The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has shamed Botswana by praising the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe for winning the ‘fair and free’ July elections.
SADC deliberately excluded the Zimbabwean elections from the agenda. On Thursday, two days before the 33rd SADC Summit of Heads of States and Governments, the Deputy Executive Secretary of SADC (Regional Integration) Joao Caholo made it clear that the Zimbabwe elections would not be discussed. “I cannot comment on the Zimbabwe issue because it is not in the summit agenda,” he had said.
But on Saturday, Botswana wore a long face at the opening of the 2013 SADC Summit of Heads of States and Government when the Director of Ceremonies and also the SADC Director of Communications, Charles Mubita, introduced the Zimbabwe President to the fully-packed Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) Hall. The crowd went into wild cheering and gave Mugabe ululations and a standing ovation. Of all the introduced SADC presidents, Mugabe received the loudest cheering. The excitement forced Mugabe to stand and bow at the crowd while lifting up a clutched fist and laughing at the top of his voice.
At the time, Khama had not yet arrived at the BICC and had delegated the Trade Minister Dorcus Makgatho-Malesu to stand in for him. At the end of the official opening of the summit, President Khama pitched up at the SADC leaders’ group photo session outside the BICC and looked shocked and uncomfortable to pose next to President Mugabe.
When the outgoing SADC Executive Dr. Tomaz Augusto Salomão took to the stage to give his remarks he openly congratulated President Mugabe. The Current Chairlady of SADC President of the Republic of Malawi also congratulated Mugabe for winning the elections, so did the outgoing chairman of SADC and president of Mozambique, Armando Emílio Guebuza.
Meanwhile, the SADC position left Botswana isolated in her bid to convince regional leaders to commission an audit into the Zimbabwe elections. Botswana’s maverick Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani had after the elections in July and prior to the summit made remarks which caused a stir between the two countries calling for an audit of the elections.
Zanu-PF Politburo member Professor Jonathan Moyo referred to Skelemani’s remarks as ‘thoroughly stupid’ and had comments going viral on websites and social networks. Mugabe’s Deputy Director of Information Psychology Maziwisa had also cast aspersions at Botswana’s position.