The Botswana government says it remains proud of the stance it has adopted against Zimbabwe following the disputed election process in that country which saw the opposition withdrawing, citing political violence and anarchy meted by the government backed militias.
Botswana has insisted that they do not recognize Robert Mugabe as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe.
Speaking to Sunday Standard, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phandu Skelemani, said Botswana was disappointed that other SADC countries have not only failed to condemn Robert Mugabe for his behaviour, but have also not stated their position.
He, however, said, like Zimbabwe, SADC is better reminded of the ramifications of breaking one’s own laws and regulations.
Skelemani said Botswana supports and welcomes the negotiations between the rival parties in Zimbabwe “not as a solution but rather a resolution.”
He said the route of the negotiations does not altogether cure the Zimbabwean disease but only provides the citizens of that country with a less violent route back to democracy.
“We hope and pray that they will have an agreement in place.”
More important, said Skelemani, is that the parties should agree who becomes the president and under what circumstances.
The key, said Skelemani, is that all the parties at the negotiations be treated as equals.
He said at the talks, Robert Mugabe’s position should be confined to the leadership of ZANU PF, with Morgan Tsvangirai being the leader of MDC (Movement for Democratic Change).
“If they are not treated equally then they are starting on a wrong footing,” said Minister Skelemani.
“It is not for Botswana to tell the Zimbabweans who to choose as President,” said Minister Skelemani.
He said tensions in Zimbabwe remained high which made it difficult to rule out an all out civil war if the situation is not resolved quickly and with sensitivity.
Skelemani, who has since become the public face of Botswana’s hard stance against Zimbabwe, said although Botswana remains deeply disappointed by other SADC countries, severing of ties with the organization was not an option.
He said instead, Botswana will continue to push for adherence.
“When we joined the organization it was on the hope that its members will live by the standards they have set for themselves. We are disappointed. The President of this country has said it. But in all this we are happy because Botswana has a legitimate claim to moral ground,” said Skelemani.
Skelemani said unless the issue of Zimbabwe was resolved, Botswana will not be attending the coming SADC Heads of State Summit.
It will be a sign of protest at a failure by SADC to live up to the rules they have set for themselves as member countries.
On what Botswana’s hard position has achieved, Skelemani said it was Botswana’s position that is bringing pressure on Mugabe to negotiate.
“He knows that the blind solidarity he used to enjoy from SADC is no longer guaranteed. They may not acknowledge it but they can no longer take us for granted.”
He said it is important for the Zimbabweans to understand that the love Botswana gives them cannot be taken for granted.
“We know for certain that they are feeling the pressure. Mugabe himself has said it that Botswana has saddened him. The look on his face also showed that indeed he was stunned by Botswana’s position,” said Skelemani.
The Minister said it is important to underscore the fact that Botswana derives no pleasure from adopting its hard stance against Zimbabwe and Mugabe.
“Unfortunately it is a bitter medicine that has to be administered to cure the disease. We know it is not the nice kind of medicine but it is meant for good. We sincerely hope that when everything is said and done the disease will be cured,” said Skelemani.