Namibian President Hage Geingob made what I believe were the most powerful, although diplomatically wrapped, stinging remarks against dictatorships, such as Zimbabwe.
By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
In his speech – during the closing ceremony of the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria South Africa, as the 2018 chairperson – Geingob commended democratic maturity in Botswana and Angola.
He described the smooth and regular transfer of power in Botswana as a sign of vibrant ‘inter-party democracy’ – as President Seretse Khama Ian Khama completes his second term and hands over the reigns to his likely successor Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
In the same vein, he also described the retirement of long-serving Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos as the country ‘taking the next step in solidifying democracy’.
Such comments by the Namibian president can not be viewed merely as compliments for a job well done, but as a veiled rebuke of countries such as Zimbabwe, whose President Robert Mugabe refuses to step down, despite leading the country since its independence in 1980.
If Geingob’s statements are to be interpreted in reverse, one would justifiably conclude that what he was saying was that countries such as Zimbabwe had no inter-party democracy, and that they were failing to take the next step in solidifying their democracy.
Which is a very well-made and accurate analysis, as there has never been any semblance of democracy, both in the ruling ZANU PF party and government.
As the country has so disturbingly witnessed over the past 37 years that there can never be any other leader, except Mugabe.
In fact, ruling party and government officials have scrambled over each other in issuing some of the most blasphemous statements, as they sought to portray Mugabe as some sort of saviour, messiah, and God’s chosen one.
The country has been turned into one of the most idolatrous in the world, as a president had been elevated to the level of a deity.
The murderous 2008 elections are the gravest example of what gruesome fate could await anyone who dared challenge the president’s leadership of Zimbabwe.
He has even been made into ‘Zimbabwe personified’, as even sanctions imposed on him and his family are construed to be sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Any criticism against him has also been termed as being against Zimbabwe.
These two – Zimbabwe and Mugabe – are distinctly different, and should never be mixed.
As this culture of worshipping of a leader continues, those in the ruling party itself know very well the unsavoury consequences of daring to oppose the deity they created themselves.
Then ZANU PF secretary general Edgar Tekere, ex freedom fighter Margaret Dongo, vice president Joice Mujuru and numerous others clearly know what happens to anyone within the party who has the audacity to challenge the president.
Even today, as ZANU PF’s infighting unabatedly continues, the surest way to get a rival expelled from the party would be to convince Mugabe that he/she wants to remove him from power – even in democratic elections.
A country which still entertains archaic laws that considers ‘insulting’ its president as treason is an embarrassment to the civilised world.
Such is clearly not synonymous with democracy.
In other SADC countries as Botswana – which are beacons of democracy – transfer of power is as normal as changing a shirt!
One can not help admiring the manner the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) comfortably and amiably debate and determine leadership issues.
There have never been any reports – not that I have heard of – where there was infighting as to who would replace Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire, Festus Mogae, or Ian Khama.
Neither have there been any reports of people being charged for treason as a result of ‘insulting’, or more accurately, challenging the president.
Additionally, there have never been reports of some BPD overzealous syncopates having killed, beaten up, or burnt down the home of an opposition supporter.
Democracy and elections in such countries as Botswana and Namibia, have always been above board and acceptable.
I genuinely was inspired by the smooth and democratic transfer of power in a relatively youthful democracy as Namibia – Sam Nujoma to Hifikepunye Pohamba to the current Geingob.
No wonder the Namibian leader so it fit – and was justified – to pour praised on Botswana and Angola.
Although Angola’s track record is nothing but enviable – as dos Santos has ruled that country with an iron fist since 1979, he eventually saw the light and decided not to stand in the forthcoming elections – this step should be commended.
The same regrettably can not be said about our beloved Zimbabwe.
There was nothing to compliment Zimbabwe about at the just ended SADC summit, and Zimbabweans themselves do not see anything to commend – until true democracy is established, and everyone’s voice is genuinely valued.