ZIMBABWE has sent a team of investigators to Botswana to probe an alleged plot of banditry involving Botswana authorities and opposition MDC activists for the second time in as many weeks as it seeks to substantiate claims which have angered its neighbour.
Zimbabwe and Botswana â€” uneasy neighbours since 1980 due to political and trade disputes â€” have been on a collision course since the widely-disputed June presidential election run-off.
Botswana President Ian Khama has refused to recognise President Robert Mugabe as a legitimate head of state, saying he retained power through a campaign of violence.
The Botswana leader has said if power-sharing talks between Zanu PF and the MDC factions fail, there should be fresh elections under international supervision.
Government initially reacted angrily, claiming this was an â€œextreme act of provocationâ€ although Mugabe now says he is ready for elections.
The investigation into claimed acts of destabilisation came at a time when Mugabe was under pressure to quit as a result of the economic meltdown.
Diplomatic sources said yesterday Zimbabweâ€™s investigation team led by Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Joey Bimha returned to Botswana on Wednesday to further its probe into the issue.
The sources said the mission includes other Foreign Affairs officials and officers from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Botswana government spokesman Dr Jeff Ramsay referred questions to Sadc.
â€œWe believe that it would for now be better for you to direct your questions to the Sadc Organ Troika who are responsible for carrying out the investigation,â€ he said. Efforts to get comment from Sadc yesterday were unsuccessful.
Allegations of destabilisation emerged prior to the recent Sadc summit in Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe first officially made the allegations at the extraordinary meeting of the Interstate Defence and Security Committee held in Mozambique on November 5, a few days before the summit.
Just before the Sadc meeting a group of MDC activists were arrested and were apparently linked to the allegations, but no evidence was available to incriminate them, sources said.
It is said the MDC activists were later released, but were reportedly later abducted by state security agents and have not been seen or heard of for several weeks now.
There have been a series of abductions in recent weeks of mainly MDC and civil society activists.
The latest to be seized was Gandhi Mudzingwa, Tsvangiraiâ€™s personal aide who was forced off the road while driving to his partyâ€™s â€œlogisticsâ€ meeting late on Monday. He was taken to a waiting vehicle by nine men.
Last week a civil society activist, Jestina Mukoko, a former ZBC news presenter, was abducted from her home in Norton. Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, was seized by a group of 15 men in plain clothes and driven away. She has not been seen since. Two of her colleagues have since been abducted.
Two weeks ago Tsvangiraiâ€™s MDC director of security, Chris Dlamini, was seized from his
BY DUMISANI MULEYA