- Botswana foreign affairs minister has denied ever condemning leader of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai or apologising to president Robert Mugabe during power-sharing talks at recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in South Africa.
Minister Phandu Skelemani was yesterday responding to a report in Zimbabwe media, which claimed that he had praised Mr Mugabe's conduct in on-going negotiations, mediated by South African president, Thabo Mbeki.
The report attributed to Mr Skelemani a statement criticising Mr Tsvangirai, for being unreasonable during talks.
It further stated, "leaders from Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania expressed "embarrassment" at having "blindly supported Tsvangirai" during the 28th SADC Heads of State Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg, after South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki, who is facilitating talks between Zimbabwe's political parties, gave them a full briefing on what was taking place."
Mr Skelemani said it was not their business to praise Mr Mugabe or anybody, adding, "we said the parties are close to reaching an agreement and so no one should force them to sign as it is not us the SADC membership negotiating. It is the Zimbabweans who are negotiating."
Mr Tsvangirai has refused to sign a power-sharing deal with president Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, leader of MDC breakaway faction, saying Zimbabwean leader would continue to wield executive powers he did not deserve.
According to the report, Mr Skelemani had said his analysis of situation was that Mr Tsvangirai had misled SADC on Zimbabwe's political processes.
It alleged minister said they had been misinformed and that Botswana was of opinion that MDC leader should accept agreement that Mr Mbeki had facilitated as it was quite reasonable.
Responding to the report, Mr Skelemani confirmed that he received papers from Mr Mbeki, but never asked for any adjournment of summit so that he could go and read the documents.
The minister continued, "I never said Tsvangirai has misled us. How can he mislead us? Have we ever sat down with him during the talks? Our political stance on Zimbabwe was never influenced by what Tsvangirai told us. Our decision emanated from the report by election observers. That is the basis of our stance."
He confirmed that MDC officials led by Mr Tsvangirai had, in fact, visited Gaborone early in the week to see president Ian Khama.
President Khama boycotted SADC weekend summit, saying he does not recognise Mr Mugabe as the legitimate president.
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