Sunday, November 16, 2008

H.H. the Vice President speaks out as SADC Summit Concludes

source: Republic of Botswana (16/11/08): TAUTONA TIMES no 37 of 2008
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

H.H. the Vice President speaks out as SADC Summit Concludes

Speaking to reporters today, H.H. the Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe expressed his hope that SADC member states would remain engaged in finding a lasting solution to the political impasse in Zimbabwe. His comments came after the apparent failure of this weekend's Extraordinary Summit in Gauteng to solve the political impasse in the country.

In a wide ranging post-Summit interview the Vice President stated that the Botswana Government was concerned by the recent accusation being peddled by the authorities in Harare that Botswana was harbouring and/or training Zimbabwe opposition youth under the pretext of a so-called "National Youth Symposium Training Programme", in order to force regime change in Zimbabwe.

Describing the accusations as a desperate attempt to divert attention from the real challenges facing Zimbabwe, the Vice President went on to observe that the notion that the Government of Botswana would wish to train foreign nationals on its territory to overthrow a neighbouring country's Government was ridiculous to any who are aware of the country's longstanding commitment to the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of others, and for the peaceful resolution of disputes in the region and elsewhere.

He further confirmed that Botswana had been taken aback when the baseless and absurd charges were raised at last week's Extraordinary Meeting of the Interstate Defence and Security Committee of the Organ Troika, which was held in Maputo.

According to the Vice President, the Botswana delegation had made its rejection of the unsubstantiated allegations abundantly clear both at Maputo and at the Gauteng Summit. He further observed that Botswana's position has been well received and understood by others in the region.

Noting that "lies have short legs", he added that at the Summit Botswana had reiterated its invitation to the SADC Organ Troika, with the Government of Zimbabwe, to undertake their own fact-finding mission, confirming that Botswana was prepared to accept the agreed terms of reference for the mission.

On the way forward for Zimbabwe, the Vice President stated that Botswana had hoped that the Summit would have succeeded in facilitating the formation of a government in Zimbabwe that was consistent with the with the 15 September Harare "Global Political Agreement", so that the various political stakeholders in Zimbabwe can begin to work together in addressing their country's pressing needs.

Acknowledging that there continued to be differences of opinion within the region about Zimbabwe, he further added that the Summit's resolution had reflected "consensus" rather than "unanimity" among the member states.

He further observed that if the accords could not be implemented it was in the logic of circumstance for democracy to be allowed to take its course through the holding of new elections under international supervision.

The Vice President affirmed that progress in Zimbabwe was very much in Botswana's own unlighted self interest, while the current political standoff in the country was having a negative local impact.

In this respect, he noted that there are currently over 1000 Zimbabwean refugees in Botswana, whose upkeep and general welfare cost Government about P1, 2 million a month.

There are also a much larger number of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe who are continuously crossing Botswana's border in search of opportunities.

According to official statistics, since 2005 over 175,000 Zimbabweans have had to be repatriated. As part of this process, Botswana has had to build centres for illegal immigrants at a cost of P 62 million, as well as incurring significant operational costs in there running.

Merafhe's perception is that such figures are, however, "but the tip of an iceberg" as Zimbabwean illegal immigrants can now found throughout Botswana.

The existence of a large number of desperate and unemployed Zimbabweans roaming the Botswana's streets has also contributed to an escalation in crime. The Police Services confirms that between January and October 2008, over 12,000 illegal Zimbabwean nationals were known to be involved in criminal activities.

During the same period 65 incidents of Fence Cut Downs along the border with Zimbabwe were reported with livestock being smuggled into Zimbabwe. Such activities have previously been linked to the 2002-03 outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease in areas along the border with Zimbabwe.

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