Vol.23 No.157

Thursday 19 October 2006    
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Opinion/Letters
Quiet diplomacy has forsaken people of Zimbabwe

WHITHER BOTSWANA?
DAN MOABI

10/19/2006 5:21:18 PM (GMT +2)

During his recent visit to the United States, President Festus Mogae was asked what his government was doing about the Zimbabwe problem. The following headline (Mmegi 13 October 2006) clearly conveyed the president's response: "Botswana powerless on Mugabe".


Another article in the same newspaper quoted the President as having said: "If the United States can do very little with tiny, naughty North Korea, what do you expect Botswana's 1.7 million people can do to 14 million people in Zimbabwe?" As I indicated previously, this is President Mogae and foreign minister Mompati Merafhe's standard response to such questions.

It is, of course, a perfectly valid view. There is absolutely nothing that Botswana can do to remove President Robert Mugabe's undemocratic government from power. Everyone knows this and that is why no one has ever suggested that Botswana should overthrow the government of Zimbabwe.

All that the people of Botswana and others in the rest of the world plead for is that our government should do more to put pressure on Mugabe's government to change its policies. That is, "do more" than the quiet diplomacy that the government and its SADC partners say they prefer to use to try to persuade the Zimbabwe government to change its policies.

This strategy has clearly hopelessly failed to achieve the desired result. It could even be argued that it has proved counter-productive in the sense that it has often enabled the President of Zimbabwe to boast to his people that his SADC partners, unlike the governments of Britain and the United States, support his policies. Mugabe has been able to do this from time to time because by its nature, quiet diplomacy easily lends itself to this kind of manipulation. It is also incapable of undermining the authority or confidence of the Zimbabwe government in any way. Besides, it is partly to blame for the perception on the part of many Zimbabweans that the failure of neighbouring states to criticise the Mugabe government openly means that it is not doing anything wrong, after all. This is, of course, exactly what Mugabe wants. Hence, the repeated appeals to SADC governments to adopt different strategies towards Zimbabwe.

What different strategy could Botswana adopt towards Zimbabwe that would be more effective than the current one? In my view, the government should opt for the strategy that previous governments of this country adopted in dealing with the problems of apartheid South Africa and Ian Smith's Rhodesia. At that time, this country was well known for its principled and frequent condemnation of those undemocratic systems of government. Yet, at the same time, Botswana never considered imposing trade sanctions against either of these countries, for it would have been unrealistic to do so.

Public criticism of what is going on in Zimbabwe would certainly prove far more hurtful to President Mugabe and his government than the government's current policy ever will. It would also help boost the morale of those Zimbabweans who are trying to do something about the crisis that confronts their country. Above all, it would be a clear signal to the people of Zimbabwe that we have not forsaken them, which is what we must seem to be doing at present. This is undesirable, for we must never forget that the Mugabe regime will not last forever and that it is important that we should be able to get along with whichever government will eventually take over from it.

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I wonder why the management of Township Rollers football club recently decided to take their dispute with the Botswana Football Association back to the High Court. Would it not have been better for the club to concentrate on trying to limit the damage likely to be caused by their initial decision to take the matter to court?

Presumably, the FIFA rule that prohibits clubs from taking football disputes to court is based on the assumption that it should be fairly simple to manage and settle such disputes on the basis of regulations promulgated by national football associations, which makes sense. However, problems will always arise where, as in the Township Rollers' case, the football association fails to interpret or apply its regulations correctly and a club feels obliged to go to court.

The Notwane football club dispute of the 1990s was another example of this. The problem here was simply that officials of the association seemed extremely reluctant to deal with Notwane's fairly straightforward complaint about the breach of an important regulation by another club. The matter took an entire season before the club was able to have it resolved fairly at the High Court. Only diligence and fair play on the part of our association can help avoid such cases in the future. Send us your comments about Mmegi newspaper Search For Old Newspaper Editions To advertise contact us through email

 
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