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Tsvangirai was welcome to stay in Botswana as long as he wanted

Movement for Democratic Change leader and Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai was welcome to stay in Botswana for as long as he wanted, Botswana Foreign Affairs official Tinar Lekuni said.

He was responding to concerns about Tsvangirai’s extended absence from Zimbabwe after the signing of the Global Political Agreement..

Lekuni said the Botswana government believed that there were real threats to the MDC leader’s safety should he return home.

He complained that privately many African governments agreed that Mugabe should go, but they were unwilling to say so publicly or take any steps to encourage change.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08GABORONE1082, BOTSWANA-ZIMBABWE TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08GABORONE1082

2008-12-11 11:02

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Gaborone

VZCZCXRO3620

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHOR #1082/01 3461102

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 111102Z DEC 08

FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5430

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0201

RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0095

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0181

RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN PRIORITY 0353

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0329

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0385

RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 GABORONE 001082

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF/S

LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2018

TAGS: PREL PHUM ZI BC

SUBJECT: BOTSWANA-ZIMBABWE TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Philip R Drouin;

Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a series of meetings on December 9,

contacts in Botswana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed

to A/DCM that a ministerial level meeting of the SADC Organ

on Politics, Defence, and Security troika will be held in

Gaborone December 11. The purpose of this meeting is for the

Organ troika representatives to hear Botswana’s response to

allegations which had been presented by Zimbabwe at the

body’s November 5 meeting in Maputo. Zimbabwe has alleged

that Botswana is actively working to undermine the GOZ,

including by providing “military training” to MDC supporters.

The GOB has loudly and publicly dismissed these claims as

baseless, but is nevertheless scrambling to mount a strong

case for the Organ meeting. Ministry officials are

frustrated not only by the continuing political and

humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe but also by regional

criticism of Botswana for speaking its mind on Zimbabwe. END

SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) A/DCM Heather Merritt had a series of meetings with

officials in Botswana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on

December 9. Both Assistant Director for the Americas Shimane

Kelaotswe and Assistant Director in the Africa Division Mr.

Mosole told A/DCM that they had spent the entire previous

weekend working on a special committee preparing for the

December 11 meeting of the SADC Organ troika to be held in

Gaborone, at which the troika will listen to Botswana’s

“defense” against the charges which were presented by

Zimbabwe at a November 5 meeting in Maputo. Zimbabwe has

alleged that Botswana is trying to undermine the GOZ,

including by providing military training to members of the

opposition MDC. Mr. Mosole said that the meeting was

supposed to be at the Ministerial level, and confirmed that

Foreign Minister Skelemani would be presenting Botswana’s

response. However, he noted that exact participation on the

Zimbabwean side had not yet been confirmed. Mosole said that

the GOB had asked the SADC Secretariat to urge Zimbabwe to

send its Foreign Minister to the meeting, but he feared that

no high-level GOZ representative would attend.

 

3. (C) According to Mosole, the Zimbabwean “evidence” of

Botswana’s wrongdoing which has been presented to SADC

includes items like a videotape of Foreign Minister Skelemani

publicly criticizing the Mugabe regime on the BBC’s

“Hardtalk” show and tapes of the Voice of America’s “Studio

7″ program. (Note: There is a large IBB transmission station

in Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana, which allows Zimbabweans short

wave and medium wave access to VOA programming, including the

Studio 7 show which is broadcast in English/Shona/Ndebele and

covers Zimbabwe news and information.) Mr. Kelaotswe told

A/DCM that the charges being leveled against Botswana were

“nonsense” and he claimed that the Zimbabwean High Commission

staff in Gaborone had even complained to Harare that they had

no evidence to back the GOZ’s claims about MDC members

receiving military training inside Botswana. Both Mosole and

Kelaotswe claim that the GOZ’s only “evidence” of military

training in Botswana comes from “eyewitness testimony”

offered by prisoners being held in Zimbabwe. Kelaotswe says

that the GOB is not aware of any connection between these

alleged witnesses and the Botswana Defence Forces. Kelaotswe

also noted that some newspapers within SADC countries

(notably the “New Era” in Windhoek with its pro-GON and

pro-SWAPO leanings) have been critical of Botswana and seem

to give credence to the GOZ’s allegations. However, he

dismissed the negative regional press coverage, saying that

it was not reflective of regional public opinion and reality,

and came from government propaganda mouthpieces with a

nostalgic slant for the liberation struggle rather than

current human suffering.

