A weekend or so ago, we alerted you on this blog about Robert Mugabe's spokesman comments hinting that, should push come to shove, Zimbabwe would use its military might to invade Botswana. "They stand no chance..", said Charamba, writing as Nathaniel Manheru.
Yesterday, Chinamasa, the illegal Minister of Justice, responded to President Khama's (Pictured on the left arriving for that famous Emergency Summit on Zimbabwe called by Mwanawasa) call for new elections in Zimbabwe to solve the impasse. What he actually said was that this was "one of the options". He did not demand, he simply made a suggestion as is his right since his country is being invaded by immigrants spawned by Mugabe's policies.
Chinamasa called the comments an extreme provocation. Mugabe, in a private conversation yesterday, said he had dropped a hint to Khama during the signing of the Agreement in Harare on Sept 15 that African leaders should not criticise each other in public, but this has fallen on deaf ears, he said. He ordered that the gloves be taken off, hence that comment from Chinamasa. The two are on a collision course. Mugabe believes he will win that clash, telling an aide yesterday, "It's Khama who will be isolated, not me. He has no support in SADC for his position. He has no support in Africa. He is a small boy trying to join in an adult's game. Hatimuverenge pane vamwe varume."
I doubt that Manheru's comments will be acted upon. It would be madness. But this latest row appears to have hardened Mugabe now against Botswana. It is the old questin of quiet diplomacy versus loud diplomacy. Khama has chosen the later. It is unlikely to bear dividends. Mugabe is deaf to all criticism and he still has friends in SADC. Jacob Zuma and Monthlanthe, the new SA president, have both come out in support of quiet diplomacy. Zuma went so far as to lambast the West for "imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe" last week. These, he said, have "achieved nothing."
In terms of which side members of SADC fall on, break it down like this: friends of Mugabe are DRC, South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho (whose prime minister called Mugabe a Hero earlier this year), Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi. Zambia can now be added to that list, judging from Rupiah Banda's pally pally approach to the man at his inauguration day before yesterday. The rest are neutral at best. So Mugabe still has the support of the majority in SADC, which makes it unlikely that Botswana's call for harder action against Mugabe will be heeded.