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Friends of Zimbabwe meeting put on hold!

British High Commissioner to Botswana Frank Martin told United States embassy officials that he believed that the Friends of Zimbabwe meeting which was planned by the Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai had been put on hold because it would signal that the MDC had totally abandoned the Global Political Agreement.

Besides, Tsvangirai had also been given a new passport.

Another reason was that Botswana was skittish about hosting such a provocative conference right next door to its neighbour when their relations were sour if not hostile.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 09GABORONE25, BRITISH VIEWS ON BOTSWANA, ZIMBABWE

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09GABORONE25

2009-01-09 07:26

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Gaborone

VZCZCXRO2909

PP RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHOR #0025/01 0090726

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 090726Z JAN 09

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5483

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0206

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0099

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0187

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 000025

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/08/2019

TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON ZI BC

SUBJECT: BRITISH VIEWS ON BOTSWANA, ZIMBABWE

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Philip R. Drouin for reasons 1.4 (B) a

nd (D).

 

1. (C) Summary: Charge d’Affaires and A/DCM met with the

British High Commissioner to Botswana Frank Martin January 7

at his office. The meeting was a continuation of long

standing close cooperation and information sharing between

the U.S. Embassy and UKHC in Gaborone. Martin recently

returned to Botswana from vacation, and wanted an opportunity

to exchange views with his American counterpart on current

events in Botswana and the region. He briefed the Charge on

President Khama’s November visit to London before exchanging

views on Botswana-Zimbabwe relations. End Summary.

 

—————

Khama in London

—————

2. (C) High Commissioner Martin helped to organize and was

present for President Khama’s November 26-27 official visit

to the United Kingdom, during which he met with the Queen and

senior British government officials. Martin noted with some

surprise that President Khama shunned all attempts to raise

the profile of the visit by doing media interviews or

involving the press. He tried to keep his visit to the UK as

private as possible. Martin said that Foreign Minister

Skelemani did some media outreach, including his appearance

on the BBC program Hard Talk, during the London trip. Many

of Khama’s discussions in London focused on the crisis in

neighboring Zimbabwe, and he expressed his concern that the

African Union and other international players may have to

exert additional pressure on SADC to break the impasse

regarding a way forward in Zimbabwe. Martin highlighted some

interesting comments President Khama made while addressing a

group of British parliamentarians. According to the UKHC,

Khama told the British MPs that he never wanted to be a

politician, but that he entered government out of a sense of

public service. Khama went so far as to say that after

spending 10 years as Vice President, he may only wish to

serve one five-year term as President so that he can “get on

with the rest of his life.” Khama also discussed the impact

of the global financial crisis on Botswana. He indicated

that Debswana had sold no diamonds in November 2008 and was

expected to only make $50 million in December. The President

acknowledged that the decline in diamond and other mineral

revenues will be difficult for the GOB, and indicated that

the GOB is studying ways to cut expenditures and draw on its

healthy foreign exchange reserves to weather the storm.

 

——————–

Botswana/Zim Matters

——————–

3. (C) The High Commissioner told us that he met January 6

with Botswana MFA Deputy Permanent Secretary Sesara George,

who told him that Vice President Merafhe and Foreign Minister

Skelemani are scheduled to represent the GOB at the African

Union meeting in Addis in late January/early February. They

also discussed Zimbabwe issues at length. Per Sesara George,

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai received a “full validity

passport” from the Government of Zimbabwe just around

Christmas. George told Martin that he had “seen the passport

with his own eyes” and that it was full validity and

unrestricted. (Note: He did not specify whether it was a

tourist or diplomatic passport.) The UKHC reports that the

passport was delivered to Tsvangirai while he was in Maun by

someone from the South African High Commission in Botswana.

