Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has dismissed media reports suggesting possible bad blood between visiting Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe and his counterpart Ian Khama. (Photo By Jennifer Letshwiti)
Moitoi took a swipe at the media while waiting for Mugabe’s arrival at the Sir Seretse Khama Airport (SSKA) yesterday, accusing the press of deliberately creating animosity between the two leaders.
Moitoi’s outbursts followed media reports suggesting that President Khama had snubbed Mugabe who jetted into the country yesterday for a visit to the SADC Secretariat.
“President Mugabe is visiting in his capacity as the SADC Chairman.This is not a government or a State visit and this is why as a Foreign Affairs Minister I have to protocol him. That is why we do not have any guard of honour or hoisting of flags on street poles. The same would happen if our President was visiting Zimbabwe,” she said.
After Khama’s last visit to the SADC Summit in Harare early this month, the Zimababwean media reported that Mugabe watched in consternation as Khama sided with South African President Jacob Zuma as the pair partly blamed the nonagenarian’s misrule in Zimbabwe for the crisis regarding illegal migrants in the region.
“After Khama had launched into an unexpected outburst against Mugabe, which left some of the SADC leaders shell-shocked, he allegedly stormed out of the meeting and flew back to Gaborone, about four hours before the summit ended,” Zimbabwe’s Daily News reported.
Khama’s contention, according to the Zimbabwean media, was that applications for asylum and refugee status by desperate Zimbabweans were piling up in Botswana.
He also apparently drew Mugabe into a resources debate arguing that neighbouring countries were being forced to shoulder an extra responsibility to look after Zimbabweans instead of focusing on their citizens.
The incident was said to be just another round of clashes between the two after Khama snubbed Mugabe’s official opening and closing remarks at the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit that was held in Victoria Falls last August.
When asked to provide clarity on the alleged Harare confrontation, Moitoi dismissed allegations that Khama was annoyed and had to leave the meeting early. “President Khama did not walk out of the meeting. He got permission and he had made it known that he would leave early,” she said.
“President Khama, in his comments on the issue of xenophobia, was that we cannot condone killings. He said each African country has to work hard at creating employment. He also said we cannot expect South Africa to provide employment for the rest of Africa,” Moitoi concluded.
Mugabe is expected to address a press conference at the Grand Palm Hotel this afternoon.