The frosty state of relations between Botswana and Mugabe-era Zimbabwe became clear today when President Ian Khama revealed that the on-going two-day state visit was the first in more than a decade.
By policy, state visits – the highest level of diplomatic interaction between countries – take place when one state invites the other.
Mnangagwa arrived in Gaborone this morning, held closed-door talks with President Ian Khama and addressed Parliament this afternoon. Tomorrow, he is headlining a Botswana-Zimbabwe business meeting, before touring the Diamond Trading Company Botswana.
“It has been over a decade since Botswana and Zimbabwe officially exchanged state visits, a situation that certainly does not augur well for the promotion and sustenance of the spirit of good neighbourliness among friendly states.
“Mr President, to have you in our midst is the first time a President of Zimbabwe has paid a state visit during my presidency, not to mention that I have never been invited to a state visit to Zimbabwe either. So you came just in time before I end my term of office,” Khama said at state banquet held in Mnangagwa’s honour.
Khama said the Zimbabwean leader’s visit was historic and provided fresh impetus for the “revitalisation and consolidation of the time-tested relations that exist between the two countries”.
“We remain confident that you will provide effective and visionary leadership to effect the much-needed socio-economic transformation that will advance your country’s development trajectory,” he said.
For his part, Mnangagwa invited Botswana companies to take advantage of the new investor-friendly environment and exploit the vast natural resources Zimbabwe has to offer.
“I am aware of the great strides that Botswana has made in the diamond mining sector. I am informed that Botswana has succeeded in developing a viable and suitable diamond industry. Our relationship with Botswana is going to get stronger,” he said.
Mnangagwa also promised people that Zimbabwe would hold free and fair elections in July and invite observers from the African Union, SADC amongst others.