GABORONE — Botswana was yesterday forced to deny reports that President Robert Mugabe was snubbed by his Southern African Development Community (Sadc) deputy Ian Khama as he arrived in Gaborone for a two-day working visit.
Khama was not at the Sir Seretse International Airport to receive Mugabe and local media reports had suggested that Khama had decided not to welcome the 91-year-old leader.
Mugabe will, among other things, meet Sadc staff, have private lunch at State House and pay a courtesy call on Khama. He will address a Press conference before returning home this afternoon.
Prior to Mugabe’s arrival, Botswana’s Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi condemned what she termed a deliberate intent by some media houses to create animosity and tensions between Botswana and Zimbabwe. She said she was disturbed by reports that Mugabe was not accorded an honour befitting a Head of State.
Mugabe’s visit, Venson-Moitoi said, was not a State visit, hence no guard of honour at the airport and hoisting of flags on street poles along Gaborone roads.
The Foreign Affairs minister, not Khama, welcomed Mugabe at the airport since the Zimbabwean leader was on a work-related mission, not State visit.
“It is a normal practice throughout the world that as a minister responsible, I protocol his visit and not the President,” Venson-Motoi said.
“I also afford him the necessary protocols linked with visits of other Heads of State visiting the country on other official capacities. President Khama’s absence at the airport should not be viewed as lack of respect for Mr Mugabe.”
There have been reports of a rift between the two leaders blamed on Mugabe’s human rights record.
– Bopa/Staff Reporter