Government was last week warned to desist from making derogatory statements about Zimbabwe lest they end up biting the hand that feeds them. The warning came from none other than the opposition Botswana Peoples Party who said that “because of the economic position we have crafted for ourselves, it may not be in our best interests to choose our enemies, especially those that we depend on for our livelihood”.
Botswana has recently come out very vocally in criticizing the Zimbabwean government on their handling of the June 27 run-off election and the rampant human rights abuses and violence that is reportedly taking place in the beleaguered country.
Movement for Democratic Change‘s Morgan Tsvangirai eventually pulled out of the presidential run-off elections citing widespread violence and intimidation. After Mugabe won 85% of the vote Botswana declared that it did not recognize President Mugabe’s election to the Presidency.
President Ian Khama, Vice President Mompati Merafhe and Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani have been at the fore front of the calls for calm in Zimbabwe and at the height of the diplomatic standoff Botswana called for Zimbabwe’s suspension from SADC and called on SADC member states not to recognize Mugabe’s re-election.
“As a country that practices democracy and the rule of law, Botswana does not … recognize the outcome of the presidential run-off election, and would expect other SADC member states to do the same,” the Foreign Affairs Minister was quoted as saying.
This heightened the already simmering tension between the two former bosom friends and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information and Publicity, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, dismissed Botswana’s criticism, saying they will only listen to the collective voice of the SADC.
It emerged last week that the Zimbabwean government has found an ally in the opposition Botswana Peoples Party as they, during their 48th annual delegates conference held in Tonota last week, called on the government of Botswana to desist from making derogatory statements about Robert Mugabe as “beggars cannot be choosers”.
“It is all very right to be holier than thou and come up with a foreign policy that does not recognize Robert Mugabe and his government. However, we must not forget that the electricity that we import from the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique flows through Zimbabwe… and that Mugabe is friends with Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, our big brother,” read Balikani’s speech.
Meanwhile, Botswana continues to receive hundreds of asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Zimbabwe and who continue to drain the country’s coffers.
Foreign affairs spokesperson, Clifford Maribe, said that he could not comment on BPP’s statements as it is not procedural for government officials to comment on issues of a political nature.