Amidst the renewed tensions between them, President Ian Khama and his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe may find themselves sitting side-by-side at Bot50 celebrations on Friday.
Mugabe is among the many leaders Khama has invited to come and celebrate Botswana’s 50th independence celebration with.
The Zimbabwean government spokesperson, George Charamba however, could not confirm nor deny the invitation. “We do not talk about or discuss the movements of the Head of State. Ask your government,” he said in a brief interview with Mmegi.
The Embassy of Zimbabwe was not of any help either as they referred this publication to Foreign Affairs “as they are the ones handling the issues”.
The Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Gaeimelwe Goitsemang could only say the invite has been extended to every leader in the region, Mugabe included.
Sources in the ministry however, have confirmed that Mugabe will be coming to Botswana.
Khama recently attacked Mugabe in an interview with Britain’s Reuters news agency in which he called on the aged leader to step down to create room for people who can rescue the politically and economically crippled country. Khama’s comments earned him the wrath of the Zimbabwean government, castigating Botswana president for his remarks. “The government of Zimbabwe is shocked by this uncharacteristic behaviour on the part of President Khama. It is taboo in African etiquette and diplomacy,” Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Chris Mushohwe said in a statement last Friday.
We sincerely hope that this will be the last time Botswana’s leader opens his mouth to bad-mouth President Mugabe and fellow African leaders. Why should President Mugabe be removed from office unconstitutionally as President Khama’s sentiments seem to suggest?”
In the Reuters interview, Khama reportedly said Mugabe should have left the presidency years ago. “They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over,” Khama said.
Khama said it is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, Mugabe is not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament and that the 92-year-old leader looked “tired” at the recent SADC Heads of State Summit in Swaziland.
Khama said the instability in Zimbabwe was damaging Botswana’s efforts to wean itself off mining by promoting itself as a regional logistics and services hub.
Last Friday, the Zimbabwean government through a government-controlled daily newspaper called on Botswana government to clarify their position, also confirming that Mugabe has been invited to Botswana’s golden jubilee.
“We thus call on our brothers and sisters in Gaborone to set the record straight,” the newspaper put out the challenge.
The Botswana government, spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay confirmed the interview details as correctly captured. He however said he would not be willing to engage the Zimbabwean media on the issue