All is not well on the Zimbabwean Front

The mud cake thick charade that is Zimbabwe sunk to it’s lowest yesterday when Botswana’s president Festus Mogae officially opened the Harare Agricultural Show. That Mogae played along is no surprise, it is the audacity by Mugabe and his cronies in government to hold up a non existant relationship with a country that has made no secret of their contempt of Zimbabweans that is galling.

Years after independece in Zimbabweans and the batswana cultivated a famously cordial relationship. After all, most if not all residents of Matebeleland South province in Zimbabwe have lineages span across Zimbabwe and Botswana’s boarders. Many a Tswana were educated at Zimbabwe’s colleges university and returned to their home country for a job. Reciprocally, many a trained Zimbabwe established themselves in Botswana’s smaller, but much more stable economy during the first fifteen years of our independence.

So it only seemed natural when things turned sour in Zimbabwe, that a mass exodus for Botswana beginning first in the south of Zimbabwe became one of the most plied routes to “greener pastures” for desperate Zimbabweans. For a while, our neighbors in Botswana tolerated the surging influx of Zimbo’s. It wasn’t anything new, our countries had mutually exchanged people, skills and resources for much of the last 20 years. I can even remember a family vacation in Gaborone, Botswana’s capitol back in the day. And, if I am not mistaken, I remember my mother buying me my first “safari suit” outfit on that trip. Mugabe made safari suits popular to seven year old Zimbabwean boys in the mid-eighties.

After years of sustained heightened influx from their northern neighbors, the Batswana’s longsuffering patience began to run. They had watched better qualified Zimbabweans come and take their jobs and enjoy a better quality of life in their own country and had had enough. Right around 2000, word of Batswana’s targeted hostility began to leak out. Pretty soon after that it became news. Zimbabwean’s were being murdered by angry Tswana’s; Botswana was reipartriating Zimbabweans by the truckload everyday; Botswana was couping despertate Zimbabweans in inhumane animal pens for miniscule offences and the litany continues. There’s one headline that definitively marked a new era in the relations between our countries and our people; Botswana erected an electric fence to slow down the tidal wave of Zimbabweans.

Despite their best diplomatic efforts to project the new fence is nothing more than a measure to stem the spread of foot and mouth disease between cattle heards close to the boarders, Botswana’s government received several protests from their colleagues in Harare. All the while Zimbabwean border jumpers had figured out how isolate the portions of the fence long enough so that they could sneak back into what had become a promised land; Botswana. This controversy is well articulated in the PBS Wide Angle documentary Border Jumpers

Things were never the same between our countries despite our governments wish to make it seem so.

There’s no doubt the Mogae’s invitation to inaugerate this year’s edition of agricultural showcase was incidental. Just last week Monday the Herald announced

PRESIDENT Mugabe will this year officially open the 2006 Harare Agricultural Show (HAS)on August 30.

Cde Mugabe is the patron of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society which runs the HAS.

Show spokesman Mr Daniel Muhau said it was not a must to have foreign presidents as the show’s guests of honour.

“It is not a must to have a president from another country to officially open the show.

The late Vice President, Cde Simon Muzenda, was the guest of honour at one time,” Mr Muhau said.

By the Wednesday the tune had changed to

BOTSWANA President Festus Mogae will officially open this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show on Monday next week.

Initially President Mugabe, who is patron of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society, had been scheduled to open the show on August 30.

Show spokesperson Mr Daniel Muhau yesterday confirmed the new development.

“The date of the official opening of the show has been changed from August 30 to Monday, August 28 and the guest of honour would be the President of Botswana, Mr Festus Mogae,” Mr Muhau said.

The gracing of the occasion by the Botswana leader confirms Zimbabwe’s cordial government-to-government relations with its neighbour contrary to reports in certain sections of the media.

Though some Batswana legislators have been quoted condemning Zimbabwe for alleged political repression, Mr Mogae recently hailed Zimbabwe for implementing the Southern African Development Community guidelines and principles governing the conduct of democratic elections, putting paid to adverse claims by some political groups in his country.

Anything to make things look better than they actually are. Our government will do anything to make things look like they are going well.

Or maybe not.

Maybe their renewed interest in Botswana is an indication of the deep seated envy Mugabe & Co. have of Botswana. Maybe they really want Mogae to tell them how to clear up this mess and show them how his government adapted their democracy to encompass and articulate traditional power structures so they did not to overlook anyone. Maybe Mugabe confessed to Mogae in their closed door session that he’s messed and is looking for a way to end this whole mess. Maybe, just maybe.

Wishful thinking.

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