- Southern Africa
- South africa - Zimbabwe
Ian Khama, from Mugabe critic to advocate?
Botswana President Ian Khama, a strident critic of his southern counterpart Robert Mugabe, seems to be "slowly awakening to an African cause" as he begins touring and consulting on issues affecting the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
On October 8, Khama travelled to South Africa and made a shock call to the West to lift targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies.
Said Khama, “I was one of the people who were skeptical in the beginning. But the sanctions as it were are now starting to be a hindrance and we have to call on those imposing them to reconsider their position because the situation is better in Zimbabwe."
"We appeal to those who have placed sanctions to remove them in order to give motivation. There is goodwill expressed by both sides, even if there are concerns. We also have concerns but let’s remove them (sanctions) to demonstrate good faith and see where we go from there."
Given that Khama is one of Mugabe’s fiercest critics, his call for a lift of sanctions took many diplomats and activists by surprise. But he was not the first African leader to do so.
Again on October 13, he met with President Banda, — the current chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,— in Zambia where the two heads of state were "to discuss a number of regional issues".
Why Khama has changed his stance?
Augustine Molwane, a political analyst argues that trade issues with South Africa could have forced Khama to make a u-turn.
“It was quite interesting indeed for Khama to make such a U-turn, considering that he is a chief critic of Mugabe. I think there are several reasons for his sudden change, with the first one being that he was here on official business to improve trade between his country and South Africa.
"Khama is now realizing that Zimbabwe’s instability was a potential barrier to the region’s socio-economic development championed by SADC. While the sanctions were probably justified in the past, it was now incumbent of the countries to lift the sanctions adding that the situation in that country had since changed since the establishment of the government of national unity, they said” he said.
Human rights lawyer and executive director for Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Gabriel Shumba, said the sanctions should remain. “Targeted measures remain the only tool effective to send the message that human rights violations will never be tolerated,” he said.
Two years after the signing of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement which gave birth to the unity agreement, Mugabe is yet to fully implement the accord, and has vowed not to do so until sanctions were lifted.
As much as a third of Zimbabwe’s population of 14 million lives abroad as a result of the country’s economic meltdown and Mugabe’s crackdown on the opposition.