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Mugabe set to hand over SADC chair to Botswana’s Khama

Botswana's president Ian Khama (File: AFP)
Cape Town – Botswana President Ian Khama is set to become the next Southern African Development Community (SADC) chair when Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe vacates the position next week, reports said.

Mugabe is expected to hand over the one-year chairmanship to Khama at the 35th summit of heads of state and government to be held in Gaborone.

The move is viewed by analysts as giving the bloc some long-sought teeth to reject dictatorship, rights abuses and electoral fraud in the sub-region, the Daily News reported.

Khama, who is set to step down as Botswana president in 2018, is one of the few African leaders who has managed over the years to stand up to dictators.

He was the only African leader who stood with Western countries in 2013 following an “overwhelming” victory by Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party in elections that were dismissed by opposition parties as a “farce”.

‘Bad apple’

Mugabe romped to victory with a 62% majority of the national vote.

At the time, Khama condemned Zimbabwe’s vote and demanded an audit, a development that saw Zanu-PF’s politburo member Jonathan Moyo describing the demand as “thoroughly stupid”.

“He [Botswana President Ian Khama] is the only bad apple and that raises questions about his integrity. Who is paying him? It also raises questions about allegations doing the rounds both in Botswana and Zimbabwe that he was a participant and sponsored the losers. He should show some shame. He is shameless,” Moyo was quoted as saying at the time.

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According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the summit in Gaborone will be held on August 17 and 18 under the theme “Accelerating industrialisation of SADC Economies Through Transformation of Natural Endowment and Improved Human Capital”.

Khama will step in as new chair to deal with political calamity in Madagascar and the ongoing crisis in Lesotho.

Economic agenda

“I am confident with Khama there will be a lot of changes… I expect him to deal seriously with issues of human rights – gay rights included – and corruption, unlike what Mugabe has been doing,” Afghanistan-based development expert Maxwell Saungweme was quoted as saying in the Daily News.

Khama is also expected to improve the economic agenda for the region.

The SADC, established in 1980, is a regional economic community comprising 15 member states: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Their aim is to achieve development, peace and security, and economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration, built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development.

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