Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
Botswana's President, Ian Khama, is different to his fellow SADC leaders in many ways. He is the son of his country's founding president. He is at least a decade younger than most of them (leaving aside Swaziland' King Mswati and the coup-leading DJ in Madagascar). And he's never been married (but then Mswati and Zuma make up for that). However, his real odd man out status (because there are no women, of course) stems from his willingness to break with the 'we're-all-in-this-together-mentality' of his peers and publicly criticise his neighbour, Zimbabwe's one-and-only President Robert Mugabe.
He was at it again this week, calling on Zimbabwe to implement democratic reforms to ensure credible elections. True - it is hardly the most scathing attack on Mugabe or ZANU-PF and their attempts to cling to power by refusing to countenance any electoral reforms or genuine media reforms - let alone reform of the security sector, which is the real 'elephant in the room'. But at least he stands up and calls for reforms and fair elections. And he's right - a repeat of the blood-soaked 2008 elections in Zimbabwe will plunge the country back into chaos and undermine regional security, growth and development.
It's time some of his fellow leaders took up his minority viewpoint on Zimbabwe because elections are coming and only SADC can ensure that they are peaceful, free and fair, and that the will of the people - rather than the whim of one man (and his friends with guns and batons) - is respected. It's in Zimbabwe's interests. It's in SADC's interests. But sadly that is not necessarily enough to convince SADC's Big Men to do the right thing.