December 2, 2002

Tensions between Zimbabwe and Botswana?

Zimbabwean government has recalled Zimbabwe's High Commissioner to Botswana after comments by Botswana's President Festus Mogae that there is a "drought of good governance" in Zimbabwe.

The Johannesburg-based Saturday Star reported that although there was no immediate suggestion nor confirmation that High Commissioner Zenzo Nsimbi had been recalled because of Mogae's recent criticism of Mugabe's policies, "this would seem likely". Mogae has emerged as one of the few African leaders to publicly attack President Mugabe over the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. Mogae recently said Mugabe's political and economic policies were hurting the entire southern African region. About half of Zimbabwe's population is threatened with famine due to food shortages. Aid agencies blame the shortages on disturbances to commercial agriculture and drought due to the government's chaotic land reform programme. Mogae recently told the London-based African Business magazine that Zimbabwe's woes were the result of a "drought of good governance". He also told the BBC's HardTalk programme that tourism had been negatively affected by events in Zimbabwe and that Botswana was suffering as a result.

Zimbabwe on Monday, December 2 said the decision to recall its high commissioner was part of a broader government reshuffle and had nothing to do with President Festus Mogae's recent criticism of the country's political and economic policies: "A number of ambassadors have been affected by the changes and reports suggesting that the commissioner in Gaborone was recalled because of some kind of worsening relationship between Zimbabwe and Botswana is simply not true," political counsellor at Zimbabwe's High Commission in Botswana, Tamuka Muranga said.

The Botswana Guardian newspaper reported that Nsimbi had been recalled after complaints about his inaction regarding the plight of Zimbabweans allegedly being ill-treated by Botswana authorities. Zimbabweans, who say they are escaping economic hardships, have been travelling into Botswana through the Plumtree border post or illegally sneaking past dry river beds that separate the two countries, the paper said. However, Nsimbi said the claims were difficult to prove: "We receive these allegations from Zimbabweans but they do not bring concrete evidence. We have also established that their allegations were false." (The Daily News, Harare; IRIN)

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