The Botswana Government has, for the first time, come out clearly into the open to state their position that they do not recognise Robert Mugabe as a legitimate President of Zimbabwe.
Briefing the media on Friday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Phandu Skelemani said the Botswana Government will do everything to help the people of Zimbabwe out of the morass that their country is going through.
Skelemani made it clear that any mediation efforts in Zimbabwe would have to be underscored by the understanding that Robert Mugabe and his political opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, are treated as equals.
For the first time, Skelemani stressed that Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF had flagrantly violated the constitutional and electoral processes agreed to by the Zimbabweans.
“Save for him pretending to be President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has committed no offence against Botswana.”
Skelemani also said Mugabe has already communicated his displeasure at the position adopted by Botswana, but added that “there is not much we can do. We have no choice but to stand by the people of Zimbabwe.”
Notwithstanding their position not to recognize Mugabe, Skelemani said Botswana’s ambassador to Harare, Pelokgale Seloma, will stay put “so that in case anybody needed our assistance we will be the first at the scene.”
He dismissed as untrue allegations that Botswana was acting as a stooge of colonial masters.
“We have been told we are stooges of our colonial masters. Since when have we become stooges? We don’t apologise for the position we have adopted,” said Skelemani to the amusement and amazement of scores of diplomats who had come to attend the press conference, among them the Zimbabwean Ambassador who had been invited by the ministry.
Botswana’s position not to accept Mugabe’s legitimacy comes in the wake of receiving an official report by election observers sent by the Botswana government to observe elections in Zimbabwe.
The report casts a damning picture of an atmosphere that was in no way near to being conducive for a free and fair election.
“It is against this background that Botswana urges SADC to assume its responsibilities by taking proactive steps that are consistent with its principles and objectives. It is, therefore, Botswana’s position that Zimbabwe not be allowed to participate in SADC meetings until such time that they demonstrate their commitment to strictly adhere to the organisation’s principles,” said Skelemani.
The Minister also said the government has already written letters to the SADC Executive Secretary as well as to the Chairman, making their positions known on the matter.
Going forward Botswana wants any mediation efforts to be continued inside a defined time frame, under an atmosphere of “mutual trust and good faith, with both parties treated as equal partners.”
Minister Skelemani said it was unlikely that Mugabe will continue to defy the world.
“Circumstances have changed. When the whole world makes noise, even Mugabe has to listen.”
The minister also made it clear that Botswana will never interfere in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
“We will never, as a government, help campaign for any of the candidates. If the Zimbabweans follow a process agreed amongst themselves and choose Mugabe we will say Hallelujah Amen. We are not telling them who to choose because we are not Zimbabweans.”