Masire reveals Mugabe, Mandela rivalry

FORMER Botswana president Quett Ketumile Masire has explained in his memoirs how the relationship between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and former South African president Nelson Mandela, who died last Thursday after a protracted battle with a lung infection, bitterly soured as a result of tensions fuelled by how Sadc handled the conflicts in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

By Herbert Moyo

In his memoirs, titled Very Brave or Very Foolish?: Memoirs of an African Democrat, Masire, who led Botswana from 1980 to 1998 turning it into one of the most thriving countries on the continent, makes disclosures about how the two clashed over Angola and DRC wars.

He gives a vivid account of how Mandela fought with Mugabe after the latter took it upon himself to hold and chair Sadc meetings of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security instead of deferring to Mandela who was then the chairperson of Sadc. The organ reports to the Sadc summit.

Mandela — whose memorial on Tuesday and funeral tomorrow are billed as among the biggest such events in history — and his allies in the region waged a serious political battle to stop and remove Mugabe from being a permanent chair of the organ to ensure current rotation.

According to Masire, problems between Mugabe and Mandela erupted after a Sadc summit in Angola in 1996.

“Sadc presidents were invited to Luanda (in 1996) to witness the signing of an agreement between President (Jose) Eduardo dos Santos and rebel leader Jonas Savimbi at a time it was thought that Unita and the Angolan government had reached a peace agreement,” Masire says.

“Savimbi (late) did not show up and Mugabe took advantage of the gathering to hold the organ’s meeting and to report on its activities. But instead of reporting to a meeting chaired by Mandela, the chairman of Sadc, Mugabe chaired it himself.

“Afterward Mandela’s people felt this was wrong; as chairman of Sadc, Mandela should have chaired any summit meeting to receive a report, and they felt Mugabe should be told this.”

After that, Masire, who also says Botswana was disappointed that after Mugabe took power in 1980 it became even more difficult to do business with Zimbabwe compared to Rhodesia, said Mandela travelled to Harare in 1997 to confront Mugabe.

“Mandela went to Zimbabwe to discuss the situation, and he came back by way of Botswana to tell me that Mugabe felt he had done nothing wrong, and that, in fact, he would do it again,” writes Masire. “Even though the chairmanship of the organ was supposed to rotate yearly, Mugabe stuck to it in the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.”

Masire further explains that despite efforts by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano and himself to mediate, “Mugabe remained adamant that he should chair meetings to discuss activities of the organ and after that his relationship with Mandela soured”.

Although Mandela came to Zimbabwe in 1997 on a state visit and addressed parliament where he described Mugabe as a “hero” and had roads — including the former Baker Avenue in Harare — named after him, a conflict between the two was simmering under the surface.

Subsequently, a bitter tug-of-war over the Sadc organ ensued until Mugabe was forced to relinquish it. However, Mugabe, Mandela and Masire continued to work together on some issues such as the problems in Lesotho and Swaziland.

The revelations by Masire come against the background of Mugabe’s claims on his arrival on Wednesday from Mandela’s memorial that there was never a feud between him and the late South African political giant.

Addressing the media upon landing in Harare, Mugabe described Mandela as a “great friend” before further claiming: “I don’t know about any feud. If anything, there was an alliance. We worked very well with him when he came out of prison. We gave him support.”

He added: “We established the principle of national reconciliation (at Independence in 1980), they took it over and used it as a basis to create what they have now as the Rainbow Nation. There was no feud, where was the feud, what feud?”

But evidence clearly shows there was a serious problem between the two.

The explosive Luanda Sadc summit appointed three leaders — Mugabe, Chissano and the late Zambian president Frederick Chiluba — to increase pressure on the MPLA and Unita to overcome the final hurdles to peace. However, both the MPLA and Unita made it privately known progress would be swifter if Mandela and Chissano rather than Mugabe were at the helm of the regional process to stem resurging conflict in Angola.

An Angolan embassy representative in Pretoria, Jorge Morais, said at the time Luanda would be happy with Mandela and Chissano taking the lead in the peace talks.

“We welcome that initiative,” Morais said. “In our region, we identify Mr Mandela as a respectable man who is in a good position to address the problems of Angola.
We believe that Mr Mandela and Mr Chissano have the experience.”

An adviser to Savimbi in South Africa said: “Savimbi is very keen on having Presidents Mandela and Chissano take the lead. They made miracles happen in their respective countries. If Mandela and Chissano fail, then we are doomed.”

