The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, last week dismissed recent accusations of sabotage by the Zimbabwean government as a ploy to divert attention from the problems that are besieging the unity government.
Skelemani made the remarks during an ad-hoc press conference convened to rebut Zimbabwean government allegations that were published in the Botswana Guardian and the Zimbabwean government mouth piece, The Herald.
He said that the recent statements by the Zimbabwean government, which come after recent reports that Botswana is training MDC operatives in its army bases, are a cause for concern as they only work to sour diplomatic relations between the two countries.
“It is not right that, instead of channeling their complaints through the proper avenues like, for example, the Southern African Development
Community, or even approaching the Botswana government directly, the Zimbabweans chose to engage in a smear campaign through the media,” he said.
He added that the issues that the Zimbabwean government have raised are unfounded, as the SADC Troika on Security was recently engaged to investigate them, ultimately coming up with the conclusion that they are false.
“While the Troika has not yet formally revealed its findings, preliminary reports point to the fact that the accusations are just malicious,” he said.
Skelemani also said that both governments were handed the preliminary reports by the SADC Technical Assistance Team at a recent summit, and the Zanu-PF led government is acquainted with the findings.
“It was established that we do not train MDC operatives in any of our army camps, and all the supposed witnesses who were named by the Zimbabwean government failed to provide plausible evidence. It must also be noted that the Technical Assistance Team came to investigate these allegations at the invitation of the Botswana government,” he said.
Skelemani added that the Botswana government is not advocating for regime change in Zimbabwe, but is rather calling for free and fair elections during which Zimbabweans will be accorded an opportunity to elect a government of their choice.
“As a democratic country, we are totally against the present situation in Zimbabwe, and we will continue to implore the Zimbabwean government to exercise the democratic principles that the SADC advocates for. Botswana knows of only one legal way through which leaders can assume power, and that is through free and fair elections. We will not condone or appreciate anything to the contrary,” he said.
Skelemani added that Botswana is not aligned to any of the three political parties wrestling for power in Zimbabwe, but is rather concerned about the plight of Zimbabwean people.
“We are not in any way promoting ideas of regime change in Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai travelled to Botswana to seek support and update us on the Zimbabwean situation. Even Zanu PF leaders are welcome to do the same. We have on many occasions extended such invitations to them, but we have always been met with dead silence, not even an acknowledgement of receipt,” he said.
On accusations that Botswana is using the American radio station, Voice of America, to spread hate propaganda against the Zimbabwean government, Skelemani said that the Botswana government has absolutely no control over the content of the American broadcasts.
“The VOA station in Botswana is just a relay station, which has absolutely no control on editorial content.
Everything is done in Washington. In any event, the Zimbabwean government did not have any problem when the VOA station assisted them to overpower Ian Smith. It is only now when they are faced with criticism for their undemocratic practices that they start to complain,” concluded Skelemani.