By Cris Chinaka
HARARE- The president of Botswana offered Zimbabwe’s embattled President Robert Mugabe rare diplomatic solidarity on Monday by avoiding political differences and pledging to build strong economic relations.
Festus Mogae, who
has at times broken ranks with African leaders by publicly criticising Mugabe over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, is in Harare to open an agricultural show and discuss the joint construction of a border bridge.
At a dinner party hosted by Mugabe after Mogae’s arrival on Sunday night, the Botswana leader said the two neighbours must explore ways of boosting trade and joint investments and promoting general economic empowerment in southern Africa.
Mogae, who has previously suggested that Mugabe must do more to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, said “despite the opinion of a few sceptics” cooperation between their two countries was growing.
Economic relations could be enhanced by the implementation of agreements on investment promotion and protection and the avoidance of double taxation, he said in a statement aired by state television on Monday.
“There is undoubtedly more that can be done not only for the mutual benefit of our own peoples, but the peoples of this region as well,” Mogae added.
Mugabe — who values African solidarity in the face of Western isolation over his policies — said Harare would work hard to strengthen relations built on old political ties.
Mugabe praised Botswana for helping during Zimbabwe’s national liberation war in the 1970s, adding that the potential for trade remained great even though volumes have fallen in the last two years.
“The enhancement of trade flows between our two countries is imperative,” Mugabe said.
Critics say Mugabe’s controversial policies, including his seizures of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to inexperienced black farmers, have ruined one of Africa’s most promising economies.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in its eighth year of recession, and is currently struggling with the world’s highest inflation rate of nearly 1,000 percent. Reuter