Khama, Mugabe face-off in the offing at SADC summit

GABORONE – Botswana's President Ian Khama and Minister for Defence Justice and Security Ndelu Seretse will attend the Southern African Development Committee extraordinary Summit to be held on Monday in Pretoria, South Africa.

"People in Zimbabwe are suffering because people do not agree. SADC must listen to both parties," acting Botswana foreign affairs minister Dikgakgamatso Seretse told AFP.

"We want SADC to go to the core of the disagreement so that an all inclusive government will be established and bring normalcy and end the ordeals of the Zimbabweans."

A statement from Botswana Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation says the summit will receive a report on the outcome of consultations regarding the implementation of the ‘Global Political Agreement’ signed by Zimbabwe political parties on 15 September 2008.

The summit, to be held at the Presidential Palace in Pretoria, is expected to find a solution to the political impasse in Zimbabwe.  SADC deputy executive secretary, Joao Caholo, confirmed yesterday that they have issued invitations to all heads of state. He said the summit is not open to press coverage.

The summit offers President Ian Khama an opportunity to face Zimbabwe’s president and leader of ZANU-PF, Robert Mugabe and tell him to his face that he has failed the people of Zimbabwe. 

After failed negotiations between Mugabe and his rival Morgan Tsvangirai, mediated by four leaders from the Southern African Development Council (SADC) in Harare on Monday, they agreed to hold a summit on Monday.

Chairman of SADC, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Salomao, brokered the power-sharing negotiations. 

Botswana is experiencing an influx of illegal immigrants and political refugees from Zimbabwe that is hitting hard on the country’s budget. An estimated 600,000 Zimbabweans live in Botswana illegally, legally and in refugee camps.

President Khama’s government has been at the forefront in criticising Mugabe’s rule and he has vowed to boycott any SADC meeting where Mugabe is invited as president.

The Botswana government does not recognise Mugabe as president after the July 8 presidential runoff elections in which he stood alone. Hope came in September when he signed an agreement in front of SADC leaders among them Khama, to share power with the MDC leader. 

However, Mugabe has been a stumbling block to implementation of the deal, refusing to forefeit some key ministries to Tsvangirai, among them the Home Affairs Ministry that controls the police.

He has warned that he will go ahead with a ‘government of national unity’ without Tsvangirai.Late last year, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, described Mugabe as ‘ridiculous’ for accusing Botswana of training MDC militants to topple his government. Khama did not attend one of the summits on Zimbabwe last November and instead opted for a meeting of Conservation International.  The summit intended to get the parties to agree on implementation of the signed power sharing deal.

Recent reports say that Bishop Desmond Tutu, former SA First Lady, Graca Machel, and other prominent South Africans are on a campaign to stay hungry in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. They want former SA President, Thabo Mbeki, to step aside as mediator believing he has failed the Zimbabweans. 

They also want the regional leaders to abandon the quite diplomacy approach on the Zimbabwe crisis.Meanwhile, the BDP Youth Wing last week condemned SADC for failing to act against Mugabe’s intransigence.  "We support our government’s position on Zimbabwe, and condemn SADC’s inefficiency in protecting the people of Zimbabwe against the tyrannical regime.  We call upon SADC to become sterner if it is to justify its relevance in world politics. It has failed us dismally," the youth said.