Venson-Moitoi’s loss at the African Union is a product of Botswana’s perception as an uppity, ICC-loving, West-leaning, anti-Pan Africanist state. It is also a consequence of President Khama’s attitude towards the AU which he called a “talk shop” and never attended.
The election of the African Union Commission Chair, voted on by African Heads of State or their delegated representatives is done by secret ballot. The winning candidate requires a total of 39 votes, a 2/3rds majority to win. Mma Venson Moitoi obtained 10 votes in the first round of voting and 8 in the second and third rounds when she was knocked out of the running. At no point did she obtain the 15 votes she had expected.
At the 36th Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Mbabane Swaziland in August last year a resolution was passed endorsing and expressing support for Mma Moitoi’s candidacy for the AU Commission Chair. Article 12 of the resolution stated that the SADC nations applauded the regional unity shown in the first run off and would continue to her candidature for the next round set for yesterday, 30th January 2017.
Since the Mbabane conference, tensions between South Africa and Botswana have been high. In October 2016 Botswana was the first country to condemn the South African Government’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court. The criticism by Gaborone of South Africa’s withdrawal from the ICC, itself coming under scrutiny by African nations that see Botswana as a western pawn. Botswana stated that it “is convinced that as the only permanent international criminal tribunal, the ICC is an important unique institution in the international criminal justice system. Botswana, therefore, wishes to reaffirm its membership of the Rome statute and reiterate its support for a strong international criminal justice system through the ICC”, however in 2003 Botswana had signed a Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the United States, binding itself not to extradite American citizens to the ICC. The Bilateral Agreement which is largely perceived as making Botswana a mouth piece for the US.
Compounding the political ramifications over South Africa’s declaration to withdraw from the ICC, tensions have escalated over revenue and the organisational structure of SACU, the Southern African Customs Union. Inspite of various calls by all parties to reform SACU no agreement has been reached escalating economic tensions into the political arena.
The perception of Botswana by fellow African nations, as an extension of western policy was compounded further in October 2016 by Moitoi speaking to a select group of African leaders in Geneva. Botswana, whilst being praised for its stable economy and rapid growth has adopted open market policies reminiscent of western neo-liberal policies of Thatcher and Reagan largely condemned by African governments that focus more on human social development and Gross domestic Product. Moitoi in Geneva however, emphasised the need for Africa to stop focusing on political problems and focus instead on economic ones stating that “The AU has focused only on politics… our children are not going to live on politics. Our continent is not going to be built on politics. The schools that are going to educate our children are not going to be created by politics”. A position that would surely further alienate her candidacy rather than enhance it with African leaders that already perceive Botswana as isolationist and anti-pan African.
Moitoi’s candidature was further undermined by the lack of support from the Office of the President. Not only has Khama publically stated that organisations such as the African Union are merely “talk shops” but he has refused to attend them. Notably opting instead to send a delegation in his place at the time of Moitoi’s elections, leaving her in the hands of unsympathetic supporters within SADC.
Without the support at home and without a board or even a locally based support structure Moitoi’s aspirations to lead the African Union Commission was bound to meet significant resistance. It did.
Chad’s Moussa Faki Mahamat won the African vote and was elected as the new chairperson of the African Union Commission. The 56-year-old succeeds South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who did not seek a second term in office after completing a four-year term. Faki is not new to the workings of the AU. He had previously served as the chair of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council.
SADC comprises of 15 nations Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.