via Mugabe to surrender SADC chairmanship – DailyNews Live 12 August 2015
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe will hand over the one-year chairmanship of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to the brash Botswana President Ian Khama next Monday, in a move described by analysts as giving the bloc some long-sought teeth to reject dictatorship, rights abuses and electoral fraud in the sub-region.
Regional leaders will hand the rotating chair to the brutally-honest Khama, 62, from Zimbabwe’s globetrotting and controversial 91-year-old president at the 35th Sadc summit of heads of State and Government in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone — two years after the regional bloc controversially endorsed the outcome of disputed elections in Zimbabwe that extended Mugabe’s rule by another five years.
The run-up to this year’s Sadc summit has been marked by diplomatic efforts to defuse a deep crisis in the French colony of Madagascar where parliamentarians were blocked by the Constitutional Court in June from voting to impeach President Hery Rajaonarimampianina and in Lesotho where a former army chief and key ally of Lesotho’s former leader Thomas Thabane, who is a bitter rival of current army chief Tlali Kamoli, was shot dead in May, sparking instability in the small mountainous kingdom.
Mugabe, who as Sadc chair has failed to ease tensions in Lesotho, has said he is “very concerned” about the latest developments there, as fears mount that the country might plunge into renewed political violence after Thabane lost a tight election in March to current Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili — who promptly reinstated his sacked ally as leader of the armed forces.
Also in July, President Rajaonarimampianina rushed to meet Mugabe at State House in Harare after parliamentarians moved to dismiss him as the Island’s leader for alleged constitutional violations and what they called “general incompetence”.
Speaking on his hectic tenure as Sadc and AU chairperson — which ends next January — Mugabe told his ruling party’s central committee last weekend that African leaders have refused to recognise his leadership on the regional bodies, allegedly at the prodding of the French and British government.
It was not clear if Mugabe was talking about his failed mediation in the French colony of Madagascar, but said as AU chairman, he was blocked from Ivory Coast, another former French colony, after President Alassane Ouattara — a key ally of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai — blocked his entry into the West African country after the nonagenarian’s plane landed at the airport.
Mugabe did not state when exactly he was snubbed from Ivory Coast, which goes for presidential polls on October 25, after recording rapid post-war economic revival that has seen the economy record some of the continent’s highest growth rates under Ouattara, 73.
“The French are saying that Mugabe is a dangerous man and don’t work with him,” the 91-year-old Zimbabwean leader told his central committee in Harare. Britain is also trying to exert the same influence, Mugabe added.
The retired general Khama, 62, born to a white mother in the English village of Ewell in Surrey and Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first post-independence leader; is stepping in as Sadc chairman to deal with the festering Madagascar and Lesotho crisis that has vexed Mugabe and South Africa President Jacob Zuma, who is the chairperson of the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security co-operation.
Khama, who is constitutionally obliged to step down as Botswana president in 2018, is one of the few African leaders who has stood up to dictators in the sub-region, and seemingly escaped the “resource curse”, as Botswana’s diamond wealth is converted into generous social welfare.
Khama, who remains single, will head the bloc — founded 35 years ago — over the next 12 months and will host all meetings of the regional bloc over the next year, including at the heads of State level, extraordinary summits and meetings of the Council of Ministers.
He has emerged as one of Mugabe’s harshest critics in Africa. Mugabe’s government has accused Khama of “interference” and scoffed at his call for fresh elections after the contested 2013 vote as an “act of extreme provocation”.
The two-day summit at the Sadc head office in the scenic Gaborone CBD, is expected to be attended by 15 presidents, including Mugabe.
Analysts said it will be “business unusual” at Sadc under Khama — a tough-talking certified pilot, former army commander and fitness fanatic.
“I am confident with Khama there will be a lot of changes,” Afghanistan-based development expert Maxwell Saungweme told the Daily News yesterday.
“I expect him to deal seriously with issues of human rights, gay rights included, and corruption unlike what Mugabe has been doing.
“I also expect Khama to have a better economic agenda for the region.”
As Sadc chairman, Mugabe has championed an industrialisation strategy to increase foreign direct investment into the Sadc sub-region under a long-term strategy anchored on value addition and beneficiation of natural resources.
Piers Pigou, southern Africa project director for the international conflict prevention organisation, International Crisis group, told the Daily News that while Mugabe has really put his public weight behind the regional industrialisation policy, the on-going problems in the Zimbabwean economy and his policies are evidently not attractive to regional leaders as they have not been emulated.
“As such, Mugabe and his tenure at the helm of Sadc has done little to develop Sadc’s vision of economic transformation,” Pigou said.
“It is unlikely this will surprise most analysts and commentators who will have retained low expectations of progress in this regard.”
Saungweme said, “evidence in Zimbabwe is foolproof and points that Mugabe failed dismally in economic transformation in his small country.”
“Zimbabwe’s economic situation can be best be described as chaotic and deteriorating,” he said.
“The economy is dying. If he (Mugabe) never had a proper vision for economic transformation for his own country, how does one see his so-called vision for economic transformation for Sadc? Charity begins at home. If you have no vision for your home, do you think people will understand your lip-service to a vision for economic transformation of a regional bloc, seriously?”
Stephen Chan, professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told the Daily News: “I think president Mugabe accomplished very little in his time as chairman of Sadc.”
While Mugabe’s valedictory Sadc chair was widely seen as a ploy by regional leaders to coax him to hand over power to a successor, Pigou said it was never clear if and how Mugabe’s tenure at Sadc’s helm would relate to domestic reform or the succession imperatives that continue to percolate.
“Obviously, during this period, we have witnessed the removal of Joice Mujuru and the apparent elevation of ED (Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as vice president), but most agree an absence of clarity on succession, as evidenced by the secrecy around Zanu PF’s own ‘rule book’ — its constitution, leaves this issue very much up in the air,” he said.
“Sadc was never going to be a vehicle for such matters, especially as Mugabe’s tenure reinforced the regional bodies’ disengagement from the situation in Zimbabwe, under pretence that the 2013 elections provided a legitimating platform for Zimbabwe’s recovery.”
The Sadc’s observer mission for the July 31, 2013 Zimbabwe elections judged the vote as free, but withheld their verdict on the poll’s fairness, amid opposition accusations of outright electoral fraud.
Pigou said unlike Madagascar and Lesotho where Sadc continues to point at reform deficits, “the region is silent on Zimbabwe’s reform deficit”.
“Many questions remained unanswered — where one might ask, (where) is Sadc’s final 2013 election report? — but now not only the answers, but also many of the questions remain buried.”
Saungweme said Botswana, the world’s largest diamond producer with a stable outlook, expecting a budget surplus this year and to expand economic growth by 4,9 percent in 2015, was a model of a fast-growing economy in the sub-region, in Africa and the world.
“You definitely expect a better economic vision from a (Botswana) president whose country is moving on a progressive and successful economic path,” Saungweme said.