Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani, said that the so-called evidence of camps at which saboteurs were being trained to distabilise Zimbabwe was no evidence but “distorted, manufactured and generalized accusations which were/are not backed up with tangible facts”.
The allegations were made during the Extra Ordinary Summit of Organ Troika on October 27, 2008 in Harare. The SADC organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation Troika then mandated an investigation to be conducted a report of which would then be submitted to the Ministerial Committee Troika of the Organ.
“To the best of my knowledge, the team completed its investigations both in Zimbabwe and Botswana late December 2008,” said Ms Leefa Penehupifo Martin, speaking on behalf of SADC’s Executive Secretary Tomaz Salom├úo. “I am not sure it has reported back to the commissioning authority, i.e. the Ministerial Committee of the Organ Troika. As such, we have no clue of the content of their findings.”
Asked what SADC itself had to say since there are still people being incarcerated in Zimbabwe on charges relating to terrorism training in Botswana, she responded, “We are not privy to the evidence nor to the incarcerations you are alleging.”
Tens of people were abducted, including a toddler and activist Jestina Mukoko, with some still being held in unknown locations for allegedly having been involved in such training or of assisting such trainees.
Andrew Makoni, a lawyer for some of the abductees, told reporters in Harare yesterday that when the abductions began in October 2008, going through to December, it had been reported that at least 31 people had been kidnapped.
“Twenty-two, including the two-year old baby, have now been accounted for but the whereabouts of the others are still unknown,” he said.
Makoni said it is no longer known if the missing are still in police custody or had disappeared.
“Unless family members come out and say they have relatives still missing, there is very little the human rights lawyers can do,” he is quoted as saying.
Skelemani said that although Zimbabwe’s accusations were availed to Botswana for her response, “Botswana totally rejects the unsubstantiated allegations which were and are clearly nothing more than an exercise to engage in acts of intimidation and harassment of the innocent people of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean authorities will do themselves good by releasing those people.”
Asked when the investigation is going to be closed and if Botswana would be happy to let the accusation die without publicly addressing the accusations levelled against it by Zimbabwe, the minister told the Sunday Standard, “That is for the SADC Organ Troika to determine as they were tasked to investigate the matter. Botswana awaits their feedback from the SADC Organ Troika on this matter. We have expressed our concern about the undue delay in determining this issue.”
Skelemani went on to say that Botswana’s position on Zimbabwe has not changed, adding that it remains their position that, in the event the Global Political Agreement is rendered unworkable, a re-run of the presidential election should be held under international supervision.
Early this week, Botswana President Ian Khama told the Financial Times that Botswana had not always agreed to this sharing of power, just like they didn’t agree to the Kenyan model either because they felt that what was needed to be done was to ensure, on the continent, that there were credible elections.
“This power-sharing thing is a bad precedent for the continent,” Khama said.
I asked Skelemani what Botswana’s view on Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity is and whether it is happy with what is going on in Zimbabwe.
“The inclusive Government formed in Zimbabwe has, to some degree addressed the crisis of legitimacy in that country and this is a welcome development. Botswana had hoped that all the parties in government will seize this opportunity and genuinely work towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of that country’s economy. Regrettably, some elements in government, notably, ZANU PF, continue to encourage and engage in irresponsible acts and make provocative statements which are likely to discourage the international community from extending a helping hand to Zimbabwe for the benefit of its long suffering people.”
On its part, the SADC Secretariat said they were not clear on what we meant by “what is going on there now”.
Said Martin, “At the risk of sounding banal, I wish to state for a fact that the Zimbabwe Government of National Unity was only inaugurated on February 13, 2009, which is less than a month today and, in my opinion, is exceptionally too short a period by any measure to assess anything less complex, let alone a government of national unity.”