On the DRC, the Mugabe-Mandela feud was stoked by the former’s decision to unilaterally sanction armed intervention on behalf of the late DRC leader Laurent Kabila who was facing an internal rebellion in 1997, claiming that the decision enjoyed the full backing of Sadc even if it did not. Mugabe and Mandela had a public row over that.

“Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs (the late Stan Mudenge), called a meeting of Sadc foreign ministers in Harare on one day’s notice,” says Masire, adding that, “in urgent situations presidents can get to meetings on short notice, since they can charter airplanes, but ministers cannot.”

Mugabe and his ministers Mudenge and then Defence minister the late Moven Mahachi are said to have taken full advantage of the fact that “most of us were represented by ambassadors and high commissioners” to railroad Sadc into intervening in DRC.

“Zimbabwe suggested that Sadc should intervene in the Congo on the side of Kabila,” Masire says. “The ministers and other representatives said: ‘We need to talk with our presidents’.”

However, at the end of the meeting that day, Mahachi announced that Sadc had taken a decision to intervene in the DRC. But Botswana and South Africa — which around that time intervened in Lesotho — swiftly rejected that and announced they were not party to the move.

Then Mugabe apparently claimed that those who argued a decision was not taken were “hypocrites” since they were party to it. Mandela retorted that those who wanted to go to join the fray in DRC could do so even though he warned they would be crippled by their limited resources and lack of capacity.

“And, the rest is history”, writes Masire. “Zimbabwe moved into the Congo under the pretext of a non-existent Sadc decision and Namibia and Angola came in as well.”

29 thoughts on “Masire reveals Mugabe, Mandela rivalry”

  1. Chen Chikezha says:

    Very interesting indeed… let us see who is telling the truth here.

    1. Mutongi Gava says:

      Shame shame shame on you Independent.

      No rivalry, no feud does not mean no differences.

      Differences do not mean rivalry.

      There is no scope for rivalry between Masire and Kaunda – do you know how many differences they had?

      Shame shame shame on you as on the Guardian, tweeting Mugabe booed.

      Mugabe is a reality you cannot change, FINISH.

      1. mswathini says:

        To add on what you said, Mandela was famous for being able to separate political differences from personality and he was a rare breed of person who could disagree politically and embrace you like a good friend.

        He did that through out his political career. Many times.

        There was absolutely no stage for rivalry.

        In a recent Australian documentary “Nelson Mandela: The Final Chapter” by award-winning director Clifford Bestall, SBS – Austrlia, Mandela even mentioned that media (such as The Independent) say that Mugabe and Mandela are rivals. He clearly said, “and I am talking about what is said by people. Its not something that comes from me”. When Sarkozy asked him concerning Mugabe.

  2. Mfanekhaya says:

    Rubbish. There was no rivalry. If you could be a fly on the wall when ‘allies’ like US and France, US and UK etc strategise, you would realise that having contrary views is normal. It doesn’t make them rivals, nor does it amount to feuding. And of course militias would have preferred to have Mandela as mediator as he was softer (weaker) and more likely to be manipulated than the steely Mugabe.

    1. william doctor says:

      Oh, and if Mandela was so ‘weak’ then why did he spend 27 years in prison? And if Mugabe is so ‘steely’ then why is he afraid to relinquish power? And why does he murder unarmed Zimbabwean citizens?

    2. Change69 says:

      People who blindly follow Mugabe make me sick. You are weak and have been manipulated by the steely Mugabe. Mandela was willing to LISTEN, take things into account and act accordingly. This is not manipulation. There was clearly a rivalry between the two on many issues. Their ideals on the value of human life and freedom differ wildly.

  3. Gekella Pivs says:

    About DRC Mugabe was right as Museveni as usual had spoiled Madiba thinking even to the extent not to meet Obote who lost his gov.
    DRC would be like uganda now where tribes from north and east are non-citizens.

  4. Gekella Pivs says:

    Drc would have gone to the dogs. Angola ,Namibia,Zambia etc would have been on fire.

    Obote is known to have lost is gov. because of his stand agaist south african gov at the time, and supported Anc without fear.

  5. cherera says:

    So,was it wrong to go and save human life in Congo.I remember the same man being beatified was selling weapons to rebells.asked about it he stubbornly diffented himself saying he was in business and didnt worry who he sells to.Cde Mugabe is the real man.not all those other pupperts

  6. onslo says:

    Mugabe kane nharo manhingi !

