March 9, 2009
GABORONE – Botswana’s Finance minister Baledzi Gaolathe said the new Zimbabwe government has not approached Botswana for help and any decisions on a financial bail-out will only be taken at the next meeting of SADC members
Botswana has denied reports that it has a bailout plan for Zimbabwe
Gaolathe was quoted by a weekly newspaper as saying reports that his country, South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia had agreed to give emergency funding to bankroll Zimbabwe’s coalition government were false.
“The new Zimbabwe government has not approached Botswana for help and any decisions on a financial bail-out will be taken at the next meeting of the regional body – SADC,” Gaolathe said.
Contrary to expectations, Botswana is on record as saying its prescription for the solution to the Zimbabwe political crisis has not changed although it endorsed the outcome of the SADC Summit that revived the stalled power-sharing deal signed last September.
“Botswana’s position has not changed. It is still our position that a re-run election would be the only viable solution if the parties (in the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal) fail to agree or the GPA (Global Political Agreement) collapses.
If the parties fail to reach an agreement, then the only viable solution is for the people of Zimbabwe to be the ones to decide who their leaders should be through an internationally supervised election,” Clifford Maribe, the Botswana Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman was quoted saying last month in The Nation in Gaborone.
Botswana appeared to have abandoned its position that an internationally supervised re-run of the presidential election was the best option to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis when it backed the revival of the power-sharing deal at the SADC meeting in Pretoria.
The development suggested that Botswana had abandoned its alleged preferential treatment of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) and thrown its lot behind his nemesis, President Robert Mugabe.
Gaolathe said Botswana would consider a request for help from Zimbabwe but its ability to assist might be severely limited by the global financial crisis.
“In the case of Zimbabwe, what we intend to do is try our best to persuade organisations that are capable of helping like the World Bank and IMF to make a meaningful contribution,” he said.
Gaolathe was reacting to reports quoting Eddie Cross, a policy adviser to Zimbabwe Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, saying that regional countries and the European Union would come to the rescue with emergency funding for Zimbabwe after 100 days of the new government lasts for 100 days.
Previously, Botswana had given the Zimbabwe government P1 million (about $125,000) for fuel as a loan that was never repaid. Recently, Botswana gave P3 million in humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe but the money was channelled through NGOs.
It is estimated that currently, the Zimbabwe government needs $5 billion to recover. Gaolathe said in Gaborone that Zimbabwe had informed African finance ministers that $2 billion was needed immediately to run the country till the end of the year.
Botswana has maintained that an internationally supervised presidential election is one of the most viable options to resolve the long-running political crisis in Zimbabwe.
It has slammed Mugabe and Zanu-PF for the Zimbabwean crisis, a development that seems to favour the MDC. Things threatened to get out of hand last year when Botswana decided not to recognise Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe.
Claims that Botswana has a soft spot for MDC have been buttressed by the ease with which Tsvangirai has been given ‘asylum’ in Gaborone whenever he is in trouble in Zimbabwe.
That Botswana endorsed a SADC deal that tasted like a bitter pill for the mainstream MDC indicates that there is a shift in how the regional grouping handles the Zimbabwean crisis