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Khama attack wounds Mugabe

by reporter263

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his embattled administration once again find themselves under a fresh regional and international spotlight, after Botswana President Ian Khama bluntly told the nonagenarian that it was time for him to leave office.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe prepares to speak during a high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe prepares to speak during a high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Analysts, pro-democracy activists and opposition parties who spoke to the Daily News yesterday also said Mugabe’s public humiliation by Khama on Wednesday, over his continued stay in power, would add pressure on him to exit high office.

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There were also widespread sentiments that Mugabe’s unprecedented pummelling by a seating regional head of state would once again lead to Sadc renewing its intervention in Zimbabwe, as  Harare begins to hog international headlines again after a seven-year lull which began with the stability-inducing government of national unity in 2009.

It was also learnt from well-placed sources that Mugabe and other senior Zanu PF officials were “seething” with anger over Khama’s criticism of the increasingly frail nonagenarian.

Mugabe, the world’s oldest ruler and the only leader Zimbabweans have known since the country got its independence from Britain in April 1980, is currently battling to contain rising civil unrest over the dying local economy — with Khama’s forthright views on him likely to exacerbate his pain.


The Botswana leader said Mugabe should step aside without delay and allow new leadership to takeover as Zimbabwe’s political and economic implosion which began in 2000 was dragging down the whole of southern Africa.

Asked by news agency Reuters if Mugabe should accept the reality of his advancing years and retire, 63-year-old Khama responded: “Without doubt. He should have done it years ago”.

“They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over. It is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he’s not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament,” Khama added.

Botswana is home only to an estimated 100 000 Zimbabweans — a fraction of the estimated three million believed to be in South Africa — although this is still enough to strain public services in the small nation of 2,3 million people.

South African-based think tank, NKC African Economics, was among those who felt that Khama’s condemnation of Mugabe could open the floodgates to similar acerbic utterances by other regional leaders.

“It is even possible that the Southern African Development Community may be moved to shift its focus from Lesotho to the far more pressing problems emerging in Zimbabwe, where economic hardships, financial issues and currency rows are combining with increasing repression and a growing potential for violence.

“His words (Khama’s) will carry much weight coming as they do from a long-standing democratic state, and the remarks signal the end of quiet diplomacy by Sadc leaders,” said NKC analyst Gary van Staden.

Pro-democracy groups and opposition parties also welcomed what they said was Khama’s “ugly truth” about Mugabe’s continued stay in office.

Politics and governance expert McDonald Lewanika said Khama’s public attack on Mugabe was very significant.

“Although Khama’s take may not be new or unsurprising, it is significant because for sometime and  years, Khama seemed to have made his peace with the Zimbabwean situation, and the fact that he speaks now shows a renewed concern  and  increased loss of legitimacy for the Mugabe regime because without recognition and support of its peers in the region and lacking support of a significant proportion of its citizens — its legitimate claim to power is on shaky ground,” Lewanika told the Daily News.

The MDC echoed Lewanika’s sentiment and added that the political ground could be shifting for Mugabe.

“Khama has always been forthright and candid regarding his distaste for and disapproval of Mugabe’s long authoritarian, despotic and corrupt rule. Mugabe’s political sun has been slowly but surely setting since around the turn of the new millennium.

“The old man is in the departure lounge of his long political career. He is going. That’s for sure. Mugabe has very limited, if any options, left for him. The only viable option will be for him to immediately step down from power and allow Zimbabwe to move forward,” said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.

Former State Security minister and for long a close Mugabe confidante, Didymus Mutasa, hoped that Khama’s remarks would lead to consensus among Sadc leaders to persuade Mugabe to go.

“We recently met Sadc leaders in Swaziland as the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera). So, we hope that regional leaders took us seriously because it is not a secret anymore that Zimbabwe is in trouble as long as Mugabe continues at the helm.

“The situation we are faced with is very clear for everyone to see. Nobody needs to be told about the abduction of citizens and their torture for exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new paradigm in the region,” he told the Daily News.

Human Rights Watch senior Africa researcher Dewa Mavhinga said what Khama had said was very significant and would spur Zimbabweans to put more pressure on Mugabe to quit.

“Khama speaks the mind of many Zimbabweans when he says Mugabe is too old to lead Zimbabwe and must go. Zimbabweans must do more internally to push for human rights and democratic reforms and not put too much faith in Sadc leaders despite the courageous words by president Khama,” he said.

Apart from the country’s dying economy, Mugabe is facing the biggest challenge to his long rule, with the nonagenarian also struggling to keep his ruling Zanu PF united as serious ructions, which analysts say have been caused by his unwillingness to name a successor, have split the former liberation into two bitterly opposed factions.

In addition, Mugabe no longer enjoys the crucial support of war veterans who waged a violent assault against the opposition, especially in the hotly-disputed elections of 2000, 2005 and 2008.

Khama, who is set to step down as Botswana president in 2018, is one of the few African leaders who have managed over the years to stand up against dictators on the continent.

He was also the only African leader who stood with Western countries in 2013, following the equally disputed victory by Mugabe and Zanu PF party that year, which was dismissed by the opposition as a “farce”.

In the meantime, the rising regional and global spotlight on Zimbabwe has seen former Cabinet minister and South African Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni starting what he calls a Zimbabwe Solidarity Movement (ZSM), which is aimed at helping destitute Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

He has donated R10 000 to the fund which will be managed by the South African Council of Churches and a local charity, Gift of the Givers.

“On a different matter. It saddens me every day to see destitute Zimbabweans begging on our street corners. Let like-minded people help.

“Let us create the Zimbabwe Solidarity Movement to help our people. I volunteer to co-ordinate a solidarity programme. In difficult times, people rely on solidarity. Zimbabweans are desperate. We can help. Corporates who do business in Zimbabwe, all of us!

“I will instruct my bank to open a ZSM Fund tomorrow and will deposit R10 000 seed money. All should follow. For accommodation, food and education. As good people, we cannot just pass by everyday as disabled people, blind people, little kids, destitute women beg for money at the robots.

“And we turn a blind eye to this? Time for Solidarity for helpless Zimbabweans! Please join this humanitarian effort. I will, tomorrow, request the SA Council of Churches and The Gift of the Givers to manage the funds and Zimbabwean Solidarity Fund project,” he said on Twitter.

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