Ian Khama, president of Botswana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Ian Khama, president of Botswana. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s most outspoken high-level African critic has returned to the fray.

President Ian Khama of Botswana said in an interview in Gaborone on Wednesday that he hoped elections due in July in neighbouring Zimbabwe would be peaceful and fair but he clearly was not ready to bet on the likelihood.

"All I can say right now is that I hope there will be a credible election.… The reason I say ‘hope’ is because all the people who were involved in the brutality and intimidation that took place back then are still there today," he told Business Day.

"I have not seen any evidence that they have changed their attitude towards trying to ensure that Zanu (PF) will emerge victorious."

Zimbabwe will vote on a new constitution on March 16 and hold crunch elections in July, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday, setting a timetable that will decide the fate of Mr Mugabe.

"So I think that they are still capable of trying to engage in intimidation, deploying the security services to bring that about … telling the people in the security services how they should vote. The potential for that is still there."

Mr Khama took office in 2008.

He said he would urge his Southern African Development Community colleagues to send an election monitoring team well before the polls "so that you can monitor all the kinds of things that went wrong before the election last time and give comfort to the citizens, to be able to go about their political campaigning knowing observers are there."

Mr Khama said the Zimbabwean authorities should be persuaded to drop their objections to international observers.