The Botswana government does not recognise Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe, but the citizens of the two countries will continue with their ties, says Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani.
"We have no problem with the people of Zimbabwe, but we have a problem with someone who will beat up other people on the run-up to elections," he said. Skelemani was briefing the press on Friday after the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) observer mission reported that the 27 June presidential run-off elections were not free and fair, as they did not conform with the SADC, African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) principles.
Skelemani said that the government of Zimbabwe had shown no respect for institutions like SADC, the AU and UN by going ahead with the balloting despite calls for postponement to make the environment conducive for elections. The run-off was held despite the withdrawal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, citing intimidation and violence against his supporters. An estimated 90 people were killed, tens of thousands displaced from their homes and scores abducted during the run-up to elections. This resulted in Mugabe going alone.
Skelemani told the press that the government of Botswana had long called on the Zimbabwe authorities to provide a conducive environment for free and fair elections, but in vain. "Notwithstanding the advice of the UN Security Council and troika of the SADC organ, the authorities in Zimbabwe decided to proceed with an election whose outcome was unlikely to enjoy credibility and legitimacy, both in the region and internationally," he lamented.
He said that President Ian Khama has written to the SADC Chairman and Secretariat to make Botswana's stance on the Zimbabwean political stalemate. He said that due to the bad climate under which the elections were held and the report by the observer mission, the 27 June run-off outcome was unacceptable.
"As a country that practises democracy and the rule of law, Botswana does not, therefore, recognise the outcome of the presidential run-off election, and would expect other SADC member states to do the same. It is against this backdrop that Botswana urges SADC to assume its responsibility by taking proactive steps that are consistent with its principles and objectives. It is, therefore, Botswana's position that Zimbabwe not be allowed to participate in SADC meetings until such a time that they demonstrate their commitment to strictly adhere to the organisation's principles," Skelemani said.
With these steps the Botswana government believes the credibility of SADC would be enhanced and would provide an enabling environment for the people of Zimbabwe to find a lasting solution to the problems that confront them. Skelemani said that Botswana is ready to assist in resolving the problems in Zimbabwe through dialogue and calling all parties to the negotiating table. He said that he was satisfied with South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts. He said that the situation in Zimbabwe is difficult because Mugabe is in control of all state organs such as the army, the police and "even the prisons". He called for a neutral mediation, saying Botswana is neither pro-Mugabe nor pro-Tsvangirai.
The minister further said that Botswana, with her limited resources, will try her best to assist Zimbabwean political refugees. The borders between the two countries will remain open, as well as the embassies. Skelemani is optimistic that despite Mugabe's bad attitude towards his opponents, there are signs that he will bend in due course.