A demand by Botswana government for an audit of the Zimbabwe elections has fed hopes that Robert Mugabe’s hold on power is somehow about to come to an end.
It’s all wishful thinking.
If anything, the Zimbabwean strongman will spend the next few years making up for the net losses of the last four years during which he was against his will forced to share power with sworn political enemies.
Mugabe’s record in Zimbabwe has been a combination of evil and poison.
Almost single-handedly he has reduced into ruins, a one-time blossoming beacon of hope for southern Africa and the continent.
Going directly in tandem to what he had promised in his inaugural speech in 1980 the cumulative effects of Mugabe’s now over a generation rule will quite clearly take more than a century to correct.
To SADC and its younger leaders, his influence has not been much different from that of a hooligan grandfather who actively encourages his grandchildren to take prohibited drugs.
What do we make of Botswana’s stance?
Botswana’s demand for an audit is very much in line with previous stances. It is very much keeping in kind ÔÇô a fitting grandstanding for a country that has adopted speaking in turns as its key foreign relations characteristic.
To be fair to Botswana Government, the demand for an audit is a much more moderate stance to previous international relations postures, be it towards Libya, Syria, or Ivory Coast.
Five years into his presidency, Ian Khama has done everything to advance the course of democracy across the world except in Botswana.
One of the basic things that students of international relations learn as part of their elementary course work is that diplomatic power is always commensurate to economic power.
It would appear, however, that under President Khama, Botswana is the only country in the world that steadfastly tries to be immune to the precept.
Not only does the country consistently punch above its weight, it also is explicitly adversarial to lobbying other countries before adopting a position.
The upshot of it all is that the country has been weakened, isolated and even alienated.
When it comes to international relations we have a president who often behaves likes he is suicidal; inconsiderate of the ramifications of his behavior to the interests of the nation he leads.
We have often heard that Botswana wants to build a railway line from the Indian Ocean, through Mozambique and across Zimbabwe. Diplomats wrongly briefed that going forward, Botswana was going to adopt a much softer stance towards Mugabe if only to allow the project – which is heavily backed by Khama’s cronies – to pass.
With the recent toughening stance over Zimbabwe elections, that project is, by all intents and purposes, dead and buried.
While the exact motives of Botswana government are extremely difficult to decipher, benevolence and sympathy for the people of Zimbabwe are certainly not among them.
From day one, Botswana Government under Ian Khama backed Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC.
The love affair, it would seem, was not only absolute but also unconditional.
To Ian Khama and his government, Robert Mugabe was the writer of all wrongs.
This has blinded Botswana Government to Tsvangirai’s many leadership weaknesses.
Not only has Tsvangirai been a wrong horse to back, the scale of down payment that came with it has left many ordinary Batswana wondering if it ever was worth it.
It will take extraordinary amounts of magnanimity, grace and face saving for Ian Khama and his government to accept that Tsvangirai has been a wrong horse.
One is left wondering then if climbing down that horse is an option, much less a possibility given that President Khama is not known neither for grace nor magnanimity.
The result is a fight to the finish; Mugabe has to be removed ÔÇô whatever it takes.
But Mugabe is currently at his strongest.
If Botswana could not even get to soften its stance towards him when we needed him more than he needed us, what chance is there that going forward Mugabe could count on Botswana when he is on his knees.
The answer is zilch.
Clearly relations between the two countries have been damaged irreparably.
We were wrong to assume they could be mended.
Having closed all channels in Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai, it would seem, can hardly be the answer.
We need to look elsewhere if we want to stay relevant in that country.