15 September, 2013

'Comrade' Khama Endorses Comrade Mugabe: Solidarity Triumphs over Reason

by George A. Mhango

The recent endorsement of ZANU-PF victory by Botswana’s Ian Khama during the 33rd SADC heads of state and government summit last month is enough food for thought for analysts of southern African political and security governance. To put this discussion in perspective, it is also important to point out that the context within which Botswana was hoodwinked to finally make this decision has already become subject of debate amongst many analysts. But suffice to say that the decision alone is landmark and has both regional and extra-regional implications. At least for me it means two things.

President Ian Khama speaks (Photo: GovernmentZA)

First is that SADC has successfully managed to corner the only outspoken and non-conformist member state, bringing back the prodigal son to the fold. This should be good news for the elder statesman, Robert Mugabe, who is also ‘Chairperson apparent’ of SADC, now that the ‘menacing boy’ has successfully been silenced and can join the sing-along of the sub-regional body’s old fables crafted in solidarity politics of the liberation rhetoric. I can imagine SADC leaders finally sighing a great relief ‘…at last we have him among us…’

But the second (and most worrying for me) is that we have lost an important voice in the region with regard to upholding of democratic morals. It goes without saying that for almost a decade, Botswana has been characterized by a strong culture of confronting undemocratic, platitudinous and rhetorical stances taken by SADC. This stance was undoubtedly healthy and it was important that the sub-region needed to move forward on the basis of principle and not personality or comradeship.

There is enough reason to worry about the future of a SADC without a voice of reason – a critical mind that gives the comrades food for thought on crucial matters touching the sub-regions development. I am not convinced that the region will be able to move along the path of democratic integrity without a ‘sanitizer within’. And given this path-breaking stance, it becomes difficult to take Botswana with the seriousness that we have always accorded it. Nevertheless, these are the dynamics of our regional politics. Maybe this is the right place to say that solidarity politics is turning out to be an important framework for analyzing sub-regional politics in southern Africa. Granted that comradeship is resurfacing, but I am not sure for how long this will be the case. Otherwise, my conviction is that meaningful democratic breakthrough in the region hinges on the assuagement of these liberation ideological imperatives which are a threat to the voices of our remnant democrats.

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