It would be grossly fallacious to claim that President Khama’s latest comments on President Robert Mugabe are anything out of the ordinary. It has become too common. History is testimony that, Khama relishes at every available opportunity to throw political punches at Mugabe.
Typical of the Igbo proverb which says, “If a coward sees a man he can beat, he becomes hungry for a fight.” In his earlier days in office, I was of the view that such erratic foreign policy comments were merely proceeds of either ill advice or oversight. But I have come to live with the reality of his wilful ignorance conflated by privilege, if not prejudice.
But before Khama’s ardent disciples spit fire and venom on me, let me find refuge in facts. And one undeniable fact is, there is nothing wrong with Khama holding personal opinions, whether right or wrong, of which in most cases it is the latter, he is entitled. However, what stands contrary to the etiquette of diplomacy is the platform that carries such opinions. There are numerous diplomatic avenues availed to him to voice his opposition to Mugabe’s long hold on to power. I do not think open platforms are best vehicles to drive the point home.
The problem being that, by the time the message reaches the intended recipient, it would have purposely or otherwise gone through distortion, re-packaging and re-purposing. However, if Khama chooses to ignore the rules of the game, he should equally expect the same from others. In the end, this approach would be counterproductive as Botswana will constantly be in war of words with all kinds of people. Although these statements may accrue Khama political currency, especially in the West, the costs of such a move surely outweigh the benefits.
Another fact is that Zimbabwe has been at the forefront of Botswana’s Venson-Moitoi’s campaign for African Union Commission Chairperson. Their unflinching support was even acknowledged by Vice President Masisi upon his return from UN General Assembly. While other countries were generally sceptical if not outright dismissive on Venson-Moitoi’s potential, Zimbabwe shouldered the campaign and soldiered on. In fact, even Venson-Moitoi can attest to this, especially reflecting on the warm reception she received in her recent visit to Zimbabwe where she is quoted by The Herald saying, “I thought it was proper that before we go to Kigali, I must come and brief the President (Mugabe) about the progress we have made so far on the campaign. To give him the necessary honour as the senior statesman in the region because I am their candidate. To tell him how we have been campaigning and where we need assistance and what kind of advice he may wish to give us because they are older in politics and they know what we should do. I don’t want to be embarrassing anyone when I am doing the campaign.”
But while Venson-Moitoi thinks Mugabe still has a worthwhile advice to offer, her superior thinks to the contrary. Khama thinks Mugabe is a “burden” to the region and without doubt he should have long left. This puts Venson-Moitoi in a dilemma and effectively renders her already slim chances for AU Chair non-existent. This is just one of the many own-goals Khama has been ‘brilliantly’ scoring against Botswana, the country he purports to love more than anyone else. Generally, Mugabe has been taking Khama to be just that narcissist kid who always fights others for grandpa’s attention, but judging from a barrage of insulting commentary from that side, I am afraid Khama may have just gone a step too far.
Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher Education, has seized on the moment to write, “The Khamas of this world and their hopeless lot must be told in no uncertain terms to go hang.” As if that was not hurting enough, The Herald’s political editor, Tichaona Zindoga wrote, “He is just a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur born out of misplaced international plaudits.” He goes on to say, “The narcissistic little autocrat Khama should just shut up.” The question still begs, why did Khama not share his sentiments with Mugabe almost a fortnight ago while attending the inauguration of President Edgar Lungu in Lusaka? Mind you, they were the only two presidents attending the event.