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Botswana denies foreign collusion

Loughty Dube

BOTSWANA has refuted claims that it is working with foreign powers to destabilise Zimbabwe as has been reported in the local state media.

, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mompati Merafhe, told his country’s parliament last Friday that Botswana was concerned with persistent allegations that Botswana was working with foreign powers to destabilise Zimbabwe.

Merafhe also dismissed allegations that his country was hosting an American military base and said Botswana built the Thebephatshwa military airbase using its own resources.

“For the benefit of those who may not be aware, let me explain that when the airbase was under construction, the US government summoned our ambassador in Washington to the State Department to raise concern about what it termed excessive mili-tary spending,” Merafhe told parliament.

He dismissed claims that the military base would be used as a springboard for an attack on Zimbabwe.

Reports in the local state media have alleged that the Botswana airbase was being used by Americans and predicted that the Americans would use the same base to attack Zimbabwe to effect so-called “regime change”.

Merafhe said the airbase was necessary for the protection of the country against external threats. He said Botswana had never hosted a foreign military base because of its long-standing policy of non-aggression.

“No amount of sinister propaganda would turn Botswana against its neighbours,” Merafhe told parliament.

Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana have been rocky as a result of allegations of ill-treatment of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants by Batswana and the claimed hosting of the American military airbase. On Wednesday this week the government-controlled ZBC TV broadcast a documentary claiming it had detailed cases of abuse of Zimbabweans by Botswana authorities.

The state media earlier this year alleged that Botswana was hosting an American radio station that was beaming anti-Zimbabwe propaganda.

Botswana declined to join a Sadc statement condemning Zimbabwe’s continued suspension from the Commonwealth at Abuja in December.

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