Botswana planned military intervention against the Zanu PF government led by President Robert Mugabe, deterring possible civil war in Zimbabwe ÔÇô an academic paper by university of Botswana lecturers has revealed.
In the article, titled “Botswana and Pivotal Deterrence in the Zimbabwe 2008 Political Crisis,” the academics argue that had it not been for Botswana’s deliberate actions, Zimbabwe would have plunged into civil war following the 2008-9 era controversial elections. The researchers say Botswana played a crucial role in preventing a civil war by being friendly to the ZANU PF government that was busy arming for war and terrorizing the opposition, and by amassing soldiers and heavy artillery on the Botswana/Zimbabwe borders, a clear signal that it intended to intervene militarily.
“It was clear that Botswana intended to intervene militarily against the ZANU PF government. Such a visible military posture made it uncertain that ZANU would emerge victorious in any armed confrontation, compelling it to negotiate with its rival,” the study argues.┬á
The report by researchers, Zibani Maundeni, Obonye Jonas and David Madiyanyike corroborates earlier reports by WikiLeaks that 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. 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
Major General Thokwane 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.”
University of Botswana academics argue that Botswana “played the role of a pivot and prevented the break off of civil war in Zimbabwe between Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) militants and those of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)”. What this suggests in a broad sense is that civil wars break off if other states fail to play the role of pivot.
┬á“Our argument is that Botswana occupied the position of a deterrer between both parties. Its involvement as a deterrer is assumed to have influenced both MDC and ZANU PF to avert civil war and to cooperate in forming a government of national unity,” the researchers argued.
┬áAccording to the researchers, in a discussion they had with a former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officer during the course of their write up, it became clear that Botswana has collaborated with the Zimbabwean army even during the Zimbabwe crisis.
┬á“This has been evidenced by exchange visits between the BDF and Zimbabwe National Army and some officers have been to the Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru. At the BDF Staff College (then in Block 8), some tapestry from the Zimbabwe Military Academy were proudly displayed in the foyer,” state the authors.
┬áThey state that relations between military officers are equally cordial. During our discussion, the army officer indicated that even at the height of the Zimbabwe crisis, the Batswana counterparts used to buy groceries for their Zimbabwe counterparts.
┬áThis was also done for confidence building. “Botswana’s former army commander Lieutenant General Tebogo Masire allayed the suspicions and frosty relations during a tour to Zimbabwe when he described as malicious and false claims that the two countries were at loggerheads,” state the researchers.
┬áThe implied military cooperation, the three academics argues, gives the impression of a Botswana that was always ready to stand with the ZANU PF government.
┬á“However, as the Zimbabwe crisis was escalating following the disputed elections, there is no doubt that re lations between Botswana and Zimbabwe went frosty. Botswana entered the war talk, and was decidedly on the MDC side. Botswana began efforts of posturing ÔÇô a move that was interpreted by pundits as preparatory work to attack Zimbabwe,” observed the researchers.
Wikileaks cables revealed that about the same time that Botswana asked for military equipment from Zimbabwe, Botswana’s Defence, Justice and Security Minister, Dikgakgamatso Seretse invited the United States to send troops to guard a transmission station used by the Voice of America’s Studio 7 to broadcast into Zimbabwe.
Seretse was concerned at the rising rhetoric against the radio station which is funded by the United States government and broadcasts from Washington through medium and shortwave.
Seretse is said to have made the extraordinary request in July 2008 over concerns that Zimbabwe would try to take out the controversial transmitters operated by the International Broadcasting Bureau, a US government agency.
Philip R. Drouin, the Charg├® d’Affaires at the US embassy in Botswana at the time, said Botswana’s invitation of US troops to be stationed on its soil provided “extensive background on President (Ian) Khama’s strategic thinking, decision-making style, his views of and inclinations towards the United States”.
But as the embassy warned in other dispatches following another Botswana request for arms of war in preparation for a feared invasion by Zimbabwe, it cautioned Washington against granting the request.
“Post remains unaware of any other specific threats at present, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. It is therefore the view of this Mission that while an offer such as this (i.e., the GOB’s willingness to accept U.S. military forces) is appreciated by us, and indicative of the strength of U.S.-Botswana relations, deployment of U.S. military personnel to secure the VOA station here should be considered only as truly the last available option,” Drouin said in the cable leaked by whistleblower website, WikiLeaks.