HARARE – Botswana President Ian Khama has said he does not wish ousted President Robert Mugabe well but does not wish him ill either following a tragic end to his repressive 37-year rule on Tuesday.
Mugabe was forced to resign as president after nearly four decades in power, halting impeachment proceedings against him.
One of Africa’s most outspoken figures, Khama — who had unsuccessfully appealed to Mugabe to accept reality and step down to end Zimbabweans’ unprecedented suffering — said: “I don’t see any reason why I should wish him well. Because if I have any sympathy for him, I would say to myself but didn’t he have any sympathy for his own people? But if he cared nothing for his own people then why should I care for him and I don’t wish him ill either. I just say let’s leave him alone and let him just try and enjoy the rest of his life.”
Botswana, the world’s largest producer of diamonds, shares an 800km frontier with Zimbabwe and has absorbed the full weight of its neighbour’s economic implosion spawned by political violence and hyperinflation since 2000.
Botswana is home to an estimated 100 000 Zimbabweans — a fraction of the three million believed to be in South Africa — although this is still enough to strain public services in a nation of 2,3 million people.
Khama has also said Botswana’s jails hold “significant numbers” of Zimbabweans.
Khama said the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa “should embrace democracy in all its forms, Zimbabwe has got the potential of being an economic powerhouse.”
“The people are so innovative and hardworking. I’m sure investors will be tripping over themselves to come back into that country,” he said.