Sunday, September 27, 2020

Zimbabwe crisis ÔÇô Botswana waiting to exhale

While the Botswana government remains tight-lipped about possible punitive action it might take against Zimbabwe, the Botswana Congress Party has come out to urge the Southern African Development Community to assess the feasibility of using extra-diplomatic tactics to force Robert Mugabe to step down.

From Zimbabwe, Gaborone North MP, Keletso Rakhudu, said that widespread incidents of intimidation, rape, murder and mutilation rendered last Friday’s presidential run-off poll a mockery of the established process of electoral democracy.

A possibility that the BCP is mooting is sending in a regional peace-keeping force similar to the one that Botswana and South Africa dispatched to Lesotho in September 1998.

It is time that Africa gets tough with despots such as Mugabe. Commitments made by member states of the union should be translated into tangible outcomes. … Rogue leaders and delinquent states should be made to account or face isolation. Failure to act decisively shall perpetuate the skepticism that the world holds about Africa and we shall forever remain marginal in the global community of nations, says BCP secretary general, Taolo Lucas, in a press statement.
As to what would constitute extra-diplomatic intervention, Lucas says that should be left to SADC Organ on Defence and Security.

He told Sunday Standard: One option is a United Nations peace-keeping mission. That would be extra-diplomatic intervention because it goes beyond the normal conduct of diplomatic relations between sovereign states.

The other option he suggests is a regional peace-keeping force similar to Operation BOLEAS in Lesotho that SADC deployed to the mountain kingdom in 1998 to quell a suspected coup d tat.
I wish to emphasise though that assessment of what would be feasible in Zimbabwean’s case should be undertaken by the Organ on Defence and Security. It is important that we move to the level of action. We should go beyond rhetoric and condemnation and act in a concrete way that would ensure that Mugabe and his coterie of sycophants listen to SADC, Lucas said.

The pronouncement that Botswana government will make on the issue will be based on a report that the SADC Election Observer Mission will produce. Botswana has contributed 50 observers to that mission.

Last week Botswana, which lately has been uncharacteristically vocal about Zimbabwe, hinted at the possibility of breaking ties with that country in an otherwise carefully-worded statement.

We will await a report from the SADC Election Observer Mission and other independent observers before we can pronounce the position of the government of the Republic of Botswana with regard to the recognition and legitimacy of any presidential candidate and subsequently the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the government said last week.

Based on its reliance on the SADC report, it may be some time before the government gets to pronounce its position with regard to its recognition and legitimacy of Mugabe (the only presidential candidate who ran in the Friday poll) and subsequently the government that ZANU-PF, Mugabe’s party, will form.

Clifford Maribe, the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation spokesperson, would not be drawn into speculating what Botswana could do in the event that observers give a negative report of the run-off election. Maribe says that the issue is too sensitive for him to publicly speculate on what the Botswana government might do.

Once complete, the SADC observers report will be submitted to the secretariat in Gaborone before it is passed on to member states. It is yet unclear when that report will come out and Maribe says as much.

If it decides to break ties with Zimbabwe, this would be the first time Botswana has done this. Maribe has no recollection of Botswana ever having had to review its recognition and legitimacy of a foreign government. Breaking ties would entail what the BCP is already suggesting “Botswana recalling its ambassador (former Tswapong South MP Pelokgale Seloma) from Harare and expelling his Zimbabwean counterpart.

The legitimacy of Zimbabwea’s run-off poll is contentious not least because the other candidate pulled out when it became obvious that he would somehow have to figure out a way of running his campaign from a Harare jail cell. Lucas said that the BCP viewed the poll as illegitimate and fully endorsed Morgan Tsvangirai decision to pull out.
Gaborone North MP Keletso Rakhudu, is part of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) observer team in Zimbabwe. Speaking from Mashonaland Central on Friday evening, Rakhudu, said he was at his wits end what the whole process was about.

”I don’t know what this is. The other candidate has already pulled out but the election went ahead regardless, Rakhudu said of the controversial election.

Earlier that day, SADC head of corporate communications stated that the SADC observers were also participating in the election. One might look askance at the participation of international observers in an election viewed as illegitimate by the international community but Rakhudu says that their reports would be enriched by observations made before, during and after the election.

What the ruling party MP has seen and heard caused him to draw the conclusion that the Zimbabwean election was anything but free and fair. Rakhudu says that as PAP observers they have not witnessed any beatings but have, however, gotten to confirm their occurrence through follow-up investigations. The latter have entailed face-to-face interviews with victims families and neighbours, attending a funeral (as some PAP observers did on Thursday) and visiting mortuaries.

Rakhudu confirms reports that the culprits are ZANU-PF supporters, especially youth militia who go on the rampage in the wee hours of the morning. In one Harare location, the MP says that the militia rounded up women and children and herded them into the nearest government school for impromptu political re-education lessons.

The lessons started with the teachers asking students who had voted for ZANU-PF in the March election to raise their hands. Knowing the consequences, all hands up. The teacher then asked the same of those who had voted for MDC. No hand went up. The risk was too great.

At that point the youth militia picked out a very old woman in the class and beat her up so badly that some people owned up to having voted MDC just so the militia would lay off her, Rakhudu says.

On either Tuesday or Wednesday last week (Rakhudu is not sure when) ZANU-PF militia pursued four prey into a house owned an MDC councillor, knocked down the perimeter wall fence, petrol-bombed the house, managed to extricate their prey whom they proceeded to chop to pieces with the weapons they were carrying.

Intimidation, rape, murder and mutilations are rampant, the MP said.
At the time of the interview, Rakhudu said he had information that Zimbabwea’s first black police commissioner, who has no ZANU-PF sympathies, was hiding in a safe house in Harare after escaping a kidnapping attempt. In Manicaland, MDC MP-elect languished in jail even after a court ordered that he be released. The station commander just chose to ignore the court order, Rakhudu said of the latter incident.

Ever since he arrived in the part of Mashonaland where he observed elections (June 8), Rakhudu said that he had not seen an MDC poster or anyone wearing the party colours.
”This is a no-go area for them,” he said.

Today (Sunday) Rakhudu and his PAP will hold a press conference before returning to their respective countries.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.