The Btv programme Zimbabwe: Voices from Within has been stopped because, according to the deputy director of broadcasting services, Kingsley Reetsang, “the political development in Zimbabwe has improved considerably.”
Its purpose in the first place was to “inform the public and solicit support of Batswana on the plight of the people of Zimbabwe”.
The weekly programme focussed solely on the long-running political morass in Zimbabwe that was a result of the stand-off between Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. They later formed a Government of National Unity (GNU) which from Btv was seen as a remarkable progress.
However, what Reetsang believes to be the case would be disputed by others who have been following the Zimbabwean situation very closely.
Last week, the Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ) issued a statement in reaction to a documentary aired on South African television concerning current prison conditions in Zimbabwe.
BOCISCOZ says that not only have abductions occurred since the formation of the Government of National Unity in February, farm invasions have also continued.
“The police have reportedly not acted in accordance with their role as custodians of the law and protectors of human rights. The SABC Report in April 2009, has exposed the extent to which human rights continue to be violated in Zimbabwe. There was evidence of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as prisoners are held under appalling conditions. Inmates contract skin diseases from the lice-infested blankets which are provided. Shortage of prison clothing has led to prisoners having to share clothing, with those who are to appear in court wearing clothes ÔÇô leaving other prisoners naked,” BOCISCOZ’s statement says.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times also ran a story on how Mugabe’s top lieutenants were trying to force the political opposition into granting them amnesty for their past crimes by abducting, detaining and torturing opposition officials and activists. The information is supposed to have been provided by senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF.
Said the paper: “To protect themselves, some of Mr. Mugabe’s lieutenants are trying to implicate opposition officials in a supposed plot to overthrow the president, hoping to use it as leverage in any amnesty talks or to press the opposition into quitting the government altogether, ruling party officials said.”
The Btv programme has not been totally scrapped. To the question of whether there was the likelihood of the programme being resumed at some point in the future, Reetsang response was “if need be”.
While Reetsang says that the Office of the President was not involved in the conceptualisation of the programme, Sunday Standard learns that was actually where the idea for it emanated.
The programme fitted into a pattern of diplomacy that came with the advent of President Ian Khama’s administration. This style of diplomacy is a radical departure from that practiced by previous administrations.
Botswana denied Mugabe official recognition as head of state after a sham election in which he was the only candidate. The current administration has also been vocal about the political turmoil in Madagascar where a former deejay connived with the army to oust a democratically elected leader as well as about Sudan’s handling of the Darfur crisis.