The case of three Game Scouts who lost their way into Zimbabwe while on patrol along the Lesoma Border will in the next few days stretch and prove a serious test case for Botswana’s diplomatic capabilities.
By snatching these scouts and charging them with criminal offences, Zimbabwe is to the letter behaving like Iran which now and then likes to hog international attention to itself by arresting Western citizens before charging them with all the silly offences of violating the Islamic Republic’s sovereign integrity and espionage only to release them a few days later on account of compassion.
It would seem like this is a new tactic that Zimbabwe is trying.
What the tactic normally does is that it deflects the public’s attention from the crimes of such countries like Zimbabwe and Iran.
Botswana should proceed with caution not to play into the hands of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is today run by a Government that is nursing bruised egos.
It is a Government that is also doing everything to prove to the world just how wronged it has been ÔÇô from international sanctions to what President Robert Mugabe likes to call re-colonisation and imperialism.
As we know Botswana Government has been at the forefront of international condemnation of President Mugabe and his regime.
It was only a matter of time that Zimbabwe Government found something with which to punish their Botswana counterparts for daring to speak out on the political situation in that country.
There is nothing wrong with that.
Zimbabwe’s sinister and underhand tactics only become a problem when in trying to mete out that revenge, ordinary Batswana get caught in the crossfire.
We have in the past made it clear that whatever Botswana does, we should be careful not to harm ordinary Zimbabweans, in whose behalf the Zimbabwe Government is not even operating.
While it is important for Botswana Government to appreciate the simple fact that Zimbabwe is a failed state, it is perhaps more important to underscore the fact that unlike, say the United Kingdom or the United States which can shout directives from afar, Botswana and Zimbabwe are linked together by much more than just a porous border.
The two countries’ destinies are not mutually exclusive.
There simply is no way Botswana can be detached from Zimbabwe.
In short, there is simply no way Botswana can be safe and prosperous while next door to the east, Zimbabwe is going down the gutter.
Even as Zimbabwe Government behaves irrationally as it did this week by arresting the game scouts, Botswana should be careful to remember that Zimbabwe is not a properly functioning state. Thus we should be patient with them, and at all cost avoid temptations to humiliate them. If anything as a country we should be at the forefront of efforts to uplift and help them restore themselves to the dignity into which they once lived.
In our dealings with the Zimbabwe Government, we should remember that they are a failed state, which has egos that have to be caressed and nursed.
This may sound simplistic, but it is not. Actually it is in the long term interest of Botswana.
Just for the record we are in no way saying Botswana should condone or countenance the inhuman treatment the Zimbabwe authorities are meting on their people.
We are in no way saying Botswana should coddle Zimbabwe for the abuses and excesses the Zimbabwean Government is doing.
But rather we are saying Botswana should be humble enough as to accept its natural position or better still geographic proximity to Zimbabwe. We should accept our natural responsibility to assume efforts to help Zimbabwe.
Back to the matter of the three Game Scouts: Zimbabwean authorities are clearly grandstanding on this matter.
They also are equally clamouring for public attention.
After a long spell of feeling humiliated by Botswana, they now feel they have gotten Botswana where it will hurt most.
We may not agree with them.
But the truth of the matter is that on this one they have law on their side.
In that respect Botswana counterparts should be careful not to play into their hands by giving them what they want.
If Zimbabwe does not want to give diplomacy a chance, Botswana should not grovel.
They should leave the law to take its course.
In short there should be no horse-trading which can only give Zimbabwe government a kind of legitimacy it clamours for, but does not deserve.
Begging Zimbabwe and pleading with them only gives legitimacy to a rogue state that destroyed millions of lives of its citizens.
Unless circumstances drastically change, what Botswana should only be concerned with is the welfare and health of the said Game Scouts. Beyond that, grovelling to Zimbabwe is akin to what the western countries often do every time their citizens are kidnapped by Iran.