BOTSWANA approached the United States for arms of war and related military equipment to help prepare for an expected attack by Zimbabwe as tensions escalated between the two countries ÔÇô WikiLeaks has revealed.
According to leaked secret US Embassy communications, Botswana asked the United States to supply various military equipment, fearing an imminent military assault by Zimbabwe.
Major General Tlhokwane, then the Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Forces, is said to have approached a defence cooperation official at the US embassy in Botswana on July 14, 2008, and claimed that Zimbabwe had massed military forces on the border region.
He asked the US to help with global positioning systems, anti-tank missiles, short range air defence systems, F5 under-wing tank system and helicopter gunships to help Botswana prepare for the expected attack.
“The requests for anti-tank missiles and a short range air defence system make sense in the context of the current situation as Zimbabwe has more numerous and more advanced tanks and aircraft in their inventory than Botswana,” the US Embassy cable reads.
Embassy officials, however, advised against granting Botswana’s request, warning that provision of the equipment could harm America’s interests in the region and possibly trigger an arms race.
“This Mission is mindful of how a closer US government and (Botswana) security relationship, with possible provision of new arms and equipment, might impact our ongoing diplomacy in Southern Africa and beyond,” the embassy officials said.
“We should examine ways to enhance institutional ties and other support for the government of Botswana and the Botswana Defence Forces where appropriate, but also in a manner that will not harm overriding U.S. interests in Africa.”
Meanwhile, President Khama had a “harsh exchange” with President Mugabe at a SADC meeting where he demanded that the Zimbabwean leader provide proof that Botswana was training militias loyal to Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC.
A US embassy cable from January 2009 claims Khama confronted Mugabe during a SADC meeting that discussed the formation of Zimbabwe’s coalition government and told regional leaders that the claims “were just a typical distraction tactic on (Mugabe’s) part”.
“Khama told the assembled Heads of State that he would step down as President if Zimbabwe’s allegations were found to be true, but asked if Mugabe would also agree to resign if they turned out to be false.
According to Khama, Mugabe did not respond.”