Botswana, Zim Still Friends Indeed - Skelemani

Although government does not recognise Robert Mugabe as head of state, Botswana will continue to work closely with Zimbabwean authorities on issues affecting both countries such as cross border crime and the control of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

Last Friday, the Botswana government announced that it does not recognise Mugabe's government following the controversial presidential run-off, which was widely condemned as not free and fair. Mugabe was sworn-in as president after winning the election, which opposition MDC leader, Mogan Tsvangirai, boycotted because of violence and intimidation meted out on his supporters by ZANU-PF militia.

"We have no quarrel with the people of Zimbabwe, we just want them to hold free and fair elections," Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Phandu Skelemani said.

The minister, however, said he did not want to pre-empt Zimbabwe's reaction to Botswana's stance of the new administration in Harare.

He confirmed that by inference Botswana did not accept the new government but said that it would not be in the interests of the people if Botswana and Zimbabwe were to break diplomatic ties.

Skelemani stressed that Botswana and Zimbabwe are interdependent states arguing that if diplomatic ties were broken it would far-reaching implications for the people of the two countries. He said for example Zimbabweans citizens cross into Botswana for various reasons while on the other side electricity that Botswana imports from Mozambique is routed through Zimbabwean territory.

Although Harare is yet to reply to Botswana's position, Skelemani said that if the Zimbabwean government cuts diplomatic ties with Botswana, the government of Botswana would recall its envoy from Harare. "We hope that nobody in Zimbabwe would ever think of such a thing," he said, adding that severing ties between the two countries would not be a lasting solution for Zimbabwe.

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