Tuesday, August 13, 2013

(STICKY) (SUNDAY MAIL ZW) President Mugabe’s Lesotho homecoming
Sunday, 21 July 2013 00:00
Morris Mkwate recently in Maseru, Lesotho

“Oa bona! Batho ba morata moo Lesotho; ba moetsetsa lhiatse!” An animated Basotho intelligence operative beamed as he “panned” his index finger across Setsoto Stadium, pointing at thousands of his cheering countrymen who warmly acknowledged the presence of President Mugabe at King Letsie III’s 50th birthday anniversary celebrations in Maseru, Lesotho, last Wednesday.

Gesturing while remaining slightly stern-faced, the operative had earlier intimated his deep admiration and affection for Cde Mugabe to this writer.

The conversation, which opened with banalities regarding our nationalities and professions, centred on the relations between Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

And as the conversation drifted towards the reasons for his and the rest of the Basotho’s reverence for the President, he appeared intent on seeking proof to buttress his point. It was then that the master of ceremonies made his task lighter.

Cde Mugabe had just taken his seat in the top-most stands alongside his Namibian counterpart, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, King Mswati III of Swaziland and Botswana’s President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

The MC subsequently announced the presence of the leaders; one by one.
When the announcement of the Zimbabwean leader’s name boomed across the stadium, Cde Mugabe promptly rose from his seat.

Sporting a dark suit, matching white shirt and warm smile, he waved to the packed 15 000-seater sports arena.

And voila! The proof the operative had been searching for came forth! The crowd gustily waved and cheered at President Mugabe, prompting the intelligence man to shout: “Oa bona! Batho ba morata moo Lesotho; ba moetsetsa lhiatse!” meaning, “You see! The people of Lesotho love him; they are cheering at him!”

The operative’s gleeful sentiment just about summed up President Mugabe’s visit to Lesotho last week. To many Basotho, the visit was akin to the home-coming of a victorious warrior; a hero who had stayed away from home for far too long.

They had watched him execute numerous successful forays, albeit from a distance. Now he had returned home to the loving embraces of his people. To the roving eye, it was easy to detect the aura of affection that accompanied Cde Mugabe’s every step.

Those who saw him touch down at Moshoeshoe I International Airport on Tuesday evening gazed like one would at a spectacle.

Eyes darted from the red carpet spread on the tarmac to the handshakes the Zimbabwean leader extended to members of the official Lesotho welcoming party.

Even as he turned up at a state banquet hosted at Maseru Sun later that evening, the palpable sense of affection still lingered. The President spoke on behalf of Southern African leaders in an address that guests at the dinner will no doubt preserve in their memories.

He serenaded his listeners with great humour. He gave them points to ponder. He also left a lasting impression, an indelible imprint that will forever remain fresh in their minds. In one of his humorous moments, President Mugabe revealed how he had propelled King Letsie III from bachelorhood into marriage.

Always one quick to conjure humour, he told the gathering that the king’s late mother became increasingly worried that her son was not showing interest in getting married. He said his marriage to First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe motivated the king to seek out a bride.

“How could I, at 72, get married and he remain unmarried? At that age? Really?” he said, drawing hearty laughter from guests.

“So, I inspired him,” he added, as his address from that point on became punctuated with spurts of laughter and applause.

The President did not only fill the otherwise cold Lesotho evening with his warmth; he also revealed the secret behind the strong affinity between Harare and Maseru.

“As people of the region, we are bound together by a common history, similar cultures and strong economic linkages. The people of Zimbabwe remember with fond memories the assistance that the Kingdom of Lesotho rendered to them during the days of the liberation struggle despite the immense pressure exerted on your own country by the then apartheid rule in South Africa.

“I am equally aware that your country remained resolute to the cause for liberation in our region and some of those countries which got liberated with your assistance are represented here today. Your country educated a significant number of our citizens who went on to occupy key positions in Government on our attainment of independence and liberation.

“On our part, as Zimbabwe, I am delighted to note that we are training some Basotho, though in a small way.

