The Zimbabwe political crisis is expected to over-stretch Botswana’s budget as the country is positioning itself to receive thousands of political refugees following the flawed presidential run-off election last week that saw Robert Mugabe competing against himself, Foreign Affairs Minister, Phandu Skelemani said Friday.
He said the crisis is likely to trigger an escalation for asylum seekers at a time when Zimbabwe’s neighbours are already struggling with a problem of economic refugees from that country.
“This is going to add a financial burden and I cannot commit or even guess the scale of the burden. It is going to be a costly exercise,” he said, adding that they “hope that the international community will come to our help”.
“ We are going to need the manpower, petrol to collect these people from different points of the country and then feed them,” he added.
The Botswana government has openly stated that it does not accept the results of Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off election and it would not recognize “president” Mugabe and his regime as an expression of the interest and the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
Botswana government has already written to the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Secretariat expressing their concern and urged the 14-member organization to suspend Zimbabwe until the political crisis in that country has been addressed.
“The government of the Republic of Botswana has been following the events leading to, and the holding of the Presidential run-off election on June 27, 2008 in the Republic of Zimbabwe.
“During this period, Botswana expressed its concerns about the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe and made repeated calls on the authorities in that country to take necessary steps to ensure a climate conducive to holding free and fair elections. The atmosphere prevailing before and the run-off in Zimbabwe was not conducive to the holding of a free and fair election, given the escalating acts of violence and intimidation that resulted in the loss of lives, destruction of property and displacement of people from their homes…,” Skelemani said.
Skelemani further pointed out that Botswana’s borders will remain open to Zimbabweans who want to visit Botswana for a number of reasons, including checking on their relatives across the border and doing commerce.
“We do have nothing against the Zimbabweans. I mean the Zimbabwean. And we do not have any problems with Mugabe as a person.”
He talked about the report by Botswana election observers presented to the government saying “it is abundantly clear from these findings that the result of the June 27, 2008 run off election cannot be accepted, as it violates the core principles of SADC, the African Union and United Nations. As a country that practices democracy and the rule of law, Botswana does not ,therefore, recognize the outcome of the presidential run-off election and would expect SADC member states to do the same,” he added.
The SADC team ÔÇö- composed of 413 observers ÔÇö that was monitoring the Zimbabwe election released a blistering final report Friday saying the period before the run-off and during election was skewed in favour of the then ruling ZANU-PF and violated the SADC core principle of the running of the election to which Zimbabwe is signatory.
It said there was no political tolerance, no equal opportunity was afforded to the political parties and the arm and police were impartial as they stood by the sides when the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was harassed by ZANU-PF thugs. The members of the security forces were threatened with dismissal if they were to vote for the MDC and MDC supporters were harassed, beaten and even killed while security forces watched.