While respecting governments’ consensus in the Southern African Development Community, the government of Botswana has made it clear that it differs with SADC on some of the decisions passed at the SADC Extra Ordinary Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 9, 2008.
Addressing Parliament on Thursday, Phandu Skelemani, Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, described SADC’s decision to order the co-management of a Ministry by two ministers from different parties as “unrealistic, impracticable and unworkable”.
At the Johannesburg summit, SADC decided that Zimbabwe’s Ministry Of Home Affairs, which is in charge of the police, be run by two ministers from Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change.
“This does not reflect a genuine and credible commitment to equitable power-sharing,” Skelemani said, adding that the full and effective implementation of the Global Political Agreement signed in Harare on September 15, 2008 is crucial to ending the crisis of legitimacy in Zimbabwe.
“It is regrettable that ZANU-PF continues to act as if they are the senior partner in the negotiations wielding the power of veto on the implementation of the Agreement,” Skelemani said.
He added that Botswana recognizes that decisions in SADC are reached by consensus, after which they reflect the collective position of the organization.
“However, it would be remiss of us if we did not express our strong reservations/disagreements, as we did during the summit, regarding the co-management of the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
In answer to a question from a member, Skelemani defended the MDC’s announcement that they would not be taking part in any SADC recommendations by saying that the MDC came to SADC with hope but were terribly disappointed when SADC turned against them and forced them to accept something else other than what they thought they deserved.
“They (MDC) responded in shock. They were surprised by SADC’s stand. It is my hope that after they settle down, they will want to take part in what SADC recommended,” the minister said.
Turning to the Agreement, Skelemani said that Botswana wished to reiterate its strongly held view that if the Agreement cannot be implemented as soon as possible, the international community should demand a re-run of the Presidential election in Zimbabwe “under international supervision so that the long suffering people of Zimbabwe can resolve the impasse by voting to decide who their true leaders should be”.
On sanctions against Zimbabwe, Skelemani said that Botswana would never consider such a move or support it as “it would only hurt the ordinary Zimbabwean”.
“As an immediate neighbour to Zimbabwe, sharing more than 600 km of common border, with high level of people to people contact between the two countries, Botswana naturally takes a keen interest in developments in Zimbabwe…Botswana will not impose or support sanctions. Today, Zimbabweans are crossing the border into Botswana and imagine our soldiers feeding them. They are dropping at the feet of our soldiers…”
Skelemani then turned to the accusations by Zimbabwean officials that Botswana was training some MDC youths to effect a regime change in Zimbabwe and said that it was meant to divert attention from the real issues at hand.
“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.”
He said the government of Botswana totally rejects these unsubstantiated allegations, “which are obviously nothing more than an excuse to engage in acts of intimidation and harassment of innocent Zimbabweans and a desperate attempt to divert attention from the real issues facing Zimbabwe”. He denied that Botswana is interfering in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
“Botswana has no choice but to openly express her concern about the deteriorating political situation, and make calls for authorities in that country to take necessary steps to end the unnecessary suffering of the people of Zimbabwe,” said Skelemani. “We do not accept that by doing so, we are interfering in the internal affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe because the situation in that country adversely affects us.”