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The President of Botswana Praises Mugabe


On a visit to Zimbabwe, President Festus Mogae of Botswana showered praise on President Robert Mugabe for his land distribution policies. This has drawn wide criticism from members of Zimbabwe’s opposition, who say Mr. Mugabe’s policies have failed. Mogae reportedly told a meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture organization that Zimbabwe will soon become one of the top farming nations in the world. Critics say President Mugabe's policies, including his redistribution of white-owned farms to inexperienced black farmers, have ruined one of Africa's most promising economies.

Analysts predict Zimbabwe's farm sector will take years to recover in the absence of crucial donor support, including training for new farmers. Mogae called for strong economic relations with Zimbabwe, Botswana's second largest trading partner in Africa. He says the two neighbors must explore ways of boosting trade and joint investments and development in southern Africa in general. Mr. Mugabe praised Botswana for helping during Zimbabwe's independence struggle in the 1970s, adding that the potential for trade remained great even though the volume has fallen in the last two years.

On Monday, Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Mogae, and Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa agreed to jointly construct a bridge link on their common border as an example of the regional cooperation that the Zimbabwean leader said had become rare in post-independence southern Africa.

Nelson Chamisa is the spokesman for the main opposition party, the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC). He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about Mr. Mugabe’s praise for Botswana.

“We don’t read much into the statement; this is just a public positioning in trying to deal with matters of international diplomacy…. Clearly, there is no change of policy; there is no change of attitude; there is no change of the understanding of the crisis in the country. President Mogae and indeed Botswana understand the context of our crisis, that it is a crisis of leadership and it is a crisis of governance. And I think that is not changed. So as MDC we remain convinced that we have the understanding, particularly some members in the region, of the nature and character of the crisis in the country,” he said.

Chamisa says President Mugabe’s government wants to turn the country into a police state.

“It’s quite shocking that these people have very skewed and upside down priorities, how they choose to buy military equipment when the nation is starving, when we have a food deficit and a food crisis, when there is a collapse of social services. It baffles the mind. Clearly it shows that this regime has become a military junta… They want to put the government in the hands of the military. And that’s why they are trying to beef up their stock. Clearly the government is very desperate, it’s at war with its own people, that’s why they are arming themselves to the teeth. The people are not happy and certainly people are going to react. We have already indicated that we have the people’s support and we are galvanizing the support nationally to make sure that people will respond in a manner that shows this articulation of public discordant in a peaceful and non-violent way,” he noted.

He says the MDC is united and will wrestle power from the incumbent ZANU-PF party.

“Of course you know the MDC remain united on the trust and way forward in terms of articulating that position of discontent, and also in terms of making sure that we create a new Zimbabwe and to save our country. But what we have called for and what seems to be shaping now is the coalition or alliance of all democratic forces or progressive forces in the country. There seem to be a common purpose there seem to be a unity direction; there seem to be an understanding that there is unity in our synergy of effort and that is very important. Because democratic forces are regrouping and they are making sure that they create a formidable force in action against the dictatorship and that is coming up quite well,” he said.

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