  7. farai vatema says:

    In 1996 Mandela was just 2years in office after 27years in jail.The SADC Organ on Defense &Security was not yet part of the SADC .The SADC organ was still the frontline grouping whose main task was the execution of the liberation of countries that were still under colonial bondage.the organ only became part of the SADC well after Mandela was in office.The real culprits to the so called feud was the former apartheid establishment which remained in power and became close advisors to Mandela.The objective was to create an artificial feud so that there was no cohesion in the SADC Pan-African agenda. Thus iladvised Madiba took the bait &sought sympathy from the likes of Masire who were the preferred by the neo-liberal agenda designed for the region.What did Mandela know about the frontline unity which had pushed hard for his release anywhere?Students of Africa’s liberation know that Botswana was & is not part of the PanAfrican agenda.It has always been in league with the west against the African agenda.So don’t be misled by Masire comments, his views are from the neoliberal perspective whose agenda he still serves.

    1. william doctor says:

      Oh except that Botswana is a democracy – and has a vibrant economy. Zimbabwe is an economic failure [they don’t even have their own currency] and democracy does not exist. Do students of African liberation learn that?

  8. Rafi says:

    Tell them Farai! this appears like one of those lame journalism pieces aimed at the fashionable mugabe bashing without enough research.

    On the DRC, the Mugabe-Mandela feud was stoked by the former’s decision to unilaterally sanction armed intervention on behalf of the late DRC leader Laurent Kabila who was facing an internal rebellion in 1997, claiming that the decision enjoyed the full backing of Sadc even if it did not. Mugabe and Mandela had a public row over that.

    1) the DRC only joined SADC in 1997. so mugabe as leader of aa sovereign state had very right to make a unilateral decision .
    2) the DRC was not facing an internal rebellion. it was facing external aggression from rwanda and uganda who wanted a stooge in place so they could easily milk the DRC of its mineral resources( the major reason the DRC chose to be part of the SADC instead of EAC)
    3) in any case, imagine if DOVE mandela had been in charge of the organ for the DRC intervention decision – remember by the tine laurent kabila the president flew to harare for help, the so called rebels(rwandan ugandan aggressors) were already on the outskirts of Kinshasa – the DRC capital. today the DRC could very easily have been under a rwandan. a sweetest gift to Kagame.

    I am no so sure about the situation regarding the UNITA and MPLA in angola but given how much Jonas savimbi was as a hardman, it is clear he would have preferred to be dealling with doves and so – certainly not man like mugabe!

  9. Terry M says:

    mugabe’s puppies barking in defence as usual..
    The DRC saga is well documented Mandela warned mugabe against deployment of forces in DRC. mugabe went on zbc tv & told Mandela that we will go it alone……a few months into the war the Zim dollar collapsed

  10. Rafi says:

    Terry M

    If we are mugabe’s puppys, you must be mandela’s poop. you stink.

    there is nothing to defend here. the DRC was not a member of SADC at the time so making use of the organ was neither here nor there. As a sovereign state zimbabwe had every right to make a bilateral arrangement with the DRC without listening to mandela. madiba was probably right but so what? thats not the issue. in any case its very probable that mandela was taking orders from mother UK to take the reigns of SADC security from mugabe given how bitterly they protested zimbabwe’s involvement. and who doesnt know that as rwanda and uganda invaded the DRC, the uK and US pourred millions their government coffers – money which they surely knew would end up buying guns to kill 5 million DRC citizens.

  11. venge says:

    y supporting the heartles,throne stucked mugabe?the old man wnts all circles in life 2b governed by millitary intervention.e.g here right here in Zim he’ sanctioning army n police nt forgeting secret service 2use guns on empty handed civillians,imagine.more thn 20 000 pple wr slaugthered by the same old man who claims 2b father of democracy in the name of gukurahundi rememba.the old man is paying army n police bonuses so as to flatter the blind security arms 2rise agnst innocent,jobles,hungry pple in ths nation.he’ evn planning 2c few firms who a stil operting close fr him n bona to remain at wrk the rest tichitambura moyo wake wofara nxaaaaa he’ nt real bt a he’ a ghost mafia.

  12. E Makhate says:

    I bet Jonso and Charamba responded in those typically long, boring articles one finds in the Herald and Sunday Mail. Masire is telling the truth. Just look at how Botswana has developed in 33 years and how Zimbabwe looks like the Zimbabwe ruins in 33 years. Shame shame shame Zpf

  13. solution says:

    Mandelas solution to unita and the congo rebels was that of peace talks and diplomacy. This method could never have worked. How could this have worked on Jonas savimbi who had for 30 years caused a terrible civil war and was armed? He was armed and never was to surrender. The DRC Rebels were armed as well and invading. Mugabes proposition was the solution, that of engaging the enemy with military intervention and disarm the enemy! This was the only solution. It needed a man with balls! Mandela was not a leader in the military sense. He was too soft. Mugabe was fearless and never accepted intimidation or defeat! Mugabes approach solved the crisis. Savimbi was killed by the commandos and look and Angola now. DRC rebels were beaten and this prevented DRC from colonisation.

