ZIMBABWEâ€™S power-sharing government is â€œa recipe for disasterâ€ and sets a dangerous precedent for democracy in Africa, Ian Khama, president of neighbouring Botswana, has warned.
Khama, a quad-biking former army chief and the son of Botswanaâ€™s independence leader, has won plaudits for an active reform programme but has been accused by opponents of using presidential fiat to advance a personal agenda of â€œdisciplineâ€.
His tough stance on Zimbabwe â€“â€“ a rare exception to many African leadersâ€™ willingness to tolerate autocrats in their midst â€“â€“ has been a crucial prop to Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change, which triumphed in a first round of elections last March only to withdraw from the presidential race amid attacks on its supporters.
Following last Fridayâ€™s car crash in which Tsvangiraiâ€™s wife Susan was killed, Khama flew Zimbabweâ€™s injured prime minister for treatment in Gaborone, Botswanaâ€™s capital.
Tsvangirai, Zimbabweâ€™s prime minister,Â has been treated for non-critical injuries as details emerged of the car crash that killed his wife on Friday.
Allegations of foul play persist, given previous incidents of President Robert Mugabeâ€™s opponents meeting their death on the roads, but early evidence suggested the incident 60km south of Harare, the capital, was an accident.
The truck that was in collision with the premierâ€™s 4×4 vehicle belonged to a contractor working for the US and British aid agencies, a US official said. Reports suggested the driver swerved after hitting an obstacle on the road. Robert Mugabe, was swift to visit his rivalâ€™s bedside, before a bandaged Tsvangirai flew to Botswana for treatment.
However, speaking to the Financial Times before the accident, Khama said that he doubted whether Mugabe, the authoritarian president, and Tsvangirai would be able to work together to rebuild the countryâ€™s shattered economy.
Its collapse has unleashed widespread hunger and triggered a cholera epidemic that has killed some 4 000 people.
â€œIf you had asked me to put together a combination of people who could spell disaster, that would probably be the combination,â€ Khama said in his first wide-ranging interview with a foreign newspaper since assuming office in April.
Accusing Mugabe of displaying â€œbad faith and more bad faithâ€ since an initial power-sharing framework was agreed in September, he said the 85-year-oldâ€™s rule had been â€œridiculously longâ€.
After initial successes following the war of liberation Mugabe led, â€œevery year, and in more recent times, every day he has been in power, things have just gone from bad to worseâ€¦he should have gone, long agoâ€.
Since Mugabe installed himself for a further term in his 29-year rule following widely discredited polls, Khama has been a staunch and often lonely critic of the regionâ€™s senior freedom fighter.
He refused to recognise Mugabeâ€™s mandate, lobbied his fellow regional leaders to demand fresh polls and gave sanctuary to Tsvangirai when his life appeared to be in danger.
The Mugabe regime responded with unsubstantiated claims that the opposition movement was assembling militias on Botswanaâ€™s turf and a smear campaign against Khama in the state media.
Khama was said to have been livid when Tsvangirai opted at a January summit to accept the premiership in a unity government that allowed Mugabe to remain president and his Zanu PF party to retain control of the security apparatus, despite the MDCâ€™s failure to achieve many of its demands.
Khama defended his democratic credentials in the face of critics who accuse him of governing in a manner more suited to his military past.
He said that, like cholera and an exodus of refugees, the ramifications of the Zimbabwe deal go beyond its borders.
Drawing a parallel with a power-sharing pact struck amid the violence that followed Kenyaâ€™s disputed ballot last year, he said: â€œIf a ruling party thinks itâ€™s likely to lose, and then uses its position as a ruling party to manipulate the outcome of the election so that they can extend their term in power, [it is] not the way to go . . . this power-sharing thing is a bad precedent for the continent.â€â€”The Financial Times (UK)