Botswana has no reason to believe that the upcoming Zimbabwe general election will descend into chaos and violence as it was the case with the much disputed 2008 general election, Botswana foreign affairs minister Phandu Skelemani has said.
In 2008, following pre and post - election violence, thousands of Zimbabweans sought asylum in Botswana and other neighbouring countries. The asylum seekers alleged then that Robert Mugabe’s party ZANU PF militia and state security organs had visited violence on them. Zimbabwe will be going for election on the 31st July this year.
The election is expected to end the four-year unity government agreement that was reached in 2008 following a political standoff involving ZANU PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The election will see a replay of 2008 election, with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai challenging President Robert Mugabe for the top position. Talking to Botswana Guardian this week Skelemani downplayed talk that the country may experience post-election violence as it was the case in 2008. “We have no reason to believe that Zimbabwe can degenerate to that level because as it is now pre-election violence hasn’t been recorded yet.
You must remember that few months before the 2008 general elections violence was already experienced in most parts of the country and many people were already fleeing the country to other countries. This time around it is quiet,” said Skelemani. The minister was however careful not to be optimistic about the upcoming election saying that it would be unfortunate should violence be reported after the general elections or few days before the election. He said that Botswana security apparatus including the police are prepared to deal with post-election violence that may see hundreds fleeing into the country. Sources within the security apparatus this week told this newspaper that the security forces in the northern part of the country have been placed on alert. He said that Botswana is closely monitoring the build up to the election adding that Botswana has sent 30 observers through regional bloc Southern African Development Community.
He said that further 50 observers made up of District Commissioners and government officials who have conducted election in Botswana before have been sent to Zimbabwe at the request of the Zimbabwean government. Meanwhile Skelemani told Botswana Guardian that it remains to be seen whether the Zimbabwean election will be free and fair. He however said that SADC is working around the clock to ensure that the election is without hiccups.
He said that recently the opposition had raised questions on the fairness of the election expressing that there were outstanding issues with voter registration. “The opposition felt that some of the potential voters were left out of the voters roll and that this would disadvantage hundreds of voters. Despite all these the jury is still out, we will only have the full report after the election,” he said. Despite Skelemani’s claim that there is no pre election violence MDC has accused the ruling party supporters of using violent tactics as part of an intimidation strategy ahead of the election. ZANU PF has since denied this according to media reports.