Khama carries region’s hopes

via Khama carries region’s hopes – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 19, 2015

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s farewell speech at the just-ended Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit in Botswana on Monday proved beyond doubt that he was not the right man for the job.

Mugabe, the former Sadc chairperson, is a vindictive man who lives in the past and this flaw in his character was evident in the manner he destroyed Zimbabwe after inheriting a promising economy in 1980.

His so-called olive branch to the country’s white population extended at independence, has been exposed in the past few years for what it really was — a ruse. Mugabe used his visit to the Sadc headquarters in Gaborone early this year to launch a vitriolic attack against South Africa’s white population without any provocation whatsoever.

He again used the podium at the Sadc summit on Monday to attack the same community, in an address that did not add value to the current discourse in the region for the need for governments to improve human rights and reduce poverty.

Mugabe’s history lessons were not in sync with deliberations at the summit. The lessons were divisive and a reflection of his politics of hate, which have ruined Zimbabwe.

Judging from reactions of civil society groups that monitored the Sadc summit where Mugabe handed over the reins to Botswana President Ian Khama, many could not wait to see the back of Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler.

Khama has built a reputation as a no-nonsense leader who cannot be paddocked with other regional leaders only interested in preserving power at the expense of their long-suffering people.

Botswana was the only African country that had the audacity to call Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections the sham they were.

The country also did not hesitate to break ranks with the African Union on the International Criminal Court’s outstanding warrant of arrest against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Mugabe and other leaders fought tooth and nail to prevent al-Bashir’s arrest for alleged crimes against humanity but Botswana came out publicly to condemn the African leaders for standing with an oppressor instead of the people.

At the Sadc summit, the Zimbabwean leader tried to use the history of Khama’s father to persuade his foe to embrace archaic ideologies, but that was bound to fail. Khama has a lot to do as the incoming chairperson after the lost year under Mugabe.

Civil society activists have already presented a long list of issues Sadc ignored during the past year and these include worsening human rights violations in Zimbabwe, Angola and Lesotho.

Zimbabwe has a particularly worrying case of the missing Itai Dzamara, who was seized by suspected State security agents in March and has never been heard from ever since.

Mugabe’s government has not demonstrated any seriousness in trying to find him. Western governments such as the United States and Canada as well as the European Union have been very vocal in demanding Dzamara’s safe return, but critical African voices have been missing. Sadc can now add its voice to demands for Dzamara’s release.

Mugabe was also influential in the mothballing of the Sadc Tribunal after it made a series of rulings in favour of persecuted white commercial farmers, but consensus in the region is that the court is indispensable.

The court is vital for victims of human rights violations to seek remedies and justice, which they are being denied by their authoritarian governments. Khama would be expected to ensure that Sadc serves its purpose to hold leaders that violate human rights accountable.

The Botswana leader carries the region’s hopes because he has already demonstrated the capacity to discharge his duties without fear or favour. The region would be banking on him to help Sadc chart a new development path and to disempower strongmen riding roughshod over their own people through manipulation of elections and forced disappearances.