18 February 2013

Zimbabwe: The Heart of the Matter - MDC Must Appreciate the Support It Has At Home and Abroad

Photo: IRIN
President Ian Khama of Botswana.


Botswana President Ian Khama told a foreign newspaper about his fears over the impending referendum and elections in Zimbabwe.

Right from the beginning of the Zimbabwean elections fiasco of 2008, Khama has always supported Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change.

Khama's support for the MDC went way above taking sides as he denounced Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF's failure to impose democracy in Zimbabwe. He articulated issues that Zimbabwean leaders rarely did.

In the end, Khama spoke out on issues afflicting Zimbabweans more than Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders did.

Khama had an affinity for Tsvangirai and hoped Tsvangirai would become leader in Zimbabwe to ease the burden of trade deficits and economic refugees in Botswana.

For years, Khama stood firm, not only in opposition to Mugabe's regime but in support of Tsvangirai.

Whenever Tsvangirai had an ailment or was stressed out, he would come to Botswana and hole up in a "government guest house", with his close relatives and associates then get whisked away to the exclusive Phakalane Golf Estates where Tsvangirai would not be bothered by the media or Zimbabwean refugees in Botswana.

Before he became Prime Minister, Tsvangirai came to Botswana for sympathy, support and to hide from everyone. Zimbabwean journalists in Botswana long gave up on seeking interviews with Tsvangirai when he came to Botswana.

At first, we thought it was 'protocol', whatever that was, but we still wonder at this man's behaviour even after he became Prime Minister.

The last time he was here in Botswana, at least to our knowledge, he invited Zimbabweans to a local hall for a tête-à-tête but we were taken by surprise when reporters were given hardly two hours notice. Whether it was deliberate or not, it was just a continuation of silly behaviour by a national leader who continues to behave like a small boy nervously looking for his soccer ball in someone's backyard.

Tsvangirai must wake up and start behaving like a leader among other African leaders. He must claim his position and behave accordingly.

He continues to embarrass world leaders in Africa and abroad by failing to map and stick to a position that people can hold on to and support. His flip-flopping is legendary and it is my hope that this comes to an end soon because it is portraying him as a bungling man who cannot find a foothold in the position he finds himself in.

Khama is a patient man.

Khama has suffered rebuke at home and abroad for his stand on Zimbabwe. Not only has Khama stood fast against Mugabe's regime and behaviour, but he has made many public pronouncements against Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

Khama's behaviour, while welcome to some of us who are caught up in the Zimbabwean fiasco, was a first. He was the man who literally forced fellow SADC leaders to debate the Zimbabwean issue, hardly a week after coming into office, a no-no among African despots.

Even some Batswana who are schooled enough to know better went on the attack and said Khama was putting Botswana's welfare at risk by making pronouncements that were not in line with SADC and African Union.

There are still people who believe in these useless groupings.

African leaders must learn to be independent enough to stand up for what is right across the continent, not to follow old retrogressive doctrines imposed on Africa by dictators who care little about their people's welfare.

How can Botswana enjoy its freedom and independence when a neighbour has no such? Didn't Botswana learn something from living next door to apartheid South Africa?

It is unfortunate that Khama finds himself in a very lonely circle in Africa. It is my hope that he stands for the right thing regardless of the consequences otherwise he becomes as ordinary as all those African leaders who continue to murder their own people for no reason at all.

Undoubtedly, Khama and his country have suffered a great deal from fellow SADC and AU leaders for publicly denouncing Mugabe and for supporting Tsvangirai.

It is deeply regrettable and unfortunate that the person for whom Khama and Botswana have gone through so much has no idea of what is going on and shows no appreciation for what other countries have gone through in supporting him.

Last Thursday, when all other leaders are wringing their hands in gleeful anticipation of elections in Zimbabwe, Khama, once again, diverged and expressed serious doubts about the whole thing, much to the dismay of people like South African President Jacob Zuma.

About a week after Zuma expressed hopes and positive expectations from the Zimbabwean plebiscite, Khama expressed serious doubts that Mugabe and his party would not stand in the way of free and fair elections.

Apart from Raila Odinga in Kenya, hardly any other African leader has expressed such concerns.

"All I can say right now is that I hope there will be a credible election," Khama told a South African newspaper on Thursday.

"The reason I say 'hope' is because all the people who were involved in the brutality and intimidation that took place back then are still there today."

This is something people like Zuma and Tsvangirai should be aware of.

But in spite of the continuing violence, intimidation and abuse of the people, Tsvangirai has positioned himself as a cheerleader to elections that are to be held under very undemocratic conditions and whose outcome cannot possibly be free and fair.

Khama rightly believes that Mugabe's supporters, who caused mayhem and killed 200 of Tsvangirai's supporters in the 2008 elections, are still capable of doing the same, adding that the potential for that is still there.

But Tsvangirai is already campaigning.

He does not care that many of the important issues laid down by SADC at the formation of the unity government have still not been implemented.

He does not care much that the army and the police have already been deployed in rural areas to deal with MDC supporters.

Khama has concerns and issues that Tsvangirai seems unconcerned with.

It is embarrassing to support a person who does not know what is good for himself.

Khama articulates Zimbabwean issues that the ordinary Zimbabwean is concerned with over this election while Tsvangirai just runs around as if all is well in Zimbabwe; as if elections are guaranteed to be free and fair; as if ZANU-PF will not kill people.

MDC supporters are already under siege.

Rugare Gumbo, the ZANU-PF spokesperson, said that leaders of political parties in Zimbabwe, including Tsvangirai, had agreed on the draft constitution, and "that makes Khama's sentiments absolutely irrelevant".

Very true.

If Tsvangirai agreed to issues he had once complained about, he should take the time to explain to his supporters.

Khama has tried his part and the MDC is making him look like he is interfering in the internal politics of both Zimbabwe and the MDC.

The heart of the matter is that the MDC, particularly its leader, must acknowledge and value the support given it by people and leaders at home and abroad.

There is nothing so revolting more than convincing people to join one's crusade only to watch as that same person clashes with you as you go about propounding his cause while the person who asked for that assistance has seemingly changed sides or position.

Tsvangirai must slow down and appreciate the support he gets not only from people like Khama and other countries but from the Zimbabwean people.

Taking such support for granted, as he is doing, is extremely arrogant and he must mend his ways.

Already, European countries that supported him are now finding little to support as Tsvangirai and his party have taken a different path since those sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his close associates helped put Tsvangirai into government.

The reasons those sanctions were imposed have not changed.

Tsvangirai does not seem to belong anywhere or hold any doctrine that people can swear to. He does not seem to worry about the people who tried to make something out of him.

And yet he has a great opportunity to make proper history. Campaigning against a tyrant like Mugabe offers him a chance to become a beacon in Zimbabwe...but look at what he is doing.

His arrogance will bring him down to earth soon enough...the people are watching.

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