  14. Gava Maenzanise says:

    VIva Mugabe….as for comrade nelson he is gone to his ancestors so no amount of bashing saying he was right or wrong this will change a thing he is faced with his maker to whom he is answerable..and brothersstop namecalling each other you are nothings in antional discourse achieve this then maybe we can also be part a meaningful conversation..dont personalise things..asi havo mdara j#**e vanaro ndiro rinozi simba..yes our economy is messed inhaka kaiyo we inherited the economy yes corruption is there no excuse or apology the reality is hupfumi ndohwedu whether it was bobs startegy or not he is currently Gods reliable conduit ..

  15. skuzapo says:

    Of what interest was DRC to us in the first place other than that some people had personal interest there..?? And the people who claim to own this country went ahead and committed the country to a war that had absolutely nothing to do with us leading to economic collapse back home. What did we get other than personal gain of a few individuals?? Look at Joseph Kabila now, he is not interested in anything to do with us at all. He is visiting South Africa so frequently and we are stuck with a dysfunctional economy – and you still get some clueless idiots trying to defend the indefensible. Nonsense.

  16. nocomparison says:

    comparing chalk and cheese. Mandela was and always will be a great man

  17. botsrules says:

    SSK, followed by QKJ and Festus. All great leaders. what have we got for the past 30 years here in Zim? eesh…………….

  18. tudor says:

    hameno kangazhanai tione kwamunosvika

  19. EARTHQUAKE31JULY says:

    our currency started to fall, our brothers died for nothing in DRC shame, shame, shame on you mugabe and his pupies.

  20. wakondewako says:

    Viva Mugabe… whatever the fall in the dollar due to DRC… we believe we wre doing a right to a fellow African brother. Besides many other countries stood by us when we were fighting for our own liberation. Talk of Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzani who footed the bill for liberating Zimbabwe at the expense of their ownm citizens. Thats what African ubuntu is all about. The the DOVE ofcourse was waiting to capitalise after the interventions of others…. how many SA companies are riping the DRC rrightnow… enjoying the blood of others… vakangwara havana nhamo asi Mwari ndewe munhu wese… each dog has its own day…

  21. farai vatema says:

    The problem is quite a number of the comments here are childish, some are emotional, some are ignorant and lack facts as long as you can score an anti-Mmugabe garbage. You should learn to debate national issues constructively on these platforms. Mugabe is statesman of unique quality and even the western leaders in their confines acknowledge this fact. The west who dominate the global propaganda arsenal have vainly tried to destroy Robert Mugabe. Quislings like skuzapo will continue to buck but that won’t stop elephants to proseccute the African agenda.

  22. amandA says:

    hapana chisingaperi, kutambura kwemaZimba kuchapera.
    tongai tione.

  23. Panucci says:

    I do really chuckle anytime I hear or read that Botswana’s alleged economic success is an indictment on Mugabe. How many people in Africa really respect Botswana as freedom-loving African country. Will the President of Botswana draw the audience Robert Mugabe does when he is in America. Mugabe is a freedom fighter. He is only mentioned in the category of Kwame Nkrumah, Lumumba, Muammar Gaddaffi, Thomas Sankara and others. This whole spin that Zimbabwe’s economy has suffered under Mugabe is ridiculous. Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa. That is more important than having too much to eat since too much food kills and puts one to sleep intellectually. Despite the noise we hear about Botswana’s economic success, it is still a very sordid underdeveloped country like the rest of Africa. South Africa too. Their respective human development indices are not any better than Zimbabwe’s. But Zimbabwe under Mugabe, at least, attempts to be his own man instead of being a puppet of others. Mugabe gives Zimbabwe a lot of respect. I love that!

  24. Zimbo1 says:

    Well said Panucci & Farai, some people are really empty vessels that make useless noise. Unfortunately such people are the very dangerous kind who sellout just for a few cents that last for a limited time compared to the wealth that is enjoyed by those who colonized and made our wealth theirs. As for this article it’s unfortunate that some cowards try to hog the limelight as if they have balls like Mugabe and no matter how our economy has nosedived, one day it will be one of the best after all it suffered because of the enemies who are against anything good done by and for Africans by our great leader who is a hero to almost all Africans than others who are heros to the white people if we really want to look at individual contributions and sacrifices.

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