Zimbabwe and Botswana meet over ranger’s row


Zimbabwe’s top military and security brass is meeting with their Botswana counterparts at the resort town of Victoria Falls in a bid to thaw frosty relations that threaten peace between the two neighbours.

Botswana recently recalled its security envoys from Zimbabwe in protest over the arrest and detention of three of its wildlife officers who strayed into Zimbabwe.

Their vehicle and weapons were confiscated.

The officers have since been freed while their vehicle and guns have been returned to Botswana after a high-level ministerial meeting between the two countries last week.

The Victoria Falls meeting is expected to see the Botswana envoy restored while Zimbabwe has taken that opportunity to raise its concerns over the relay station of Voice of America’s Studio 7 in Botswana.

The meeting which opened at the resort town on Monday is the 26th Session of the Botswana-Zimbabwe Bilateral Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security and is scheduled to end today.

Uneasy relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana got really bad when President Ian Khama declared that his Zimbabwean counterpart had stolen the 2008 controversial election while President Robert Mugabe accused Khama of meddling in Zimbabwean politics.

But the diplomatic tiff between the two countries got to a sticky point two weeks ago when Tswana civil servants strayed and got arrested in Zimbabwe. It has now taken the two countries’ senior chiefs of defence, justice, security, intelligence and home affairs to organise a week-long meeting in a bid to mend the relations.

Minister of Defence, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is heading the Zimbabwean delegation comprising the country’s service chiefs and other senior security officials while Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kikgakgamatso Ndelu Seretse, leads an equal strength from across the border.

A high-powered ministerial delegation comprising the countries’ defence, justice, intelligence and home affairs ministers met last week to discuss the arrest and prosecution of the Botswana wildlife officers.

“The Joint Permanent Commission will discuss all matters relating to defence and security relations between the two countries,” said Botswana official, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, in a statement this week.