Botswana has dismissed local private media reports that its President, Ian Khama, clashed with President Mugabe during last week’s Extraordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government, saying the reports were mere speculation based on rumours.
The private media, mainly Daily News, NewsDay and The Zimbabwe Independent, had screaming headlines claiming that the two leaders had a fierce tiff that saw President Khama storming out of the meeting and flying back to Gaborone.
The paper claimed that tensions ran high when the issue of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa was raised with President Khama “blaming” President Mugabe for the rampant influx of immigrants in South Africa.
Botswana Information Minister, who is also the government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay, on Wednesday told a privately run station Yarona FM that there was never a stand-off between the two leaders.
He said President Khama left the venue of the summit (Rainbows Towers) after all proceedings had been completed and Sadc chairperson President Mugabe was aware of his departure.
“Well, I can say that (President) Khama did not storm out or flared any temper during the summit,” Dr Ramsay said.
“All business he went to Zimbabwe for was done and he left when he was scheduled to leave and his hosts were well aware of his departure.”
Dr Ramsay said while the two presidents had different opinions on the xenophobic attacks, much of what was reported in the media was speculative since the meeting was a closed one.
Last month’s xenophobic attacks left at least seven foreigners, including Zimbabweans dead, while thousands were displaced.
The private media claimed xenophobia was the major highlight of the Extraordinary Summit, yet it was all about the adoption of the industrialisation strategy and roadmap with the issue of xenophobia being raised later as any other business.
Said Dr Ramsay: “I can confirm that the recent xenophobic attacks came up in the talk but whatever else they talked about in there was between them because this was a closed summit. So I can safely say whatever media is reporting on is speculation based on rumour.”
Addressing journalists after the summit, President Mugabe called on Sadc member states to put mechanisms in place to ensure their citizens flocking South Africa returned to take up opportunities at home.
President Mugabe, who is also the African Union chairperson, said most of the people who flocked to South Africa were not being pushed by their governments.
“They are people who voluntarily go to South Africa,” he said as he fielded questions from the floor.
“They think South Africa is the heaven. Our heaven in Southern Africa. Yes, it’s more highly developed, true.
“But go there and you will see that the Africans in the country are still very low. It’s the whites who are living better lives. More advanced life. In Soweto, the lives of people are very elementary.
“Then there are people from out here who think there is heaven in South Africa and decide to go to South Africa. They make the situation of the Africans there worse.”
President Mugabe said while South Africa had no problems employing professionals, the majority of immigrants were border jumpers.