By Fungi Kwaramba
Zimbabwe’s hopes of securing a $600 million loan facility from Botswana hit a snag as its neighbour could only offer US$95 million during a bi-national commission yesterday.
After a week of diplomatic engagements, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi yesterday signed six memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to enhance relations between their two countries.
Masisi told journalists that his country had extended a P1 billion (US$95 million) loan facility to its troubled neighbour.
“We agreed to a loan credit facility we increased it from P500 million to P1 billion,” said Masisi as he responded to questions from the selected media.Of late, Mnangagwa who enjoys a lot of goodwill from his African “brothers” has looked to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region for a financial bailout as his country struggles to clear its debts.
Thus the loan facility from Botswana is a huge boost for the troubled Zimbabwe which has been denied a similar rescue package from the region’s economic powerhouse South Africa.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana are thawing following years of tensions when the countries were led by former Robert Mugabe and Ian Khama, respectively.
Last year Mnangagwa visited Botswana and expressed his desire to see enhanced cooperation between the two countries.
Unlike his predecessor, the Zanu PF leader is not burning bridges but his efforts to jumpstart the economy have until yesterday failed to bear any meaningful fruits.
On Tuesday, government officials had claimed that they had secured a $600 million loan from their neighbour – globally famous for its vast diamonds deposits.
However, the permanent secretary to the President and Cabinet of Botswana Carter Morupisi issued a statement on Wednesday saying they were yet to give Zimbabwe anything or even to commit to the loan.
“The Office of the President wishes to inform members of the public that the government of the Republic of Botswana and the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe are currently holding discussions under the framework of bi-national commission which covers a wide range of issues which are mutually beneficial to the peoples of the two countries.
“As such, media reports that are currently circulating about the line of credit worth US$600 million that the government of Botswana has committed itself to extend to the Republic of Zimbabwe are unfounded.
“We wish to advise members of the public that in accordance with international practice, a communiqué which summarises the outcome of the meeting will be issued following the Bi-National Commission,” reads part of the statement.
The visitors were indulged with VVIP treatment yesterday.
Police and soldiers sealed off roads leading to the venue of the meeting between Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart as the two countries inked six MoUs to enhance cooperation.
Although several heads of State and governments have visited the country in yesteryears, security was never as high as that offered for Masisi who temporarily brought business at an uptown hotel to a standstill.
Since assuming office through a soft coup in 2017, Mnangagwa has made drastic changes to his security and yesterday police and soldiers armed to the teeth were milling around the hotel while motorists had to use longer routes to access their workplaces.
It was also double accreditation for journalists who wanted to cover the critical meeting between the two leaders after years of frosty relations between the two countries.
• Hope for a bigger tranche falters
• Security tightened for the visitors