Mugabe is "ridiculous and absurd" – Botswana Foreign Minister

GABORONE – Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister, Phandu Skelemani, has described as "ridiculous and absurd" President Robert Mugabe's allegations that Botswana is training Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.

Skelemani was briefing Parliament on the outcome of last week’s Southern African (SADC) Extra-Ordinary Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, to try to find solutions to the Zimbabwean political crisis.

Even Parliamentarians could not hide their frustrations with Mugabe, saying SADC should have told him that he is an embarrassment to the region and has compromised its stability.

Others suggested that Botswana should cut diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe with immediate effect and that SADC should invite other international bodies such as the United Nations (UN) to intervene. He said that should cooperation fail between Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change president, Morgan Tsvangirai for the next six months, Botswana government will "go back to square one" by not recognising him as president.

He is still of the view that re-run of presidential elections is the only solution to the Zimbabwean impasse.

Parliament learnt that Mugabe made the allegations at an extraordinary summit of SADC Troika in Harare on October 27-28. "Consequent to this allegation, Botswana was shocked by the baseless and absurd charges that were levelled at Botswana by authorities in Zimbabwe at the extraordinary meeting of the Interstate Defence and Security Committee of the Organ Troika held in Maputo on November 5 2008.

"The allegations that the government of Botswana would wish to train foreign nationals on its territory to effect regime change is ridiculous and all who are aware of Botswana’s longstanding commitment to the principles of good neighbourliness, non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and peaceful resolution of disputes in our region and elsewhere would no doubt attest to this," the minister said.

Skelemani believes that the allegations were made to divert attention from the real problematic issues in Zimbabwe. The ZANU-PF and MDC have not been able to reach an agreement on who should be in charge of the Home Affairs Ministry, which controls the police.

The summit recommended that the two parties should co-manage the ministry. However, Tsvangirai told reporters at the end of the summit that home affairs is not the only problem, co-management is impracticable, adding that they do not accept the recommendation.

Although he also believes that co-management of a ministry is impracticable, Skelemani remained hopeful that the warring parties will give it a try. He sympathised with MDC in that they went to the SADC summit hoping to find a resolution to the impasse only to be told to go back and do this and that.

He stated that the Botswana government is against any sanctions against Zimbabwe, as they would hurt ordinary citizens on the streets.

On other regional matters, Skelemani said that Angola sending troops into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was problematic because it was likely to cause confusion. He called on the UN troops to "make peace" in the DRC for them to keep it. SOURCE: MmegOnline