Long before the government of Botswana adopted its stance not to recognize Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, this newspaper urged President Ian Khama to use the advantage of his freshness to break ranks with other SADC Heads of State who have since lost the moral authority amongst their people for talking sides with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.
We have never been under any illusion that it was going to be an easy sale.
There is always a heavy price to pay for standing by one’s principles.
As such, Botswana should not be deterred if, in the short term, it finds out that the route they have chosen is not only hard and bumpy but also lonely.
Difficult as it may seem, the Botswana government should at least draw solace from the fact that whatever mistakes may occur shall not only be made on the side of the people of Zimbabwe but also to democracy as well.
There is nothing to be gained from sitting at the same table with Robert Mugabe.
After ten years of quiet diplomacy with Mugabe, the Southern African region still has nothing to show for it.
With impunity, the Harare dictator continues to outmaneuver other regional leaders while also butchering his own people in Zimbabwe.
No matter how optimistic and hopeful one tries to be, it is difficult as to be impossible to imagine how the ongoing talks between Mugabe and his political rivals can bring any meaningful solution to Zimbabwe’s political impasse, not when Mugabe continues to be regarded and received as a Head of State in the capitals of the region.
We support the position adopted by the Botswana government that until a political settlement is reached by the Zimbabweans, nobody should be regarded as the President of Zimbabwe. All claimants to the throne should be regard as equals.
Sitting with Mugabe at a table even as he pretends to be the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe is not only immoral, it also gives him the terrible belief that he can always get away with his despicable behaviour and still be embraced as an African hero.
As Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Minister has said so many times, it is not for us as Batswana to tell the Zimbabweans what form of government to settle for.
It is not for us to dictate to them who to settle for as a leader.
But we cannot as outsiders, politically at least, be seen to be legitimizing a person who the Zimbabweans have so clearly and unequivocally rejected at the polls.
The March elections remain a benchmark of the direction the majority of Zimbabweans want their country to take.
The runoff that happened thereafter, a result of which Mugabe says gives him a right to claim the leadership of Zimbabwe is, as everybody has since said, an unmitigated sham.
Not only was he the sole candidate, he also set on a deliberate campaign of murder and extortion so as to scare all forms of opposition.
As a country that prides itself with internationally accepted democratic ideals, Botswana cannot, for heaven’s sake, be seen to be sitting at the same table and with a brute of that nature who has in his hands the blood of so many thousands innocent Zimbabwean lives.
Once again, we stand firmly behind the position adopted by the Botswana government.
While we call on the Botswana government to maintain some observatory presence at the ongoing circus in Johannesburg and Pretoria, we feel that sending a senior person in the form of Minister of Foreign Affairs was a big mistake. It sends a wrong message that we take the circus seriously.
A junior Minister or some civil servant should have sufficed given that until the Zimbabweans reach a settlement between themselves there is nothing to be gained by Botswana therein.
Going forward, we think Botswana should set a time table to the SADC Chairman signaling the time frame within which this country will altogether suspend its membership from SADC unless the Zimbabwean question is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. SADC has principles that are a guideline to member states. If those principles cannot be obeyed, what is the use of belonging to such an organisation?
That, of course, will include recalling our ambassador from Harare.
There are those who hold the view that there is no way Botswana can altogether boycott Zimbabwe given the fact that the two countries share a long common border.
That is true. There will be practical difficulties resulting from Botswana’s position.
But, like we say, it’s all a part of the price one has to pay for insisting on morality and sticking to human rights principles.