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Botswana on the defensive

Botswana was put on the defensive when the Zimbabwean government accused it of harbouring training camps for the Movement for Democratic Change and lodged a petition with the Southern African Development Community to investigate the issue.

Botswana Foreign Minister Pandu Skelemani expressed his concerns and exasperation over the fallacy of the entire SADC process with Western diplomats and handed over a copy of the 32-page report that his government had compiled to the United States embassy.

Skelemani had hoped to deliver the report to his SADC ministerial-level counterparts but the Foreign Ministers representing the SADC troika did not turn up. Instead a much more junior delegation turned up.

According to the embassy, the Botswana report dismissed Zimbabwe’s allegations saying they hinged on generalised accusations which were not backed up by any tangible evidence.

It said the allegations were based on doctored and manufactured evidence and doctored photos and coerced testimony.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08GABORONE1103, WHY IS SADC SO SAD?

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08GABORONE1103

2008-12-17 15:34

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Gaborone

O 171534Z DEC 08

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5437

INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA

AMEMBASSY LONDON

AMEMBASSY OTTAWA

AMEMBASSY PARIS

HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

USMISSION USUN NEW YORK

HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

USEU BRUSSELS

C O N F I D E N T I A L GABORONE 001103

 

 

STATE FOR AF/S, ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2018

TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID SOCI BC ZI

SUBJECT: WHY IS SADC SO SAD?

 

Classified By: DCM Philip R. Drouin; Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

 

1. (C) Summary: It is now “Festive Season” holiday time in

Botswana and across Southern Africa, but it is also silly

season when it comes to SADC. The SADC Organ on Politics,

Defense, and Security’s insistence on a full-scale

investigation of and report on GOZ allegations that Botswana

is helping harbor and train teams of Zimbabwean opposition

(mainly MDC-T) members underscores the increasingly

ineffective nature of the Southern African Development

Community. Meanwhile, no such SADC scrutiny is being

directed Mugabe’s way, while Zimbabwe melts down deeper into

crisis and despair. ‘Tis the season for mirth and merriment,

but not when it comes SADC’s leadership, or lack thereof, on

Zimbabwe. So sad. End Summary.

 

2. (C) As Southern Africa descends into its annual

self-imposed “Festive Season” slumber, officials from most

Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states

and the Gaborone-based SADC Secretariat have already largely

checked out when it comes to any positive action related to

Zimbabwe. However, apart from the human tragedy and the

widespread cholera outbreak now underway in Botswana’s

neighbor to the east, another SADC-induced outrage lingers

here — the GOB is spending a lot of time and effort refuting

Zimbabwe’s petition to SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence, and

Security that Botswana is harboring training camps for “MDC

Terrorists” to promote a violent state of emergency and chaos

across the border into Zimbabwe. The GOB has attempted to

deflect these specious claims in a lawyerly and responsible

manner, even though the SADC Organ troika of Swaziland,

Mozambique, and Angola appears to have dumped a “guilty until

proven innocent” load on Botswana’s doorstep, while Mugabe’s

Zimbabwe seems to have received a free pass. There has been

no SADC mention of or impetus to investigate the

disappearance of 18 MDC officials/members, or the actual

extent of the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. And now

Mugabe has proclaimed Zimbabwe “cholera free,” while the

disease’s death toll mounts to nearly 1,000, yet no one at

the Secretariat or among the SADC leaders (most notably

current SADC Chair Motlanthe) will contradict his brazen

denial of reality.

 

3. (C) On December 12 GOB Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani

shared with Western diplomats (UK, France, Germany, EU Chiefs

of Mission and the U.S. Charge/DCM) his concerns and

exasperation over the fallacy of this entire SADC process.

With nothing to hide and in the spirit of full transparency

and respect for rule of law, Botswana’s former Attorney

General Skelemani informed us that his Ministry (with many in

the MFA Task Force having labored long hours and over

weekends recently) has compiled a detailed, 32-page “Response

By Botswana to the Allegations by Zimbabwe,” dated December

10, 2008. Skelemani gave us a copy (marked GOB “Secret”

throughout), and we will send a copy to AF/S. He had hoped

to deliver this report to SADC Ministerial-level counterparts

whom he expected to arrive in Gaborone on December 11, but

Foreign Ministers did not come representing the SADC Organ

troika members and Zimbabwe, rather a much more junior

delegation showed up instead. This did not sit well with

Skelemani — the GOB has taken this exercise seriously, but

SADC and Zimbabwe do not appear to be doing the same, even

though it is nothing but an attempt to divert attention away

from Mugabe. It is our understanding that Skelemani wants to

present Botswana’s findings and defense to a more senior

board of examiners, and he has conveyed his displeasure about

this in correspondence back to SADC and the Organ.

 

4. (C) Some highlighted excerpts from Botswana’s brief

include the GOB’s assertion that “By way of general

observation, Zimbabwe’s submission hinges not only on

generalised accusations which are not backed up with tangible

facts, but also on distorted and/or manufactured evidence.”

The GOB points also to doctored photos and the coerced

testimony of GOZ “witnesses,” and continues that “the DVDs

presented by Zimbabwe as part of the evidence cannot, by any

standard be considered admissible and authentic evidence.

They merely present poorly stage-managed interviews.”

Nowhere does the GOB report attempt to hide the fact that

Morgan Tsvangirai has spent quite a bit of time of late in

Botswana (he is here now and has been seen out and about

around Gaborone, albeit discreetly). Rather the GOB suggests

that Tsvangirai’s visits to Botswana, much like his stops in

“other SADC and African countries (are) to brief the

authorities about the unfolding political and economic

situation in Zimbabwe. Representatives of ZANU-PF have also

done the same.”   The GOB’s official “Response” also

dismisses the GOZ’s contention that Botswana harbors “hostile

radio stations,” noting that VOA in Selebi-Phikwe is a relay

station for an international broadcaster much like BBC, RFI,

Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle, which all have

presence in other African countries and is “an

internationally established and accepted norm.”

 

5. (C) Comment: Many Batswana, NGOs, and other international

observers posted here perceive moribund SADC as “not serious,

useless, a joke” when it comes to anything related to

Zimbabwe. This whole episode of SADC taking Botswana to task

at Zimbabwe’s behest, while Mugabe escapes more widespread

SADC scrutiny or condemnation just serves to call into

question SADC’s own reputation as a credible regional entity.

It does process-related protocol and donor-driven

conferences/talkathons fairly well, not to mention the annual

SADC Ministerial and Summit and extraodinary meetings, but it

has “gone missing” in taking any true and meaningful

leadership role on the political crisis in Zimbabwe. Mugabe

has his liberation struggle era allies throughout the

organization, so until this mindset evaporates do not expect

much change from SADC vis-a-vis Zimbabwe.

 

6. (C) For its part, Botswana has continued, with support

from Tanzania, Zambia, and Lesotho but also in isolation, its

principled stand on Zimbabwe, while providing millions of

pulas for humanitarian assistance there. The GOB has also

called for a calming of the heated rhetoric between the two

Southern African neighbors that share so much in family ties

and common destiny, while advocating on behalf of the

well-being of the Zimbabwean people. We understand that many

expatriate Zimbabweans now resident here are preparing to

travel, with loads of goods and supplies in tow, to try to

bring some much needed holiday cheer back home. Meanwhile,

the new SADC Secretariat headquarters continues to rise from

its construction site in central Gaborone, with its scheduled

occupancy later next year. But as we turn the page into 2009

all we seem to ask about SADC, is anybody home, is anybody

there, does anybody care? So sad. End Comment.

 

 

NOLAN

 

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