Whither Botswana

By benim
In Analysis
Oct 17th, 2010
1 Comment

Khama’s Zim about-turn cause for concern
Two weeks ago, a friend asked me why I hadn’t written about the situation in Zimbabwe for so long – at least two years, he estimated.

I told him the reason was that I had lost all confidence in the bona fides of both South Africa (as the sub-region’s designated mediator in the long-running Zimbabwe crisis) and SADC as the general overseer of the mediation process.

For me, I continued, the Zimbabwe crisis was now almost a dead horse, which I didn’t see the point of continuing to flog indefinitely.

So, lest my friend accuses me of inconsistency, I must clarify on the outset that I’m writing about Zimbabwe today merely to comment on President Ian Khama’s recent statement in South Africa on the situation in Zimbabwe.

Khama is reported to have said: “We appeal to those who have placed sanctions to remove them in order to give motivation.  There is goodwill expressed by both sides, even if there are concerns.  We also have concerns, but let’s remove them (sanctions) to demonstrate good faith and see where we go from there.” (Mmegi 06 October 2010).

I was as surprised as other observers by this plea by President Khama to Western countries to lift the targeted sanctions that they imposed against President Mugabe and other senior officials of ZANU-PF some years ago.

My surprise was despite the passionate attempt by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phandu Skelemani to reassure everyone that Khama’s comments were in fact nothing new.

On the contrary, Skelemani said, the comments were consistent with Botswana’s long-standing policy on the situation in Zimbabwe.   It would, of course, be presumptuous of me to claim to know Botswana’s policy towards Zimbabwe better than the country’s foreign affairs minister.  But if Khama’s comments indeed reflected a long-standing policy, it’s strange indeed that so many keen observers of the Zimbabwe shambles have never picked it up before.
But whether it’s an old or a new policy, I’m still battling to appreciate its logic.

President Khama’s comments referred to the need, on the part of the Western states, to lift the targeted sanctions in order “to give motivation” and “demonstrate good faith” [presumably to President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF lieutenants] with a view to persuading them to be more cooperative than they have hitherto been in the efforts to democratise and generally lift Zimbabwe from the depths to which it has sunk in the past 10 years or so.

My problem about Khama’s view is that far from advancing progress in Zimbabwe’s mediation process, the lifting of the targeted sanctions would simply add to the uncalled-for goodwill and support that Mugabe has enjoyed from the majority of the SADC leaders (now apparently joined by Khama) to remain in power in Zimbabwe at whatever cost to his nation.

It’s been obvious for some time now, especially since the fraudulent presidential election of June 2008, that President Mugabe’s sole objective was to remain at the helm in Zimbabwe, come what may.

In pursuing this objective, it’s equally obvious now that he enjoys the considerable backing of many of his SADC colleagues.  This is so despite the formation of the unity government and the ongoing attempts to draft a democratic constitution for the country.

The bottom-line for Mugabe and many of his fellow leaders in SADC, especially his former comrades-in-arms in the southern African liberation struggle, is to ensure that the old comrade remains president of Zimbabwe for life.

Mugabe probably believes he deserves this honour not only as a liberation war hero, but also as a way of helping him escape likely prosecution for atrocities committed against the people of Zimbabwe during his time as President – and his SADC colleagues couldn’t agree more.

This is the real reason for the lack of progress in the efforts to achieve peace and resolve other problems in Zimbabwe – not the targeted sanctions against Mugabe and other ZANU-PF leaders.

In fact, the sanctions are no more than irritants against the ZANU-PF leaders in that they deny them access to the probably considerable wealth that they hid away in Europe and the US over the years.

Yet Mugabe and his colleagues speak of the sanctions as though they were meant to apply to the people of Zimbabwe as a whole.  Other SADC leaders also tend to speak of these sanctions in very vague terms, avoiding describing their precise nature, or whom they target.

Khama, for instance, merely appealed to “those who have placed sanctions to remove them”.  This tends to delude many people in Zimbabwe as well as in SADC in general.

As the countries that have imposed sanctions against the ZANU-PF leadership made clear to President Jacob Zuma recently, they will only lift the sanctions when there is clear evidence of genuine progress in the efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

The truth of the matter is that such progress can only occur if the SADC states abandoned their thinly veiled partiality towards Mugabe and his ZANU-PF.

They should accept reality and abandon the red herring of continually and unconvincingly calling for the lifting of the strictly targeted sanctions against the ZANU-PF leaders.


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