President Ian Khama has endeared himself to Zimbabweans with his into-your-face criticism and bold stand against atrocities visited on them by deposed leader Robert Mugabe's regime. It was not surprising that Khama received the loudest cheers and a standing ovation from a 70,000 capacity crowd in a fully packed Harare sport stadium on Friday upon arrival for the inauguration of incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The coincidence in Khama's letter written to Mugabe on Tuesday followed by the resignation of the latter the same day has raised widespread speculation, with suggestions that the Botswana president knew more than he was revealing. In the open letter to Mugabe, Khama appealed to the ageing octagenarian to relinquish power. Despite being placed under house arrest by the military, Mugabe had remained defiant even when Parliament was planning to impeach him. “Mr President, I am writing to appeal to you to be sensitive to the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe and to do the honourable thing by voluntarily relinquishing power as the President of Zimbabwe,” said Khama, and later pleaded leniency on the aging leader. Shortly after Khama's open letter, Mugabe handed in his resignation relinquishing power as Head of State, a position he held for close to four decades. On Friday, at the inauguration of Mugabe's successor, Khama promised that Botswana will assist Zimbabwe to rebuild her economy and recover from both economic and political destruction. The presence of Khama at the swearing in of Mnangagwa was a strategic move to exploit an opportunity to mend relations between the two countries, which had grown strained and turbulent under Mugabe's rule. The relationship reached an all-time low during and after the 2008 general elections, which were marred by violence and execution of opposition politicians. Mugabe even refused to vacate office for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC's) Morgan Tsvangirai, a decision openly criticised by Botswana Government and Khama in particular. Mugabe then accused Botswana of being used as a launching pad by training MDC youths to effect regime change in Zimbabwe. ZANU PF officials told the SADC Troika in 2008 that was held in Pretoria, South Africa that Botswana is hell-bent on destabilising Zimbabwe by allowing MDC to train militias.
In a complete change of heart, on Sunday war veterans in the northern neighbour praised Botswana for standing with Zimbabweans during difficult times. This was the first as they have been the fierce critics of Botswana labelling the country a political pawn of Western imperialists. Sources close in the intelligence community have told The Patriot on Sunday that Botswana government knew through the state security apparatus about the planned coup of President Robert Mugabe months before it happened. Botswana even provided safe passage for Mnangagwa to escape to South Africa. The plan to remove Mugabe has long been planned for the past six months and security sources have revealed that they wanted to ensure that it is done within the law. An intelligence source in Harare has revealed that Grace Mugabe and some members of the G40 faction were tipped of the plan hence they pushed for the firing of General Constantino Chiwenge and Vice President Mnangagwa who were the masterminds behind the plan. One way of trying to eliminate Mnangagwa was through poisoning which landed him in a hospital in South Africa. All the time when the plot was unravelling Botswana was kept in the loop by its intelligence spooks in Harare and Bulawayo. Early this month when Mugabe finally fired Mnangagwa and immediately President Ian Khama wrote on his Facebook page that, “Another Vice President has lost their job as a result of a fall from GRACE.” The loaded statement which can be interpreted in many ways gave a hint that Khama knew what was happening in Harare and that a fall from grace is imminent. Khama who has been a fierce critic of Mugabe since he assumed office in 2008 had broken ranks with other African Presidents by openly calling for aging statesman to retire. Highly placed sources in Botswana have revealed that Khama was always updated on the developments in Harare after Mngangagwa was fired which was the turning point for the presidency of Mugabe. When security was tightened around Mnangagwa to ensure that he does not leave the country, Botswana security forces especially Botswana Defence Force (BDF) moved swiftly and placed some of their officers along the border. In Bobonong, BDF officers occupied all the lodges in the villages. “This was to protect the Mabolwe border and to ensure a smooth passing of Mnangagwa should he plan to cross to Botswana,” said the source. On Monday 6th of November, Mnangagwa and his entourage tried to cross into Mozambique through Forbes Border Post but returned after scuffle with security officers. He later abandoned the silver Mercedes Benz he was being transport in and used an unidentified vehicle which they managed to drive to Mlambapele border post which according to sources was cleared as state security agents were not deployed at it. Mnangagwa and his entourage managed to cross into Botswana through Mabolwe Border Post and proceeded to cross to South Africa through the Plaatjan Border Post. It was in South Africa that he met with Zimbabwean Defence Force (ZDF) Commander General Chiwenga before they flew to China to meet with Chinese officials especially commanders at Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Mnangagwa is a long-time friend and collaborator with the Chinese and received ideological and military training in Beijing and Nanjing in the 1960s.
Mnangagwa was sworn in as the third president of Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, as people danced around the stadium holding placards bearing the words: “No to retribution” and “Dawn of a new era”. He promised Zimbabweans to deliver next year's schedule elections, free and fair. Widely known as the Crocodile, Mnangagwa who is a veteran of the ruling Zanu-PF said Mugabe’s immense contribution to Zimbabwe should be recognised. Mnangagwa promised to create jobs and make efforts to attract foreign investors, pleading with neighbouring countries to support efforts towards economic recovery in Zimbabwe. He said land reforms that led to the violent seizure of thousands of white owned farms from the year 2000 would not be reversed, but promised compensation.