Khama: To be or not to be African

via Khama: To be or not to be African | The Herald August 21, 2015

As expected, Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s take over of SADC’s chairmanship was greeted with euphoric celebrations within the corridors of right-wingers in and outside Africa. Such euphoric anticipations are not without basis. Since assuming power in 2008, President Khama has exhibited an obtrusive contemptuous identity of a lone dissenter when it comes to regional issues.

Most Zimbabweans remember his infamous declaration that rubbished the outcome of the 2013 harmonised elections. His denunciation was largely influenced by the massive loss of his preferred candidate — MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai. He thus went against the grain in denouncing the SADC election report which had endorsed the outcome.

In his typical haughty and megaphonic diplomatic stance, President Khama called for an independent audit of the results, which was seen by many neutrals as not just intrusively childish but a clear sign of one pandering to the whims of the West, particularly the United States and Britain, which at one time contemplated military action against the ZANU PF government of President Mugabe.

There are several historical reasons why most right-wingers and neo-liberals are gleefully anticipating President Khama’s reign to be out of sync with the general African sensibilities and the modus operandi of handling pertinent regional issues.

Many will remember that he is probably the only sitting President in Africa who has consistently called for the arrest of Sudanese President Al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity. He has vehemently and boisterously warned that the Sudanese President would be detained if he dared step his foot in Botswana.

His somewhat uncultured Foreign Minister Phundu Skelemani also boasted that: “We have not surrendered the sovereignty of this country to AU.” This was in response to the position taken by the AU not to heed the International Criminal of Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant on Al-Bashir.

Not only that. President Khama was said to have pressured Malawi in 2010 to deny President Al-Bashir’s entry into that country, a decision which caused a diplomatic headache for the AU which had to move the venue of the summit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

His Foreign Minister was again at the centre of a diplomatic tiff when he prematurely berated then Kenyan President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta for his non-committal attitude towards the ICC’s call for him to attend a hearing at the Hague over accusations he, together with his then incoming Deputy President William Ruto, had led an orgy of violence after the 2007 elections.

History also records that Botswana was the first country in the world to cut ties with the then embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi when African countries were in the process of constituting an African mediation team.

President Khama’s errant behaviour gives the impression of a country whose body is geographically situated in Africa while its heart and soul is firmly rooted in some Western capital. What a sad misnomer if not irony that the SADC headquarters are in Botswana!

If truth be told, Botswana’s incongruous attitude is not a sign of any bravery, but a sad manifestation of lack of a clear foreign policy. It is nothing but a higgledy-piggledy knee-jerk reaction that simply mimics the West’s patronising attitude towards countries viewed as deviant to the template of good Africans. Scientists attest to the fact that human beings’ mentality or what they become in life is fundamentally influenced by their unique DNA, upbringing and environment.

In trying to understand why President Khama behaves in the manner he does, we need to contextualise and analyse his DNA and his upbringing.

With all due respect to interracial marriages, there is no doubt that Khama suffers from a serious divided consciousness of being born of an African father Seretse and a British mother Ruther Williams. So in other words, Ian Khama bears within him the DNA of an Anglo-Saxon inherited from his mother.

It was in the dreary cold weather of Chertsey, Surrey, in Britain during his father’s exile that the young Ian was conceived and raised, not the desert sands of Botswana. His feet were never rooted in Botswana as he got his early education at Waterford Kamhlaba, a United World College in Mbabane, Swaziland and the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst where the British army trains its officers.

His coming to Botswana past puberty was presumably to retrace his father’s political footsteps, as he was the founding president of that nation.

Seretse Khama was the founding President of Botswana from 1966- 1980. It was during that period that Ruth Williams, a typical British woman, was the First Lady of Botswana.

Given his background, Africans will surely be expecting too much from a man clearly convoluted by his heritage. His blood maternal relatives are white, English, former imperialists, colonialists kinsmen who harboured dreams of perpetually subjugating Africans for the sake of their mineral resources.

In summary, while President Ian Khama’s workload is already cut out and is mainly to be constrained by the regional body’s template, he is surely expected to reflect the amnesia of the other side of his DNA. He will with no doubt attempt to refocus attention on Zimbabwe to once again solicit praise from the West.

But if his agenda would be solely to soil Zimbabwe’s international standing, then sadly his reign would end up being the most inconsequential given the immediate pertinent issues that he has to grapple with. Lesotho, Madagascar and the DRC beckon for his immediate attention. Surely, his kneejerk diplomatic manoeuvres are to be tested and judged.

He actually has very little space to manoeuvre or exercise his megaphone diplomacy as he has already conceded that he needed to follow-up on the enduring legacy left by his predecessor as illustrated by his acceptance speech when he said: “During his tenure (President Mugabe), SADC adopted the industrialisation strategy and roadmap and I think it’s true to say that it indeed was his idea that we embark on this as well as the Revised Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plan and the extraordinary summit held in April of this year (adopted).”

He applauded the summit’s theme of “Accelerating the industrialisation of SADC economies through transformation of natural endowments and improved human capital,” a theme very much within the vision enunciated by President Mugabe.

