Botswana’s President Ian Khama has given what will probably be unwelcome advice to one of Africa’s longest sit-tight leaders, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
President Ian Khama has asked the 92-year old leader to step aside without any delay and allow new blood to lead the country. Dangerous statements from Botswana’s president considering Mugabe has not been receptive of previous calls for him to step down.
There is also the question of the unclear picture of possible successors attainable in Zimbabwe.
The outspoken president had been 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. President Ian Khama who himself is 63-years old 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,”
“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.”
Ian Khama’s comments go against the grain of responses to questions of this kind. In Africa, it is a near taboo for a leader of any African country to criticize another African leader. It seems, however, that the fact that Botswana which shares 800 km (500 miles) of a border with Zimbabwe and has felt the effects of the country’s crippled economy, is enough to move the President to sound out.
Botswana is currently home to over 100,000 Zimbabweans and president Khama insists that Botswana’s jails held “significant numbers” of Zimbabweans, a point which he says “is a problem for all of us in the region – and it is a burden. There’s no doubt about that.”
The President also referred to Mugabe’s recent health controversy which saw him leaving a summit of southern African leaders at the end of August without warning and going to Dubai leading to rumors that he had taken gravely ill. Although not speaking in-depth, Khama said that Mugabe looked tired at the meeting;
“We’re talking about a 92-year-old man and there’s just so much you can do at that age to try and keep up.”
President Ian Khama thinks 10 years of leadership at a time should be enough for anybody
Dropping a final gem of wisdom after reiterating his government’s concerns about the credibility of the elections Mugabe has won in recent years, President Ian Khama said:
“My opinion has always been that 10 years leading any kind of organization – not just a country or a government, any organization – is pretty much the maximum.”
It is a valid criticism coming from the leader of a country that has since gaining independence 50 years ago, has emerged as a politically and economically stable nation that has used its mineral wealth prudently.
President Ian Khama’s second five-year term in office will end in 2018 and then he will be expected to hand over to vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi, a political succession that makes instability in the country almost impossible.