Botswana Confirms Abandoning Tsvangirai and the MDC

Botswana's Ian Khama voted with the rest of SADC to keep the MDC demands around "outstanding issues" off the table, instead calling on the West to lift "sanctions" against Zimbabwe. The Botswana leader has made a volte-face since last year, when he openly and loudly supported the MDC leader. His reasons for giving up on Morgan Tsvangirai are quite familiar to those who know the MDC leader, as the Botswana president recently explained to a prominent Zimbabwean politician who is not part of this Inclusive Government deal

Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 September 2009

You will recall that last month, I told you about a meeting between Robert "The Solution" Mugabe and Ian Khama when both were in Namibia for the launch of a regional tourism project.

My sources for that story said that Khama had sounded conciliatory towards Mugabe and that the two appeared to get along well. It was actually described as a thawing of relations.

Khama has now confirmed he has lost faith in the MDC leader during a private conversation with a Zimbabwean politician who has good ties with SADC leaders but is not part of the Inclusive Government. Morgan Tsvangirai, said the Botswana leader, can not be helped, since he disregarded good advice given to him BEFORE he signed the deal with Mugabe. This was advice from Khama and Kikwete of Tanzania.

The two African heads of state (Tanzania and Botswana) have now decided that it is useless to continue to champion the cause of someone who is clearly, as Khama put it "bent on self-destruction."

The recently-ended SADC Heads of State Summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) exposed just how far the gap between Khama and Mugabe has been bridged.

For the first time since he took over in Botswana, Ian Khama openly voted with the other heads of state to capitulate to Mugabe and demand an end to sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Later, his foreign minister also told the media that as far as his country is concerned, there is no option in Zimbabwe apart from the coalition arrangement between Mugabe and Tsvangirai. As Khama explained to the Zimbabwe politician: "He (Tsvangirai) made his bed and must now sleep in it."

President Khama warned Morgan Tsvangirai before he signed the Global Political Agreement that it was a bad deal and he should not sign but hold out for more concessions.

Tsvangirai disregarded this advice, even as President Khama offered to put at Tsvangirai's disposal officials who would help him before the signing "in the interests of finishing the Zimbabwe problem once and for all."

In the DRC, Tsvangirai met Khama, as he did with all the other heads of state, but Khama was now in no mood to listen. He reminded Tsvangirai that, even before signing, he had told him that the deal was skewed in favour of Mugabe and advised him to demand the implementation of certain measures before he could sign and go into the coalition government.

Apparently, Tsvangirai's demand that Amendment No 19 be passed in parliament before he could be sworn in was a belated attempt to listen to Khama's advice. But by then, against the advice of both Khama and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Tsvangirai had already signed the GPA without demanding any of concessions that he later sought to demand as he refused to be sworn in, but after he had already signed the deal.

I am told the meeting with the Botswana president in the DRC ended without Khama coming around to Tsvangirai's way of thinking. And that is why he voted with the rest of the Heads of State to call for the lifting of sanctions while ignoring completely the issues raised by the MDC.

Mugabe told his delegation that Khama was brand new as a Head of State when he started siding with the MDC during the dispute after the presidential "run-off" last year.

Now that Khama has been president for a while, and is even being accused of being a dictator in his own country, Botswana, he understands the nuances of governing an African country a bit better.

Khama has also recently enacted media laws that are quite similar to those implemented under Jonathan Moyo in Zimbabwe, Mugabe has noted.

But the truth of the matter is really that Morgan Tsvangirai refused to listen to the counsel of his supporters in the SADC bloc and went ahead and rushed to sign, at which point no one could help him. Having signed, SADC now demanded that he honour his word in order to keep his reputation intact.

The abandonment of the MDC by Botswana is hugely significant. It means that the MDC has no one at all to argue their case in closed door Heads of State meetings, where Morgan Tsvangirai can not be present.

Previously, it was Botswana and Tanzania which supported Morgan Tsvangirai openly in the SADC meetings. Botswana even issued public statements critical of Mugabe.

But it appears they have also come to the realisation that Morgan Tsvangirai can not be helped because he will not listen to wise counsel, preferring to keep his own.

This explains Tsvangirai refusing to leave the Coalition Government, because now Botswana and Tanzania say that they will not take up his cause if he walks out. He would be on his own, since he has demonstrated that, as far as he is concerned, he knows best and can not be told otherwise.


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