NEW Sadc chairperson, Botswana President Ian Khama’s emphasis on the need for the region to be a beacon for democracy exposes his predecessor President Robert Mugabe who has been widely accused of gross human rights abuses, election-rigging and authoritarian repression for over three decades.
At a press briefing after taking over the Sadc leadership, Khama also blasted leaders who overstay in power, citing Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza who is now in his third-term despite strong domestic opposition.
Khama took over from Mugabe at the 35th Summit of Sadc heads of state held in Botswana this week.
“It doesn’t matter how you got there. At the end of the day, once you sit in the office and you assume all the functions and duties of that office, you are serving your term,” he said. “In my opinion, he (Nkurunziza) has served two terms.”
In his inaugural speech as the incoming Sadc leader, Khama called for the region to work together to transform itself into a beacon of democracy.
Mugabe, now in his seventh-term despite Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, failed to deal with third-termism in Africa and shocked delegates during the AU summit when he suggested there should be no term limits, arguing two terms could feel as short as two weeks.
“It is a democracy, if people want a leader to continue, let him continue,” Mugabe — Zimbabwe’s only leader since Independence in 1980 — said.
Khama and Mugabe have had frosty relations as the Botswana leader has consistently spoken out against his autocratic tendencies.
In 2013, Khama condemned the manner in which Zimbabwe’s general elections were held in July that year following allegations of widespread rigging and systematic disenfranchisement. Botswana observers deemed the elections not free and fair.
Khama went as far as calling for an independent audit of the harmonised election results, and pushed for the country to be placed on the agenda of the Sadc summit held soon after the elections in Malawi.
In a statement, the Botswana government said: “… there is need for an independent audit of the just-concluded electoral process in Zimbabwe. Such an audit will shed light on the conduct of the just-ended election and indicate any shortcomings and irregularities that could have affected its result, as well as the way forward.”
Mugabe did not focus on ensuring democracy in the region despite concerns about the issue in Sadc countries such as Lesotho, Angola, Swaziland and back home in Zimbabwe.