Botswana will continue to recognise Robert Mugabe and support efforts to bring Zimbabwe to normalcy as long as the power-sharing deal remains intact.
“We will continue to encourage the parties to work together to reach an agreement. I don’t think it would be proper for us to say that we don’t recognise Mugabe simply because the parties are taking too long to reach an agreement,” says Foreign Affairs minister, Phandu Skelemani.
Having earlier struck out on its own by not recognising Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president, Botswana is back in the Southern African Development Community fold and is marching in lock step with the regional body on how the Zimbabwean crisis should be resolved. Non-recognition of Mugabe came after the controversial presidential elections in June in which he contested unchallenged.
The recognition was restored three weeks ago when Mugabe and leaders of the two Movement for Democratic Change factions, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, signed a power-sharing deal. President Ian Khama and Skelemani attended the signing ceremony.
On its own, Botswana has not sought to facilitate the process in any way. The minister’s explanation is that “we are part of the SADC effort.” That notwithstanding, Botswana has expressed grave concern about the lack of progress in forming a government of national unity weeks after the signing of the power-sharing deal.
Last week, Skelemani’s ministry put out a statement to convey the Botswana government’s disappointment about the state of affairs in Zimbabwe: “Almost three weeks have elapsed since the agreement was signed and the parties are reportedly deadlocked over how cabinet posts should be divided among the three parties. This development is disturbing and in our view cannot be ignored. Further delay in forming a government and implementing the agreement can only increase the plight of the people of Zimbabwe.”
The minister says that while Botswana still fully supports SADC’s effort to end the impasse, the government felt it had to make its position known about the lack of progress. Zimbabwe’s problems have spilled over into Botswana and the government has gone to considerable expense to deal with those problems.
Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, continues his role as mediator in the crisis and at press time was in Harare to attempt to end the impasse.
In its press statement the government called for “urgent intervention” by Mbeki.
However, Mbeki’s return to Zimbabwe occurs under circumstances that are completely different from when the power-sharing deal was signed. Then he was president but shortly afterwards, he was the victim of a palace coup that saw him being replaced by Kgalema Motlanthe. Now out of government, Mbeki has been shorn of the power and influence that he would have leveraged over both Mugabe and the MDC. There actually are reports that he ‘forced’ Tsvangirai to sign the agreement but under current circumstances, the latter might not yield to such pressure.
On the other hand, Skelemani has no expectation that Mbeki’s fall from presidential grace would hinder his mission in any way.
“My understanding is that he is SADC’s envoy and I am sure that he will get the same respect he has always been accorded. We have always understood respect given to him to be respect given to SADC,” the minister said.