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Botswana is extending $600 million to Zimbabwe’s private sector, a clear sign that President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement efforts are bearing fruits.
That Zimbabwe this week hosts Botswana for a Bi-National Commission (BNC), which will see the signing of agreements by Presidents Mnangagwa and Mokgweetsi Masisi also speaks volumes about how President Mnangagwa’s new administration has gone about making friends, marking a shift from the approach of former leader Mr Robert Mugabe who, knowingly or unknowingly, created enemies near and afar.
During his reign, Mr Mugabe reduced Zimbabwe’s relations with Botswana, which was then under the leadership of Seretse Khama Ian Khama to a screaming match and trading of cross-border insults and cheap potshots.
So strained were relations between the two countries during that dark era such that when Botswana decided to construct a bridge across the Zambezi at Kazungula, Mr Mugabe refused passage of the facility through Zimbabwean territory.
This saw Botswana instituting costly design alterations which resulted in the bridge, supposed to be 600 metres long, stretching 923 metres as a detour.
No one ever imagined that by February 2019, Zimbabwe and Botswana could have reworked both their political and economic relations as epitomised by the number of deals ready to be signed during the BNC this week cutting across various sectors of the economy including agriculture and mining.
The offer by Botswana to financially assist Zimbabwe, and the holding of the BNC this week is a clear testimony of President Mnangagwa’s diplomatic astuteness. It does not always pay, even at village level, to trade in insults with neighbours.
We salute the new administration for correctly realising that what Zimbabwe needs are friends, and not enemies. In fact, we cannot afford turning a neighbour into an enemy as we need them in our fight against the unjustified and illegal Western sanctions, which have ruined our economy and the future of generations.
It is in that context that we thank our Batswana brothers and sisters for besides speaking loudly against the illegal Western sanctions a fortnight ago, they have shown us what true neighbourliness means by offering to support Zimbabwe’s efforts to turnaround the economy.
Zimbabwe desperately needs lines of credit to turnaround its economy and the offer to assist by Botswana not only reinforces our relations as neighbours, but speaks to African integration, Ubuntuism and Pan Africanism.
We therefore salute our leaders in Gaborone and Harare for showing us the benefits of good neighbourliness. Today Zimbabwe and Botswana speak not only constructive politics, but economic diplomacy on a win-win basis.