 

4. (C) Mr. Tinar Lekuni, Deputy Director in the MFA’s Africa

Division (the second ranking officer in charge of Africa at

the Botswana MFA) vented at length about his and the GOB’s

frustration over the continuing political and humanitarian

crisis in Zimbabwe. He said that the GOB has been encouraged

by the chorus of voices around the world calling for

 

GABORONE 00001082 002 OF 002

 

 

political change in Zimbabwe (including African voices like

Raila Odinga, Desmond Tutu, and Kofi Annan) but he worried

about what next steps Botswana and like-minded nations could

take to break the current impasse. He complained that

privately many African governments agree that Mugabe should

go, but they are unwilling to say so publicly or take any

steps to encourage change. Mr. Lekuni confirmed that Morgan

Tsvangirai was staying in Gaborone (from where he called in

to CNN International to give an interview on December 10).

A/DCM noted that there was some criticism in Harare of

Tsvangirai’s extended absence from Zimbabwe, but Lekuni

responded that the GOB believes there are real threats to the

MDC leader’s safety should he return home, and said

Tsvangirai would be allowed to stay in Botswana as needed.

Mr. Lekuni also noted that he was concerned about the recent

re-emergence of ZAPU as a political force in Zimbabwe. He

feared that President Mugabe had secretly encouraged the ZAPU

veterans to break away from ZANU-PF, as ZAPU still has many

supporters (especially in Matabeleland) and this would

further splinter the opposition vote should a re-run election

be held. Mr. Lekuni and A/DCM also discussed what effect the

Zimbabwe crisis may have on the 2010 World Cup, and whether

any behind the scenes pressure could be brought to bear on

soccer’s international governing body FIFA or on the

government of South Africa on the grounds that Zimbabwean

health and security problems could prevent RSA from

successfully staging the world’s premier soccer tournament.

When FIFA talks, the SAG (usually) listens.

 

5. (C) Mr. Lekuni recently returned from an assignment in

Geneva, and he complained that he was constantly urged by the

Africa Group in Geneva to “follow the African consensus” and

take no action on human rights matters. He noted that this

kind of mentality which values solidarity over opposing

wrongs leads Africa to situations like Zimbabwe. A/DCM noted

that Botswana had recently voted with the U.S. on three

significant human rights matters in UN 3rd Committee, and

these votes were a change from previous years for which we

were grateful. Lekuni was aware of and happy about

Botswana’s UN votes and attributed the change to the

willingness of the Khama administration to stand on principle

rather than merely follow common regional positions.

 

6. (C) COMMENT: Foreign Minister Skelemani has invited our

Charge and a small group of like-minded Heads of Mission here

to meet December 12 to discuss Zimbabwe and Burundi (whose

President was invited to Botswana by Khama this week). We

should get a read-out of the SADC proceedings at that time

and will report the outcome via septel. There is no doubt

that Botswana feels beleaguered for its advocacy of political

change in neighboring Zimbabwe. At a time when millions of

Zimbabweans are hungry and thousands infected with cholera, a

somnolent SADC is wasting time investigating fictional

accounts of military training camps inside Botswana. This

distraction in the face of real and urgent problems more than

anything seems to frustrate both the government and people of

Botswana. However, the GOB is confident that since it has

done nothing wrong (and in fact last week offered to send US

$300,000 to relief agencies to help in Zimbabwe) the

allegations will soon pass. However, the GOB remains

frustrated that SADC (and especially South Africa) is still

unwilling or unable to broker political change in Zimbabwe.

Any other tangible support or ideas on Zimbabwe that the USG

might be able to provide now, to bolster Botswana’s

beleaguered and principled diplomacy while supplementing our

frequent kudos to the GOB, would also be useful and

appreciated. END COMMENT.

DROUIN

 

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