George told HC Martin that Tsvangirai subsequently left

Botswana on December 30 to vacation in Cape Town with his

family. (Note: Martin was unaware of the rumored MDC meeting

to be held in South Africa January 5-7. End Note.) Deputy

Permanent Secretary George assured Martin that Morgan

Tsvangirai has no plans at this point to return to Botswana

as a resident, and indicated that Tsvangirai would continue

on to Zimbabwe after his vacation in South Africa. The High

Commissioner told us that Deputy P.S. George “was quite clear

on this point” and stressed that though Tsvangirai may be in

Botswana from time to time for ad hoc meetings or

consultations, he would be returning to Zimbabwe.

 

4. (C) The High Commissioner mentioned that Tsvangirai had

been talking in early December about organizing an

international “Friends of Zimbabwe” meeting to be held in

Gaborone in early 2009. However, Martin believes that this

meeting has been put on hold by both the GOB and the MDC out

of concerns that it would signal that the MDC has fully

abandoned the September powersharing agreement. (Note: The

GOB may also be skittish about hosting such a provacative

 

GABORONE 00000025 002 OF 002

 

 

conference right next door to its neighbor with which it

enjoys sour if not hostile relations just now. End Note.)

The High Commissioner Martin mentioned that he has heard

rumors about a possible SADC Extraordinary Summit on Zimbabwe

to be held later this month.

 

5. (C) Deputy Permanent Secretary George told HC Martin that

the GOB provided a truckload of water treatment chemical

directly to the GOZ on Christmas day. In addition, the GOB

said that it gave the Red Cross three 10-ton trucks worth of

medical supplies to fight the cholera epidemic. These

supplies were provided around December 31. The GOB estimated

that both the chemicals and medical supplies are worth 1.5

million pula (approximately USD 200,000). This donation is

reportedly in addition to the 3 million pula of humanitarian

assistance the GOB pledged for Zimbabwe in early December

2008. The Government also told the UKHC that they increased

the pace of deportations of illegal migrants from Zimbabwe

around the holidays. Sesara George told the High

Commissioner that approximately 1000 Zimbabweans were

deported from Botswana around Christmas. George also

mentioned to the UKHC that the GOB has arrested several “CIO

operatives” for clandestine activities inside Botswana, but

refused to elaborate on how many people had been arrested or

the nature of their activities.

 

——-

Comment

——-

6. (C) Comment: Khama’s statement in London that “he looks

forward to getting on with the rest of his life” and may only

serve one term would come as a shock to most observers here

in Botswana. Though he shuns the limelight and avoids media

encounters at home and abroad, Khama is seen here as a

natural if somewhat stern leader, and he is fully expected to

follow Botswana’s tradition of serving two terms in office

and then handing over power to his Vice President. (Note: We

expect that current VP Merafhe is merely a place-holder,

given his age, and that after the 2009 General Elections he

will be replaced. End Note.) It would shake up the Botswana

elite if Khama announced that he does not intend to seek a

second term. It remains to be seen whether his statement in

Britain was merely wishful thinking on his part, or reflects

a serious intention to retire earlier than expected. We

should also note that Khama has not yet been elected to his

first term as President! The ruling Botswana Democratic

Party is of course widely expected to easily win the October

2009 general election, at which point the party is expected

to install Khama as President.

 

7. (C) Comment Continued: We found it interesting that

Sesara George was so adamant to the British that Morgan

Tsvangirai will not return to live in Botswana. He has been

resident in Gaborone for at least a month, and perhaps the

GOB has grown tired of hosting him at the government’s guest

house here in the capital. Tsvangirai told assembled

journalists at his December 19 press conference in Gaborone

that he would return to Zimbabwe once he received his

passport, so it now remains to be seen whether he will keep

that promise. The GOB continues to play a helpful role

regarding Zimbabwe. Botswana’s humanitarian contributions to

its neighbor are laudable, especially in the context of the

global economic downturn. Botswana’s government is heavily

dependent on revenues from Debswana’s diamond sales as well

as tourism and other base metal mining. The mining and

tourism sectors are expected to be hit hard by the global

recession, and GOB revenue is likely to decline signficantly

in 2009. End Comment.

DROUIN

 

(4 VIEWS)

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