Botswana's foreign minister has rejected accusations by Zimbabwe that Botswana was training Zimbabwe opposition members to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.
The allegations were made as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is about to send a team to Botswana to investigate the claims by Zimbabwe.
Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani said while it was true there is a SADC investigation, Botswana is not training militants from Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
He told VOA the accusations are an attempt by Zimbabwe to divert attention from President Mugabe's failure to resolve the economic and political problems plaguing Zimbabwe.
"It is true that there is an investigation; it is not true that we are training any Zimbabweans for military purposes," he said.
Skelemani said Zimbabwe has failed so far to provide evidence to support its claims.
"The allegations were leveled against us by Mugabe himself, and we invited them to come and sure us where these training camps are. So far they've not been able to so. They only produced unsigned statements by two persons claiming that they had been trained in Botswana. They really can't say when did they get to Botswana, what documents did they use, if it is true. They have none of those. As far as we are concerned, the claim is a lie," Skelemani said.
Botswana President Ian Khama has been a strong critic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe especially since that Zimbabwe's elections earlier this year.
Skelemani said Mugabe is using the two countries' somewhat rocky relations to divert attention from Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic problems.
"I think they are diverting attention from the problems which they have and their failure to implement the agreement signed on the 15th of September. They can come any day, any time, and show us where the training camps are, who trained them because our training camps are known to the Zimbabweans, at least their leaders in the army. We've got joint commissions and they have been visiting our training camps," Skelemani said.
he said Botswana would support the constitutional amendment before the Zimbabwe parliament meant to pave the way for a unity government.
"Regarding the constitutional amendment #19, to the extent that it would implement the global agreement of the 15th of September, we will obviously support it in the hope that it will bring peace to Zimbabwe. As we have said before, we don't think it's the best way of doing things, but at least it's a movement," he said.
Skelemani said Botswana would have preferred a run-off election in Zimbabwe. But he said Botswana supports the SADC position of a unity government.
"Because they failed through elections to produce a president, in accordance with the decision of SADC, they can actually agree on power sharing. And because it's their country, we are not going to choose for them how they can best run that country. Our preference of course would be a run-off. But this powering sharing agreement is really a rape of democracy," Skelemani said.
He said the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would welcome a run-off election as long as President Mugabe's supporters are not allowed to in his words beat up people. Skelemani said that's why SADC wants such elections to be internationally supervised.
Skelemani said the SADC team to investigate Zimbabwe's claims of MDC training camps in Botswana was supposed to have arrived in Botswana on the 11th of December. But he said that meeting never took place because Botswana objected to team's members.
Skelemani said he and Swaziland's foreign minister will meet this week in Brussels to discuss the new date for the SADC team to visit Botswana.