WASHINGTON DC —
A Zanu PF lawmaker and member of the party’s powerful Central Committee, Joseph Tshuma, has dismissed as “extremely undiplomatic” calls by president Ian Khama of Botswana for President Robert Mugabe to step down for the benefit of Zimbabwe, which is currently facing serious social, economic and political problems.
In a VOA Studio 7 panel pitting him with political activist Vusumuzi Ncube of the Movement for Democratic Change led by former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Tshuma said Khama should stop poking his nose on political processes in Zimbabwe where President Mugabe’s government is clamping down on street protesters, who want him to step down for allegedly failing to properly run the country.
“I learnt with great disappointment to see how some people can behave in a rogue manner and yet they are supposed to be statesmen. What President Khama just did is abhorrent … He knows that in the diplomacy sector you cannot cross over to another state, another country to dictate who should rule that particular state. He should have left to our people to be judges and selectors on who should led us as a nation.
“So, what President Khama did boggles my mind and … Is he also being used by other forces? Is he thinking on his own? What is really happening? Honestly speaking, a level of diplomacy here is definitely zero. He has failed in diplomacy. He cannot talk about another president who was just elected as he was also elected as well. Our president has never talked about him or whatever status he has. We have heard stories about him and stuff like that but our president has never opened his mouth and said Khama is wrong this way …”
But Ncube dismissed Tshuma’s remarks saying President Mugabe has failed to properly run Zimbabwe resulting in a sharp rebuke from President Khama.
“The economy speaks for itself. The country’s economy is on its knees. Zimbabweans are running out of the country seeking help, seeking refuge in South Africa, Botswana, U.K, you name it. I welcome President Khama’s comments regarding (his call for) President Mugabe to step down due to the fact that it’s (refugee and Zimbabwe’s economic crisis) now affecting the people of Botswana. Remember these countries have been dealing with Zimbabwe for a very long time.
“I am not surprised (to hear) Khama coming out in public saying this. He has possibly tried to diplomatically talk to President Mugabe and obviously he hasn’t listened. Zimbabwe needs a new leader who can take Zimbabwe forward.”
Khama told Reuters that Zimbabwe's 92-year-old should step aside without delay and allow new leadership of a country whose political and economic implosion since 2000 is dragging down the whole of southern Africa.
Asked by Reuters if Mugabe, who came to power after independence from Britain in 1980, should accept the reality of his advancing years and retire, 63-year-old Khama responded: "Without doubt. He should have done it years ago."
"They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over," Khama, the UK-born son of Botswana's first president, Seretse Khama, and his British wife, Ruth, continued.
"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 said, in comments that breach an African diplomatic taboo banning criticism of fellow leaders.
Despite his reputation as one of Africa's most outspoken figures, Khama's remarks are certain to raise hackles in Harare, where factions of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party are locked in a bitter struggle to succeed the only leader Zimbabwe has known.