It was always an open verdict. Liberation heroes enjoy enormous support of their citizenry.
Excepting this, incumbency has favoured their fortunes at polls, which are oft-times rejected by international observer missions. And this scenario is almost always peculiar to Africa and the rest of the Developing World. In the West, we hardly ever hear of international electoral observer missions. Yet it is an open secret that vote rigging is as rampant there as it is in Africa. Remember the George Bush fiasco in Florida that denied the Democrat presidential candidate, Al Gore a shot at the White House? Yet when Bolivians, Cubans or even Zimbabweans make their choice at the polls the West is quick to pass judgement on their conduct, perhaps inspired by its vested interests in the host country’s natural resources. And so the Zimbabwean harmonised election this year was certainly bound to ruffle feathers and send ripples across the international community.
What with an 89 year-old president, deemed something of a ‘pariah’ that has constantly proved a hard nut to crack and refused to let go of the country’s newfound diamond resources? For the West, particularly United Kingdom and United States of America president Robert Mogabe reminds them of Cuba’s Fidel Castro Ruz. Since 1959, the US has failed in its repeated attempts to get rid of Castro until he handed over the reigns to his brother a few years ago. Any one leader that stands up against Britain and America’s imperial designs is subjected to the worst denigration. He presents an opportunity for the Imperialists to bring out their ‘propaganda machinery’ to bear. Ever imposing and without substitute, the world’s largest media houses have assumed the stature of cultural innovators. The international media agencies and their television stations including the newest forms of information technologies have presented the West with new means through which to escalate neo-colonialism especially in backward Africa, which suffers the harshest leadership deficit.
Mugabe, the one-time blue-eyed boy of the West has overtime turned autocratic, precisely because of his unwavering and principled land reclamation policy and obstinate clasp to the Marange diamond fields. When he dared at the dawn of the Millennium to defy Britain and her allies, because Britain had also reneged on the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, Mugabe suddenly found himself isolated. However, the warrior, that he is, he employed home-grown guerrilla tactics to win back the waning popularity in his home country. Fearing to be seen as fence sitting the SADC region at the instigation of the continental body- African Union hatched the Government of National Unity (GNU) between ZANU and MDC under the mediation of SADC. This gesture although initially dismissed as a ‘non-starter’ under then South African president Thabo Mbeki, finally paid dividends this month when Mugabe secured a landslide victory. It has been a long and bitter war, punctuated by anecdotes of perversion and in some cases absurdity.
As for Botswana’s current leaders, their political immaturity has been exposed. They have been humiliated and humbled. Their ‘rooftop’ diplomacy has earned them a very poor reputation. The country risks being labelled neo-colonialists because its leaders have become masters of deception who capitulate to ‘irrational thought’ whenever an opportunity presents itself. They fail to read the mood of the people, it’s like they have cast their foreign policy on stone. It is not amenable to conditions and circumstances but it remains rigid. Yet its results are disastrous. As Mugabe was sworn in last week, our president was nowhere to be seen. In fact he had sent his predecessors, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae to accompany his Vice Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe to go and do ‘damage control.’ It is high time Botswana started crafting an Afro-centric foreign policy, one that accommodates the many accords the country has entered with its peers in the region and the continent at large. Otherwise we shall remain the region’s laughing stock at every corner. And who knows whether Morgan Tsvangarai did not mean to use us? It is unthinkable that we could throw caution to the wind and pretend that our regional policies are final and binding.
We only needed to remember the ill-fated SADC Tribunal, how it had dared Zimbabwe and failed! So who then were we to infringe on another’s territorial integrity? How could we ever doubt the legal framework under which the election was held, when hardly a few months earlier we had lauded the constitutional plebiscite in that country? Of course we have been naïve, we must turn back to the drawing boards, admit our follies and start afresh. The dream that Sir Seretse Khama, Kenneth Kaunda and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere shared when they founded the SADCC can still be salvaged. It is not too late for us to shed our Euro-centric garb and turn to our African skins. This is the time.