“In 2010, our two countries agreed on a co-operation framework that has seen the training of Basotho students in surgery and medicine at the University of Zimbabwe. This is only a small good turn for what we received from your country.”

More than 15 000 Basotho converged on Setsoto Stadium for the birthday celebrations which were broadcast live on national television and radio stations. Among those represented at the event were Basotho of various professions and backgrounds.

Several of those who interacted with the Zimbabwean delegation had stories to tell. They poured out their admiration for the President; they opined how the policies the country has implemented would boost the economy.

Even King Letsie spoke of Cde Mugabe’s “genuine friendship and solidarity and his love for Lesotho and Basotho” in his main address.
Mr David Mabote, the managing director of Business Edge, a top business newspaper in Lesotho, said President Mugabe’s empowerment policies resonate with many Basotho.

He said many of his fellow countrymen believe Cde Mugabe is among the true African icons, adding that the continent would be better developed if the rest of its leaders shared the President’s vision.

“Basotho really love President Mugabe. They believe Robert Mugabe is one of the last leaders Africa has produced.

“For me, I do not think Africa will ever produce anyone like Robert Mugabe. I understand his background; how the country came about.

“He is principled and stands for what he believes in, in spite of whatever his detractors try to do. He is one of the leaders I respect in sub-Saharan Africa. If only the other leaders would co-operate on particular policies, then we would be at a higher level by now.

“The most important policy is on land. It is very good and has to be supported to boost economic performance.”

Visions magazine editor Manyathela Kheleli recalled Cde Mugabe’s contribution in resolving the political problems that beset Lesotho in the 1990s.

He said he respected the President for enunciating policies aimed at uplifting the lives of his people.

“He was deeply engaged together with South Africa. Zimbabwe and South Africa were among the countries that played a pivotal role in resolving those problems. The intervention showed the commitment of Sadc.

“At a personal level, I like him (Cde Mugabe) a lot for his principles and even his stance on gay rights. To have a leader who stands from the liberation struggle to now speaks volumes. He is still going strong.

“He speaks his mind; he also speaks like an African.

“He cherishes being African. For him, it has always been difficult to reverse the effects of apartheid and colonialism, but he tries his best. It makes him different from other leaders in Africa.

“He also makes policies that are pro his people. Your country has been under sanctions, but he has stood firm.

“He is a credible leader, just to cut the long story short.”

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At 1:24 AM , Blogger MrK said...

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Khama in U-turn over Zim elections
Saturday, 17 August 2013 22:48
Caesar Zvayi in Lilongwe, Malawi

Botswana on Friday made an 11th-hour climbdown from its earlier intransigence of diverting from the rest of Africa over the credibility of Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections with its Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Minister, Mr Phandu Skelemani, claiming to have been misled by the MDC-T and some elements of civil society at home and abroad.

A source close to developments said Mr Skelemani requested a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi on the sidelines of the Sadc Troika meeting on Friday night as it became clear that Botswana’s position was becoming ridiculous in light of MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai’s failure to back his allegations of rigging in court.

News had also filtered through that Mr Tsvangirai had withdrawn his court challenge.

After being apprised of developments, Mr Skelemani is said to have professed a Damascene moment, saying his country had been misled by the MDC-T and non-governmental organisations and also chided Zimbabwe for not effectively rebutting the claims over the voters’ roll.

The 573-member Sadc Election Observer Mission, which included observers drawn from Botswana, endorsed the harmonised elections along with the Sadc Electoral Commissions Forum that consisted of electoral bodies drawn from 10 Sadc member states, among them Botswana.

The Sadc ECF also endorsed the harmonised elections as free, fair and credible.

Botswana President Lieutenant-General Seretse Khama Ian Khama missed the opening ceremony where cheers for President Mugabe brought the house down, prompting him to stand up to pump his right fist in the air in acknowledgment of the chants of ‘‘comrade!, comrade!’’ that reverberated through the packed auditorium.

However, as fate would have it, Lieut-Gen Khama was put right next to President Mugabe when the leaders went for the traditional group photo where a sheepish grin was all the Batswana leader could muster as President Mugabe revelled in the resounding welcome he received from delegates and fellow progressive African leaders.


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