December 17, 2003

Ranks with SADC on Zimbabwe broken

The decision by the Commonwealth to continue the suspension of Zimbabwe is now polarising and dividing the SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries, which in the past solidly stood behind President Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

While a number of SADC countries condemn the Commonwealth, Botswana broke ranks with others, saying it stands behind the Commonwealth decision. The Office of the President in Botswana disassociated itself from the SADC position, saying it stands by the Commonwealth decision, although it would have liked Zimbabwe's suspension lifted.

The Press Secretary to the President, Dr Jeff Ramsay, emphasised that Botswana reiterated its position, which he said was a compromise. "We can't attack the Commonwealth stance, which we were part of. That is what the SADC statement is saying. But as a country we wanted the Zimbabwe suspension lifted." He said Botswana would not endorse the SADC statement because the country was not invited to a meeting that took the decision to criticise the Commonwealth. The statement from the Office of the President noted in the spirit of compromise that Botswana accepted the Commonwealth Heads of Government decision to endorse the recommendations of the special committee, as was reflected in the final Statement on Zimbabwe: "This is in accordance with our known democratic traditions." The Chief Director in the SADC Secretariat, Dr T. Mhlango, informed that the SADC statement was issued without coordination from the organisation's secretariat in Gaborone. As such it was not a collective decision but the opinion of a few SADC members. (The Botswana Gazette, Gabarone)

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