Zimbabwe Says Botswana Can Go And Jump
Botswana's president, Ian Khama, is seen here with President Obama in November last year. Zimbabwe has now released two Botswana game rangers who had been arrested for straying into Zimbabwean territory and charged with trespassing while carrying "weapons of war". Zimbabwe remains unapologetic and says Botswana should not complain because it has done the same to Zimbabwean policemen. The Zimbabwe Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced yesterday that the Botswana Minister of Foreign Affairs was "a liar".
Harare, Zimbabwe 10 February 2010
The two Ministers of Home Affairs in the Zimbabwe Inclusive Government held a press conference on Monday in Harare where they effectively told Botswana to go and jump into the nearest lake.
Botswana last week protested at the detention and trial of three game rangers in Hwange, near the resort town of Victoria Falls.
But that statement has now been overtaken by events, after the two Tswana rangers appeared before a magistrate in Hwange and were found guilty of the charges leveled against them. They have since been released after paying US$100 fines each.
Zimbabwe is refusing to let the matter die, however.
Today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs backed the MDC-T co-Minister of Home Affairs who said the Botswana government had overreacted on the matter, saying Botswana itself had put two Zimbabwean policemen in jail for straying across the border and only released them after they had been tried by a court in that country.
Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs ministry also says Phandu Skelemani, the Tswana Mniister of Foreign Affairs, was lying when he said he had been trying to engage Simba Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's Foreign Affairs Minister over the matter.
Zimbabwe says the two ministers met in Ethiopia during the recent African Union Summit and "engaged in general banter" but the Botswana Minister never raised the issue of the rangers. The Botswana Vice Prersident had asked to meet President Mugabe in Addis Ababa, but the Zimbabweans ran away before the agreed time of the meeting.
The tone in Zimbabwe's state media today is unapologetic and it is clear that ZANU PF and Mugabe are not going to let this matter rest at all. Hence the continuing tone of telling Botswana to go and jump into the nearest lake.
You have to put all this into perspective.
Mugabe and ZANU PF have been anti-Botswana for some time now. The Zimbabwean dictator was incensed when Ian Khama, President of Botswana, said Mugabe was not the legitimate Head of State of Zimbabwe and that he would recognise a government led only by Mugabe and ZANU PF.
Further to this, Mugabe took a dossier to the Southern African Development Community in which he accused Botswana of training insurgents and bandits on behalf of Morgan Tsvangirai.
The bad blood between the two countries is set to continue, as Mugabe moves to demonstrate that, despite Ian Khama saying he is not the president of Zimbabwe, he can still show him up and assert his authority.
The MDC-T of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, issued a a belated statement decrying the detention of the Tswana rangers, but that was all they could do. It was an attempt to show that they did not endorse the arrest of the rangers.
But the matter is a bit more complicated because the MDC-T's own minister of home affairs was the one who was telling Botswana that they had "overreacted over a simple administrative issue that could have been easily resolved."
Perhaps it is time for Zimbabweans to ask whether the MDC-T co-Minister of Home Affairs is still part of the MDC-T or whether he has now moved on and joined ZANU PF. The man is increasingly aligning himself to ZANU PF positions.
Earlier this year, he told a Police Summit in Singapore (more travel allowances) that the Zimbabwe police force was a professional outfit that respected human rights but was being compromised in executing its duties by "illegal sanctions".
He is the same man who was also defending the detentions of MDC-T activists just after the formation of the Inclusive Government.
Perhaps he has been bought. Or maybe he is getting quiet orders from Morgan Tsvangirai to go along with whatever Mugabe wants!