to have been exchanging notes with Mugabe on how to survive after losing elections.
Kikwete is simply nowhere to be found.

Enter the shower man, Jacob Zuma, God have mercy!

Before becoming president, Zuma espoused a hard-line stance against Mugabe, which all fizzled out the minute he was sworn into office.

He has toured the world, demanding the lifting of targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his cohorts.
Only last week did Zuma return from a whirlwind tour of Europe urging for the lifting of these sanctions.

It was a regional position by the exclusive club to protect each other from their own citizens.
In respect of the above, I do not read anything sinister in Khama’s about turn on Zimbabwe.

It was inevitable, considering the isolation and alienation he and his country were being subjected to by Africa’s dictators, including Zuma himself.

Khama was surrounded, marooned is the word, and there was no escape route.

Khama rightly put the interests of Botswana first, which is more than Mugabe has ever done for his country.

Grudgingly, interested Zimbabweans like me are extremely disappointed about Botswana’s new stance.
We once again watch African dictators coiling their political might like the famed African python around someone who had dared stand up for us.

But, honestly, we cannot fault Botswana.

The people of Zimbabwe do not appear to have any friends in this world at all.
Every nation, it seems, can get something out of Zimbabwe because in devastation, there is opportunity.

Nothing pleases vultures more than finishing off a dying animal.

It is called business, the business of exploitation, just like Mugabe himself did in the DR Congo.
Every decision on Zimbabwe is made for a profit not to save a life. South African business is having a field day in Zimbabwe and Ian Khama was annoying them. Zuma was sent to arm-twist him into line.

Zimbabweans can no longer be listened to because Morgan Tsvangirai, the man Khama openly supported against Mugabe, has, like other African presidents, abandoned the people.
Tsvangirai’s focus has shifted.

Botswana, a country whose wealth is always deliberately overrated in comparison to its development, badly needs infrastructural and economic assistance.

It relies too much on South Africa.

After the September 11 attacks, even the Americans clearly changed their values because of fear.
Botswana has a multitude of national weaknesses, with very few power points. And its leadership cannot afford to be reckless.

With its famed cattle population, one would expect to find down-stream industries, like all round leather tanning factories, shoe factories, leather products factories, milk production and packaging plants, glue factories, etc.

But there is none of that to speak of.

Even in the diamond industry, Botswana is only now beginning to attempt the localisation of down-stream economies, like polishing and cutting.

And, to seal it all, Botswana, which is about twice the size of Zimbabwe, has a population of 2 million, equivalent to the population of Zimbabwe’s fifth largest town.

Ironically, Botswana’s most distinctive identity is now the cement block around its neck.
Botswana is known and touted as a model democracy in Africa. That is believable.

But I had to laugh when the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which put Botswana at number three, this week rated South Africa as the fifth best governed nation in Africa.

Even Lesotho and Egypt, of all countries, are in the top ten.

Is this really true? Lowering standards to accommodate ourselves?

I have always believed that to safeguard its democracy, Botswana had to protect democracy even beyond its own borders.

Botswana waited too long.

Now something beyond Khama’s control has happened.

“We appeal to those who have placed sanctions (on Mugabe) to remove them in order to give motivation,” Khama said in Pretoria this week. “There is goodwill expressed by both sides, even if there are concerns.”

We know the language; we have heard it so often before as our former allies justified their crossing of the picket line, deserting us to join our enemies.

I join other Zimbabweans in wondering what goodwill has ever been shown.
Sanctions must not be removed because their mission has not yet been accomplished.

President Khama mentioned ‘goodwill’ being shown on both sides and, as if to humiliate Khama, Mugabe immediately violated one of the most important agreements by unilaterally swearing into office ZANU-PF governors without involving Tsvangirai.

Two days after Khama’s speech, Tsvangirai and his party took their dispute to both SADC and the African Union.

Can we talk about goodwill when Mugabe refuses to implement an agreement offered by Zuma himself?
Can we talk about goodwill when Mugabe still refuses to resolve outstanding issues recommended by SADC?

What goodwill can we talk about when Mugabe has unleashed his army, police and youth brigades on people to prevent them from writing their nation’s constitution?
We have no human or property rights in Zimbabwe and the situation is getting worse.
The courts of law offer us no protection.

Food continues to be denied to those of our citizens who are suspected of supporting any political party other than Mugabe’s party.

Above all else, why is it that it is always the ordinary Zimbabwean who must continue to make concessions to ZANU-PF, the perpetrator of these inhumane acts?
To world leaders out there, don’t forget that we are the victims and we know just what sort of help we need.

We are in a hole and you can’t help by filling it with water even though we are thirsty. What you call help is hastening our demise; it’s strengthening those who abuse us.
African leaders are oppressing us with misdirected kindness.
But Zimbabweans will continue with their fight.


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