Mugabe snubs Khama invitation

In the aftermath of scathing criticism from Botswana’s President Ian Khama which frayed bilateral relations, President Robert Mugabe has snubbed an invitation to the neighbouring country’s 50th independence celebration in Gaborone today.

By Hazel Ndebele

Instead, Mugabe is attending the Zanu PF Women’s League conference in Harare.

Top government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the decision not to attend was made easier by Harare’s diplomatic tiff with Botswana over Khama’s recent remarks calling on Mugabe to step down.

Notwithstanding the frosty relationship, Khama extended the invitation after Mugabe delivered a speech at the Heroes stadium in Lusaka at the inauguration of Zambian President Edgar Lungu a fortnight ago.

However, Harare this week faced a dilemma as to whether to attend the celebrations after Khama, in an interview with Reuters, said it was time for Mugabe to go and allow new leadership.

Asked if Mugabe, who came to power after independence from Britain in 1980, should accept the reality of his advancing age and retire, Khama said: “Without doubt. He should have done it years ago. They have got plenty of people there who have got good leadership qualities who could take over. It is obvious that at his age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he is not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament.”

The official sources said Mugabe’s decision was also informed by the fact that he will be travelling next week to Tunisia and Dubai, where he frequents for unclear reasons.

“Khama invited the president while in Zambia, but we were shocked by his (Khama’s) undiplomatic remarks afterwards. This put us in a dilemma. We had to decide whether to attend the celebrations, which also clashed with the scheduled Women’s League conference.

“Our worry was that not going could be misconstrued to mean a snub over Khama’s remarks,” the source said.

However, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba yesterday said Mugabe’s refusal to attend the celebrations was not a snub.

“Yes, the president will not go to Botswana, but the reason of not attending is not what you think (Khama’s remarks). He will not attend because it has clashed with the party’s Women’s League conference,” he said. “We are not saying that Botswana’s celebrations are not important, but it has clashed with another important conference which is a build-up to the (Zanu PF) December’s annual people’s conference. We will obviously send a representative to Botswana.”

Charamba said Khama’s remarks have nothing to do with Mugabe not going to Botswana as his remarks have not dented Zimbabwe’s relations with Botswana.

“Our relations with a state are not determined by an individual or one person’s remarks, therefore we have no problem with Botswana. Remember, a state is made up of people and institutions,” he said.

Charamba said Zimbabwe’s relationship with Botswana dates way back to the liberation struggle and is broader and larger than what an individual thinks or says.

Botswana government spokesperson Jeff Ramsey could not be reached for comment yesterday as government landline phones were not being answered. He also had not responded to questions e-mailed to him.

Charamba would not reveal the purpose of Mugabe’s visit to Tunisia and Dubai, saying he does not discuss the president’s itinerary with the media.

6 thoughts on “Mugabe snubs Khama invitation”

  1. kennus says:

    “a state is made up of people”. but Zimbabwe is owned by mugabe.since when did mugabe prioritise national issues.he is always globe trotting while zimbabwe is burning .he is aware khama was going to dress him down by calling a spade a spade not a cousin of a shovel.

  2. John says:

    I am told khama wanted to beat him up

  3. Kseere says:

    Woo the truth is hurting the old man Khama has nothing to lose with his absence

  4. Rwendo says:

    The only way to deal with bullies, standing up, works. You tell it like it is, then you invite the man to your house, in case he wants to take it up with you. What happens? He chickens out. Probably also scared of another demo on foreign soil.

  5. shame hey, sekuru bob is now isolated by the west, the Chinese and now his Southern African brothers… sulk like a little old man are bob!

  6. Fair Observer says:

    He is stewing in his waste.

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