afrol News, 5 October - During his current visit to South Africa, Botswana's President Seretse Khama Ian Khama announced his support for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe. Botswana was the only neighbour demanding sanctions.
At a joint press conference with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, Botswana's President Khama said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) now stood united in asking the European Union (EU) and the US to lift its sanctions against Zimbabwe.
President Zuma, who last week gave the clear message to European political leaders in Brussels, said that SDAC believed the sanctions "are hindering that country's progress. Hence we are calling for those who have imposed sanctions to lift them."
President Khama for the first time confirmed Botswana now agrees to this view. The Batswana President said Zimbabwe now needed to be given a chance to "heal" and the sanctions were not helping that process.
"I was one of the people who were sceptical in the beginning...but the sanctions as it were are now starting to be a hindrance and we have to call on those imposing them to reconsider their position because the situation is better in Zimbabwe," President Khama said.
Relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe have been sour due to President Khama's outspoken criticism of President Robert Mugabe. Botswana was the only SADC country that asked the regional body to confront Mr Mugabe head-on by completely isolating him by closing their borders.
Even after the establishment of a power-sharing government in Zimbabwe, the Gaborone government maintained its distance. President Mugabe is widely being blamed for not allowing the democratic transition to get on track, and Botswana wanted to keep the sanctions stick to be able to demand progress.
But strong pressure from South Africa and some measurable progress in Zimbabwe has made the Batswana government change its mind on sanctions.
In their joint appearance, both leaders conceded that Zimbabwe's instability was "a potential barrier" to the Southern African region's socio-economic development championed by SADC.
While the sanctions were probably "justified" in the past, it was now incumbent of the countries to lift the sanctions, adding that the situation in that country had since changed since the establishment of the government of national unity, Mr Zuma and Mr Khama said.
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