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Botswana's Macho Politics on Zimbabwe
Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008

New Era
Namibia state-owned daily newspaper
December 05 2008

BOTSWANA'S call for the complete closure of borders with Zimbabwe by its neighbours to effect the downfall of President Robert Mugabe and his government amounts to a declaration of war through other means against its northern neighbour. It is a subtle call to arms and very dangerous.

Such brazen advocacy for regime change could escalate tensions between the two neighbours and lead to open conflict. Mugabe's government though has to be commended for maintaining its cool in this regard.

Botswana's bellicose behaviour is also reflected in its open invitation to the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, to relocate to Botswana and set up a so-called "democratic resistance movement", an apparent code phrase for a military project.

Tsvangirai is currently operating from Zimbabwe where he is agitating for his cause. He is among his people in Zimbabwe and his group is not banned. Why ask him to relocate if it is not for other sinister plans?

Needless to say the proposition to close down borders and effect regime change in Zimbabwe runs contrary to the letter and spirit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), its stated objectives and treaties on open borders, free trade and other conventions that govern relations between member countries. Nowhere in any of SADC protocols is it stated that a member country can topple another government, let alone threaten to do so.

Open advocacy for regime change raises the bar and could lead to open hostility between the two countries. Botswana should therefore be told to mind its language on Zimbabwe.

Gaborone could articulate its displeasure with Harare without being arrogant and pompous. It can project its power the way it sees fit but has to understand that it does not own Zimbabwe. Neither is it a regional policeman if at all, SADC is and not Botswana.

Only the people of Zimbabwe have the moral and legal right to remove their government and instal another one.

Botswana should not become to Zimbabwe what Rwanda is to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Other SADC members have to put Gaborone on notice about the dangers of its political posturing and growing demagoguery.

The power play as being projected by Botswana is encouraged by, among other factors, the political dormancy of key power brokers in the region like South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and to a lesser extent Angola that are still consumed by their internal politics including the early departure of former South African president Thabo Mbeki from the political scene.

It is clear that SADC has a leadership deficit. SADC's strong men as were Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Augustinho Neto, Samora Machel, Sam Nujoma and Oliver Tambo are becoming a rare species in a region that once held hope for Africa.

For Botswana to suggest or contemplate toppling the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe contrary to SADC position is the height of folly. It is a failure to read the sign on the wall and history.

Botswana needs to understand that Mugabe and Zanu-PF will have to be part of any solution in Zimbabwe and not the other way round. Mugabe and Zanu-PF cannot be sidelined, let alone toppled willy-nilly and thrown to the wolves. Those who do so will never have their cake and eat it.

If we may ask, why did Botswana maintain open borders with Ian Smith and white supremacists in South Africa in the 1960s and 70s? Why did they not call for border closure then? Is the sin more the colour of Mugabe or what?

The mere thought of ejecting the Zimbabwe government out of power through force and economic strangulation as espoused by Botswana is dangerous to say the least because that would mean the collapse of the Zimbabwe state, as we know it today. What will follow will be a Somali type of situation and chaos.

And who says Zimbabwe will sit idle while being strangled by another country. No one should underestimate the capacity of Zimbabwe to retaliate ferociously against those seeking to turn the tables against it. Zimbabwe may be a tired and wounded tiger but that makes it even more dangerous.

Any regime change in Zimbabwe would have to be effected by the people of that country and not engineered from outside. But more importantly, such change has to come through a controlled process dialogue or elections and not chaos.

It is foolhardy of Botswana's foreign minister, Pandu Skelemani, to assume that the government of Zimbabwe will collapse in a matter of a week should borders with that country be sealed as he was quoted as saying.

What and whose intelligence is Botswana relying on in this regard? Has he bothered to ask the Palestinians in Gaza or North Koreans why they are still there even after major blockades?

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