In an ironic twist, former President Ketumile Masire’s tacit but sharp criticism at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in his memoirs has provided fodder for the Voice of America which has heightened the tension between the two countries.
The Zimbabwean government has on a number of occasions accused Botswana of allowing Voice of America to transmit anti-Mugabe propaganda into Zimbabwe from their transmitter in Selibe-Phikwe.
Voice of America this week ran published excerpts from Masire’s just published book and broadcast interviews based on Masire’s text about the “political and economic destruction of Zimbabwe” under Mr. Mugabe’s rule.
Writing about Zimbabwe, Masire speaks of the “persecution of many Africans and the destruction of the capacity of the economy to function.” He does not take Mr. Mugabe to task explicitly – but the implication is quite clear that he deplores his legacy- writes the Voice of America.
Masire’s book, entitled “Very Brave or Very Foolish: Memoirs of an African Diplomat,” was published by Macmillan Botswana Publishing in Gaborone to coincide with the recent 40th anniversary of Botswana independence.
Masire says that his relationship with Mugabe was chilly from the start when Botswana maintained a close relationship with Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe’s rival in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Mr. Mugabe “appeared to mistrust us,” Masire writes.
The author says that he hoped relations would improve once Zimbabwe had secured its independence, but says those hopes were dashed when Harare imposed duties on imports from Botswana in what he calls “a violation of our free trade agreement.”