Botswana president Ian Khama last week stirred a hornet’s nest by publicly calling on President Robert Mugabe to step down on account of his advanced age and the dislocation of the country’s economy.
the oracle BY TANGAI CHIPANGURA
Khama did not say this in an unsolicited statement, nor did he call a press conference to say out his mind. He had been prodded by journalists from the international news organisation, Reuters, who were interviewing him on a host of issues.
The Botswana president, who is 63 years old, said Mugabe’s continued rule has become a burden to his country and other countries in the region. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled Zimbabwe for political and economic reasons. It is true that this influx of Zimbabweans into neighbouring countries is straining the host countries’ social and other services, bringing unnecessary burden to those countries.
“Without doubt. He [Mugabe] should have done it [leaving office] years ago,” said Khama on being asked if Mugabe, on account of age, should have retired.
Yes, Khama did breach an African diplomatic taboo banning criticism of fellow leaders and he was wrong to go against this agreed diplomatic precept.
But while he stands accused of going against this agreement by African leaders to protect each other against public chastising, his crime does not take sincerity out of his words or the fact that his views resonate with the daily calls by a lot of people in Zimbabwe and elsewhere around the world.
The Botswana leader pointed at Mugabe’s age as the problem — the reason he said was causing so much economic, social and political upheaval in Zimbabwe.
He said: “They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over… 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.”
Without giving Khama a pat on the back “for a job well-done” and inviting the “enemy of the State” and an “agent of regime change” tag from government, it is difficult to ignore Mugabe’s age. One cannot ignore the fact that given his age, at 92, Mugabe no longer has the energy required to run a country — let alone an economically troubled nation such as ours.
It is also a fact that this country needs a change of stewardship after 36 years under the leadership of one person. It is not right and does not make us a proud people to be viewed by our neighbours as a burden when we are so endowed with rich natural resources which, on account of bad leadership, we are failing to transform into national prosperity.
More than three million Zimbabweans are believed to have fled the country to South Africa because of economic and political reasons, while many thousands more are now found overseas. Botswana, whose president is complaining about strained public services caused by migrants from Zimbabwe, has a population of about 2,3 million people, less than the number of Zimbabweans that have crossed into South Africa alone. There are just about
100 000 Zimbabweans in Botswana.
The issue here, as raised by Khama, is Mugabe’s age and the related ability to effectively run a country.
I share the view by the millions of Mugabe’s supporters and many others that he has built a rare legacy, but I am also among those that fear he is fast-destroying this legacy because of his apparent intention to die in office.
There is no doubt at all that Mugabe has individually contributed invaluably towards the independence and well-being of Zimbabwe and Africa. But it is also an unfortunate fact that Mugabe’s contribution towards the collective pain and suffering that the people of this country have endured in the time of his reign, now outweighs his erstwhile achievements.
Because of the obtaining gloom brought about by Mugabe’s incompetent, corrupt, greedy and arrogant government, the people, including those close to him, are convinced that besides the issue of his personal competence, age is now a stronger case for his departure.
Except perhaps in a monarchy; intellectual and biological reason makes it universally unacceptable that a 92-year-old could still be running a country in an executive position.
All human beings, even those that claim to be in their positions on an election ticket, are subject to deteriorating mental and physical capacity with age.
It is very difficult to convince anyone, Your Excellency, that at such an advanced age, your capacity for good judgement can still satisfy the demands of millions of young Zimbabweans.
The truth, as exhibited by the on-going demonstrations protesting against his continued rule, is that many Zimbabweans believe Mugabe is now over the hill and is no longer capable of comprehending issues affecting the country.
But as I have said in the past, the best thing for the president to do is to call it quits before issues like violent protests or health force him out. I say so because whatever will happen after that might be catastrophic for the country because there is no guarantee that there will be a peaceful transition of power and that anarchy will not occur.
When this happens, the people will blame Mugabe because he is refusing to put a clear succession plan in place, the reason being he has declared himself “Life President”. It is not true that Mugabe is still in power just because the people are pushing him to continue to be there. He has the ability to say “I have had enough” and can very well bring in a new leadership guided by his wise counsel.
The fact, therefore, is that it is him, Mugabe, who does not want to leave power. So the people will blame him for any problems that will come because of this selfishness which has become the biggest threat to his legacy.
Mugabe appears stuck in the club of a tiny minority of leaders, a league of power cravers so tiny to the point of invisibility; who by reason of either bootlicking overdose or deliberate mischief, fail to acknowledge the principle of political diseconomies of scale.