African leaders don’t throw shade at each other. That is rule number one in the “African president’s handbook”. Botswana President Ian Khama must not have bothered to read up. In a diplomatically risky move, Khama has blasted his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe for clinging to power and urged him to make way for younger blood. Khama also chided Mugabe for not being able to “keep up” anymore and called the the economic conditions that have forced many Zimbabweans to seek greener pastures a “burden” on the region. Is this healthy criticism or does Khama owe Mugabe an apology?
It is not every day that you see headlines like this.
Time for Mugabe to go, says Botswana President Khama https://t.co/G9iLLa24rp
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) September 21, 2016
But it is all true. In a break with a long-observed diplomatic tradition preventing African leaders from criticising each other, Botswana President Ian Khama has called on his notoriously prickly neighbour President Robert Mugabe to step down from power because his best years are behind him.
Khama made the comments during an interview with Reuters. When asked if Mugabe needed to step down from the presidency, Khama replied: “Without doubt. He should have done it years ago.”
But he didn’t leave it at that. Khama made sure to make it known that he felt that Mugabe, at his age, was in no condition to come up with the sort of ideas and energy needed to get Zimbabwe unstuck.
“They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over,” he said, adding “It is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he’s not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament.”
Khama made sure to make it known that he felt that Mugabe, at his age, was in no condition to come up with the sort of ideas and energy needed to get Zimbabwe unstuck
Khama and Mugabe in late August both attended a two-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Swaziland . Mugabe didn’t make through to the end of the summit. The 92-year-old had to make a speedy exit from the summit and fly to Dubai for treatment. Mugabe eventually returned back home, quashing rumours of his demise and declaring himself “resurrected”.
Khama wouldn’t be drawn into Mugabe’s condition at the SADC summit but said the Zimbabwean leader looked “tired” and was doing as well as you would expect for a man of his age:
“We’re talking about a 92-year-old man and there’s just so much you can do at that age to try and keep up,’ he said.
Khama, who will be exiting from the presidency in 2018 after serving two terms, said Mugabe should learn to accept that presidential term limits exist for a reason in democratic nations.
“My opinion has always been that 10 years leading any kind of organization – not just a country or a government, any organization – is pretty much the maximum,” he said.
Not a first for Botswana
This is not a first for Botswana. Just as Khama has broken with African diplomatic tradition and spoken his mind on Mugabe, his country has also in recently years been the lone voice in the African Union (AU) speaking in defence of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Botswana urges accountability as African leaders rebel against ICC – The Patriot on Sunday https://t.co/kUKt5uILhn
— ThePatriot On Sunday (@thepatriotbw) July 20, 2016
Though, given that his own succession in 2018 by current vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi is too scripted for some, President Khama could do with some homes truths of his own.
Botswanan President Ian Khama (a longstanding critic) says Mugabe must go in the interests of the whole region https://t.co/lnB5Gy0c0O
— Ashley Giles (@Ashley_Giles) September 21, 2016