The Zimbabwe Embassy in Botswana has issued a statement condemning the Botswana government for taking action without seriously examining facts on the ground.
The statement denies recent remarks made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Phandu Skelemani that he unsuccessfully made several attempts to contact his counterpart in Zimbabwe over the arrest of three officers of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks who accidentally crossed into Zimbabwe last month.
The officers were jailed until a magistrate court released them last Tuesday.
“The Ministry would, on contrary, wish to point out that Minister Mumbengegwi was out of the country during that time and only returned on February 2, 2010.”
“During the time that the Minister was away, he never received any communication from his Botswana counterpart. Upon his return to Harare, there was no indication either, of any communication from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana,” the statement reads.
It further says that during the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, the two ministers met on a number of occasions, but at no point during their interaction did Skelemani raise the issue of the officers who were under arrest in Zimbabwe.
“In fact, it was the Botswana Vice President Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe who personally requested Minister Mumbengegwi to arrange a meeting with President Robert Mugabe.”
“The Ministry can only assume that Vice President Merafhe intervened because his Foreign Minister had not held any discussions with his Zimbabwean colleague on the matter,” the statement further says.
The embassy says President Mugabe agreed to meet Merafhe, but his (Mugabe’s) delegation left earlier than scheduled hence the meeting did not take place.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government has indicated that it intends to appeal a Monday court ruling dropping two of the three counts that the officers were facing.
It confiscated the firearms and the vehicle that the officers were using. However, it has also declared the three officers Prohibited Immigrants in Zimbabwe causing panic as to whether the Botswana government will ever recover its goods.
Attempts to get a comment from Skelemani drew a blank as his mobile phone rang unanswered at the time of going to press.