It will thus be nothing but mere mischief, recklessness and serious abrogation of duty if President Khama was to abandon the trajectory set by President Mugabe, especially as SADC is currently being lauded for being a regional model for economic cooperation in Africa, particularly in terms of reducing Southern Africa’s dependence on foreigners and creating the basis for self-sustaining development in the post-Cold War era.

Southern Africa boasts of having South Africa, a highly industrialised country as a member; a development that provides an engine for economic growth and has the potential to reinvigorate the entire region.

President Khama is surely not oblivious to the fact that a shared colonial past, while not a precondition for effective regional cooperation, nonetheless facilitates smooth communication in terms of language as seven member countries share a common British heritage.

A third factor that must spur President Khama’s focus on economic development is the decline in ideological differences among SADC member states as countries. Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania seem to have abandoned their adherence to Marxist principles of development. There is now a growing consensus among SADC states that effective regional economic cooperation must be based on a shared commitment to some variant of the liberal capitalists’ model of development.

While President Khama will have to deal with regional hotspots like Lesotho and the DRC, there is no doubt he will focus on strategies to enhance economic integration in light of the recent establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area made up of existing trade zones: the East African Community (EAC), SADC and COMESA whose combined GDP is over $1 billion and include 600 million people.

In short, the right-wingers celebration of Khama’s SADC reign is nothing but presumptuous.


  • comment-avatar
    R Judd 7 years ago

    Poor old deluded Herald. If there is a misconception, misunderstanding or any possible way to get things backwards they will manage. Whoever wrote this article is nuts

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    Morris 7 years ago

    I always wonder how journalists sleep on a daily basis if they have to write or report the way someone wants them to. The list of knee jerk reactions attributed to President Ian Khama could logically point to someone who is consistent and morally conscious. Besides, Botswana has consistently held a beam of positive light in the darkness of African politics and President Khama has merely continued with that.

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    toperasu 7 years ago

    It is sad that whenever you go against Mugabe you are called mutengesi, chuwa chuwa, chimbwasungata, racist and many other derogatory names. You are either subservient or you are an enemy of Mugabe.
    Khama, good or bad is at least his own man. The elections were rigged. Bashar has a case to answer, Kenyatta answered his case, Ghadafi was a dictator. What is so unAfrican in calling a spade a spade. Why should all Africans agree on anything when the quest is for diversity. Who defines what is African and if an African disagrees with the mainstream does this mean loosing being an African. How dark or black should an African be in order to participate in African affairs. It is time that some Africaner than thou step off the self praise stool and listen to the ground rumblings. Most people agree with Khama be he black , white or a shade in between. Most Zimbabweans are tired of being poor and being the rejects of Southern Africa and this indeed calls for regime change. It is hard to canvass support for ZANU PF, Mugabe or the Zimbabwe government. It is corrupt, defunct, broke, non functional and retrogressive. You do not need Khama to point it out- any fool can see it.

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    Jonsina 7 years ago

    The bended truth is khama is not African. The writer may be taken to task for writing ‘what-is-he-now-saying truth’ . People must be serious when judging Mugabe- when he attempts to do exactly what Europeans did to develop he is labelled all sorts. Africans must quit thinking that sounding modern means being anti-africa. The struggle being fort does not need democracy, sissies or eunuchs. People who bring revolutionary change rarely enjoy support from ordinary souls whose fixations center around the immediate.

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      Doris 7 years ago

      What?! Anybody understand that comment?

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      iwezimb 7 years ago

      Typical ZANUPF response. Of course he is African. Why is it that as soon as you highlight the monsters of the liberation “struggle”, you not African ….

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    Revolutionaries have always been supported, But despots, power hungry people like murgabage who get support from beneficiaries of evil and corrupt mechanisms wont get support from the suffering majority.

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    iwezimb 7 years ago

    It looks like Jonathan Moyo is still writing columns for this hideous newspaper.

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    The Herald – still playing the Race Card for all its worth! I must say that I think Khama is an excellent role model as he is a blend of both major races. But then, The Herald and its Zanooo controllers cannot understand that race (skin colour) does not make you African.

    What a contrast to other, more civilised countries – in UK you are Black British and in America African-American. In France you are a black Frenchman. But then of course, we are not a Civilised Country, are we?

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    aminab 7 years ago


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    harper 7 years ago

    He can be very proud of his hybrid vitality. Not to mention common sense.

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    Who ever wrote this comments about Khama is a racist,cruel and corrupt. We can’t accept Africans to live like animals in the jungle. This person has a hidden vendetta with Khama and we can’t accept personal grudge and hatred to pollute public articles with such filth embarrassing comments. The writer forgets that Mugabe his master is a foreigner in Zimbabwe. Does he know his father and where they come from? Khama is a good leader who has directed his country towards a growth path that’s is evident by the development and stability of Botswana. There is peace in Botswana citizens aren’t starving and being murdered. The problem with people who are black who have DNA in baboons they want to destroy everything compare Zimbabwe to South Africa and Botswana. Now ZANU Pf blames the west for the problems they created and claim sanctions brought these many years have been that government in power one might need to ask himself. Today all displaced Africans are populating counties like South Africa and Botwana is that a good thing. We don’t want selfish people who want to destroy Africa we want people who will build a better place for us all.