SADC shortchanges Venson-Moitoi

By Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone – After emerging with firm assurances from SADC, Botswana’s foreign affairs minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi was left disappointed after only 10 states voted for her in the race for the African Union Commission chairperson’s post.

Venson-Moitoi made it to the second round but was betrayed by her own region, with five of the SADC member states taking their vote elsewhere.

Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat emerged the eventual winner. It is still unclear who betrayed the Botswana candidate as voting was through a secret ballot.

Venson-Moitoi however, said they had expected the 10 votes, with other five members backing Kenyan candidate, Amina Mohammed as the countries are part of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) where Kenya is a member.

“And indeed the first round of elections produced the 10 votes that we projected,” Venson-Moitoi told reporters.

The 65 year-old former journalist was gracious in defeat, taking to Twitter to thank her supporters.

The Botswana government also avoided the issue of SADC votes, instead praising Venson-Moitoi for putting up a “gallant” fight.

The Southern Times, has learned that regional leaders decided to snub Venson-Moitoi because of Botswana President Ian Khama’s attitude towards the AU. Khama previously labelled the AU a “talk shop” and hardly attends its meetings. Khama was absent when the voting took place in Addis Ababa on Monday, giving the impression that he did not support his own foreign minister.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said although Zimbabwe backed the SADC candidate, her President’s reputation meant SADC member states turned their back on Venson-Moitoi.

“We worked hard behind the scenes and the poor lady tried her best. But the other countries were arguing that ah, you are a daughter whose father never appears at the AU and sometimes takes positions contrary (to the bloc’s). So she had no chance,” Mugabe said about the AU elections.

Khama has often cut a lone figure, breaking ranks with his counterparts in the region and on the continent over key political matters.

“Khama’s multilateral engagement in Africa has been limited.

He has not personally attended the AU summits since assuming office.

It remains unknown how his absence undermines the country’s foreign policy objectives,” argues political and social commentator, Nchidzi Smarts.

“The rejection of Venson-Moitoi shows the fractious relationship we have with the rest of Africa. It was always going to be difficult to represent countries and the a continental body he (Khama) has labelled a ‘talk shop’.”

But Venson-Moitoi leapt to her boss’ defense arguing Khama had other equally critical engagements.

“When President Khama assumed office, he delegated some roles to the Vice President to attend some meetings on his behalf so that he can concentrate on other things that are equally important,” she said. After Venson-Moitoi’s loss, the immediate reaction was that the SADC region had let her down, with leading Botswana independent daily, Mmegi calling the regional block ” a body of hypocrites” in its editorial comment, while others laid the blame on Khama’s doorstep.

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