Botswana to close its Harare embassy

It was unclear whether Botswana’s decision to close its diplomatic mission in Harare would also lead to the severing of diplomatic ties with President Robert Mugabe’s government, but the decision comes a few weeks after the country’s foreign minister called on the region to isolate Zimbabwe.


Botswana’s foreign minister, Phandu Skelemani, said in a recent radio interview that if neighbouring countries closed their borders with the landlocked country, President Robert Mugabe’s 28-year rule would end in a week.


President Ian Khama of Botswana has been one of Mugabe’s staunchest critics, even though both countries are among the 14 members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


"If no petrol went in for a week, he can’t last," Skelemani said. He expressed little confidence in the SADC mediation process being led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, and said the SADC should "own up" and admit it had failed.


Zimbabwe is suffering repeated body blows: a cholera epidemic has claimed more than 550 lives since August, nearly half the population requires emergency food aid according to the UN, and the country has an annual inflation rate of 231 million percent. The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.


Former Archbishop and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu has called for the use of military force if Mugabe does not step down. "If they say to him, ‘step down’ and he refuses, they must go in … militarily," Tutu said in an interview with a Dutch television programme on 4 December.


"I think now the world must say, ‘Look, you have been responsible; with your cohorts, you have been responsible for gross violations, and you are going to face indictment in The Hague [seat of the International Criminal Court in Holland] unless you step down’," Tutu said.


Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the leader of a South African opposition party, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and a former Deputy President of South Africa, said in his weekly newsletter that Zimbabwe’s collapse had "miserably exposed" the SADC’s ineffectiveness.


"There is either a solution or there is not! There is, in my book, no such thing as a "made in Africa" solution. Zimbabwe either holds ‘free and fair elections’ like those recently held in America, or it does not," he said.


"Zimbabwe either adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which it is a signatory) or it does not. It happens to do neither and no amount of pontificating about ‘African solutions’ can disguise that fact," Buthelezi wrote.


"Her [Zimbabwe’s] people are starving, the hyperinflation is running sky high, there is a humanitarian disaster of Biblical proportions emerging with the cholera outbreak, and the country is, for all intents and purposes, not being governed."


Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga called for Mugabe’s removal during an interview with the BBC on 4 December. "Power-sharing is dead in Zimbabwe and will not work with a dictator who does not really believe in power-sharing. It’s time for African governments to take decisive action to push him out of power."


A power-sharing deal between Zimbabwe’s political parties was signed in September after Mugabe lost the parliamentary election but narrowly won the presidency in an unopposed run-off. The negotiations over the division of portfolios have deadlocked.