Monday, October 19, 2020

We should not dupe ourselves into a false belief that all of SADC backs Venson-Moitoi’s bid to lead AU

A lot has been made of the fact that Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is a SADC candidate for the position of African Union Chairman.

By so doing an impression has also been created that all of SADC is committed to supporting her in her bid.

It is important to put all that into plain non-diplomatic talk.

To say Venson-Moitoi is a SADC consensus candidate is to inflate the regional march to integration, exaggerate the levels of serenity on the ground and to also over simplify what are often complex, very difficult and opaque diplomatic relations between and within SADC countries.

In fact throwing about such adjectives as to create an impression that every country in SADC supports Venson-Moitoi is not only reckless but misleading as to be outright dishonest.

In Botswana, Venson-Moitoi is easily the most qualified minister among her cabinet colleagues.

She’s streetwise, pragmatic, intellectually savvy and immensely knowledgeable.

Her most potent weapon is adaptability.

Her political instinct is second to none, enhanced by a sharp knack to survive forged through many years of political scheming.

In an ideal world her ambition to become African Union Commission chair, would under normal circumstances be an easy shoo-in, not just for her but for Botswana as well.

But ours is not an ideal world.

In fact she has all her whole world arrayed against her. She is a citizen of a country that has by and large seen the back of its glorious past.

While she is being sold as a candidate of SADC, the truth of the matter is that first and foremost, she is a Motswana representing Botswana.

And Botswana of today is not regarded highly across the continent. Anybody who is well versed with international relations, in so far as they affect SADC countries would know that there is simmering resentment that often flares into open hostility against Botswana.

Which is why from the onset all roadblocks were created to stop Venson-Moitoi on the tracks the moment she declared her interest.

The first was the insistence by South Africa that Venson-Moitoi, experienced as she is, had to be primaried. And South Africa sponsored one Thoko Didiza to run against Venson-Moitoi in the SADC primaries.

But owing to her unassailable credentials, Venson-Moitoi emerged victorious; very clearly the South Africans were wounded.

Just recently there have been reports that former South African president Thabo Mbeki was traversing the continent saying a Botswana candidate could not be trusted to lead the African Union because the current Botswana President, Ian Khama never attends African Union meetings.

Mbeki’s apprehensions are genuine.

Non-attendance of an important continental organ like AU is clear sign of contempt for the organisation.

He might not be in office, but across the continent, Mbeki is held in awe and reverence.

He still looks at the African Union not only as his brainchild, but also his baby, and not without a reason.

It was out of his personal passion that the Organisation of African Unity, a precursor to the African Union was rebranded and had new life administered into it.

It was a part of his African Renaissance programme.

In short we underestimate Mbeki’s power and influence in Africa at own peril.

Following Didiza’s defeat, South Africa, at least officially pledged support for Venson-Moitoi, at least officially.  But the diplomatic world is famous for its convoluted world.

When a diplomat says “yes” it’s important to cross check if they are saying so in a regular definition of the world.

That does not seem to have been done by Botswana.

All undercurrents point to the fact that South Africa is not wholly behind Venson-Moitoi’s campaign.

The issue has morphed way beyond just Venson-Moitoi.

Realising that she beat her opponents in the region, back channels are now being created to cast aspersions on her suitability to lead SADC.

As we say one of the issues being used against her is that President of Botswana is contemptuous of the AU. And that as a result the country cannot be expected to field a candidate. In response Venson-Moitoi’s campaign has been quick to highlight the fact that Khama is not the only Head of State who has chosen to stay away of AU. Jose Dos Santos of Angola has been proffered as another prime example.

We stand firmly behind Venson-Moitoi, but we are of the view that the attitude of her campaign team has been disingenuous.

Angola has not put forward a candidate even as they have been nudged on several quarters to do so.

They knew very well that the non-attendance of their leader would discount them as a factor.

In short we are saying Botswana should accept that non-attendance of President Khama has been ill-advised.

Botswana’s position on the International Criminal Court has been yet another Achilles Heel.

On that score, Uganda and Cameroon have since pledged to stop Botswana, if not on anything then at least on that reason.

Thankfully recent events which have provided consensus on the need to reform the founding Statute of the ICC seem to have also provided a reprieve, albeit temporary, for Botswana.

But still Botswana’s detractors are much more determined than that.

Now they are pulling another card up their sleeve.

It is not clear if the current AU chairman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma still wants to retire as she had intended.

She has been sending mixed signals that she might change her mind afterall. Her departure from EU was premised on her ambition to becoming President of South Africa.

Political events seem to have completely trumped her ambitions.

And we cannot highlight strong enough that she is South African.

We use all the above issues in as far as they affect Venson-Moitoi’s chances.

But really our view and hope is that they will offer a chance for our Government to review its current foreign policy posture ÔÇô not only to SADC and Africa but also to the whole world.

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