Monday, January 26, 2009

Bilateral Relations: Diplomatic row between Zimbabwe and Botswana takes new twist

The diplomatic spat between Zimbabwe and Botswana took another twist after Gaborone demanded a thorough investigation into the core issues surrounding the political crisis in Zimbabwe ahead of the Southern African Development community (SADC) meeting Monday.

The SADC meeting is expected to be a last-ditch attempt by leaders in the Southern African region to salvage the stalled power sharing agreement between Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Gaborone Sunday called for Monday's crisis summit to go to the core of the issues that have prevented the formation of a unity government in Zimbabwe and resolve Harare's economic meltdown. Diplomatic relations between Harare and Gaborone have been frosty after Zimbabwe accused Botswana of interfering in its internal affairs. Political analyst George Mkwananzi told VOA Gaborone seems to be the only voice of reason in the sub-region.

"It is quite refreshing that this time around we are going to have the presence of the government of Botswana, which has been acting as a voice of reason in this whole matter where the majority of the SADC leaders have been sort of afraid to confront Mugabe and tell him the truth about the core of the Zimbabwe crisis," Mkwananzi noted.

He said it was unfortunate for President Mugabe to be accusing Gaborone of political interference when Botswana has been siding with the ordinary Zimbabwean.

"I think it would be hypocritical of the government of Mugabe to start pointing fingers at Botswana and complaining about political interference because that is the hallmark of being in communities such as SADC where members have the right to intervene where they think that the rights of a member state, particularly, the citizens of such a member state are being violated. So, it is really being hypocritical on the part of the ZANU-PF to complain about Botswana's stance," he said.

Mkwananzi said he supports Botswana's call for Harare to be prevented from participating in any SADC meetings concerning the Southern African region.

"I think the call for the prevention of Zimbabwe to sit in the SADC summit by Botswana then was in the context of giving one of the belligerents in the crisis of Zimbabwe that is ZANU-PF an undue advantage over the rivals in this case the MDC formation. I think this time around, if Robert Mugabe is going to be there then it is perhaps because Botswana or the head of government of Botswana realizes the fact that it would be necessary to let Mugabe get it loud and clear from member states that certain things that have delayed and caused this impasse have to be communicated directly to him (Mugabe), and he must get this message without any equivocation," Mkwananzi pointed out.

He described as baseless Harare's accusation that Gaborone is harboring MDC militants who seek to overthrow Mugabe's administration through military means.

"To start with, it is important that up to this point in time, Zimbabwe has been unable to corroborate these allegations and prove that indeed such a scheme is in existence. And also the fact that the head of SADC at the moment who is the president of South Africa, President Kgalema Motlanthe dismissed these things as false it also means that Zimbabwe cannot continue to pander to that kind of allegation with credibility. So, they won't be able to win any Botswana has often accused President Mugabe's government of abdicating its responsibilities to the detriment of the ordinary Zimbabwean who it said has been saddled with shortage of food and diseases.

Gaborone also accused Mugabe of fraudulently clinging to power after a controversial second round of voting after both the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change failed to garner the needed votes to with the first round of voting.

Zimbabwe also accused Botswana of harboring militants who Harare claims have been plotting to overthrow Mugabe's administration.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused President Robert Mugabe's administration of failing to fully implement the power-sharing agreement.

Published with the permission of Voice of America
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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