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prevented civil war in Zimbabwe
The Standard (Zimbabwe)
September 29, 2013
active involvement in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe after the
elections of 2008, helped avert a potential civil war in the
country, a recent research has revealed.
The research, entitled
Botswana and Pivotal Deterrence in the Zimbabwe 2008 Political Crisis,
sought to explain the crucial role that Botswana played in the light
of the Zimbabwe political crisis after the 2008 election.
It argued that Botswana
was able to apply “pivotal deterrence” in Zimbabwe,
between the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that
won the March 2008 presidential election, and Zanu-PF that claimed
to have won the June 2008 run-off election where President Robert
Mugabe was uncontested.
The research by three
Botswana-based academics, Obonye Jonas, David Mandiyanike and Zibani
Maundeni, says Zimbabwe nearly slid into a civil war following the
disputed elections which returned Mugabe to power.
This was after his arch-rival
Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC withdrew from the presidential race citing
escalating State-sponsored violence directed against his supporters.
According to the recently
published report, Zanu-PF began “arming to the teeth, seemingly
in preparation for war”.
The party allegedly attempted
to import military hardware from China. Tsvangirai on the other
hand was being hosted by President Ian Khama of Botswana amid accusations
that the neighbouring country was training MDC-T militias in preparation
for a regime change.
But the report
says actions by Botswana defused a potential violent confrontation
between Zanu-PF and the MDC-T, and influenced the two parties to
cooperate in forming a Government
of National Unity (GNU).
It says as the Zimbabwean
crisis was escalating following the disputed elections, there was
no doubt that relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe went frosty.
“Botswana entered the war talk, and was decidedly on the MDC
side,” reads the report.
efforts of posturing - a move that was interpreted by pundits as
preparatory work to attack Zimbabwe.”
The study says Botswana
allegedly took a decision to deploy a Botswana Defence Force contingent
along the border, armed with heavy artillery. Justice and Security
minister, Brigadier Dikgakgamatso Seretse was reportedly quoted
as saying: “This is a very sensitive matter; therefore, I
can neither confirm nor deny any deployment of soldiers along the
But the study argues
that the minister’s equivocations pointed to the direction
that indeed plans were afoot in Botswana to participate militarily
if civil war broke out in Zimbabwe.
It said well-placed sources,
as confirmed by cables leaked by WikiLeaks, revealed that in anticipation
for war against Zimbabwe, Botswana approached the United States
for arms of war and related military assistance.
“This shows that
while Botswana had always been friendly to Zanu-PF, it was ready
to switch sides in defence of democracy and on the side of the MDC,”
reads the report. “The fact that it was seeking material support
from the US suggests that it was readying itself for a military
confrontation against the Zanu-PF government in Zimbabwe.”
The report says the US
through its mission in Botswana, turned Gaborone down on its request,
advising that provision of military assets could harm America’s
interests in the region and possibly trigger an arms race.
But it says Botswana’s
manoeuvres were having an effect on the Zanu-PF-led government amid
reports of Mugabe warning “neighbours” to “think
twice” before going to war with Harare. Then Justice minister,
Patrick Chinamasa also accused Botswana of what he called “extreme
“The overall impression
as gleaned from Botswana’s actions clearly point to the ineluctable
conclusion that should Zimbabwe had descended into a civil war in
2008, Gaborone would have intervened,” the researchers noted.
They said it was in Botswana’s
national interest to have intervened and playing the role of a “pivot”
in the likely civil war in Zimbabwe.
In this regard, the report
argues, it was important to note that the concomitant feature of
every civil war was an exodus of refugees fleeing their own countries
and seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries.
“No doubt Botswana,
a country that shares the longest border line with Zimbabwe, would
have become the destination of choice for most refugee seekers from
Zimbabwe,” it says. “The problem of refugee influx into
Botswana would have created great problems for Botswana in its wake.”
The report says Botswana
clearly believed that her stand would find favour with both Britain
and the US. Regionally, Zambia under the late President Levy Mwanawasa,
had also adopted a stance against Zanu-PF’s aggressive tendencies.
was not isolated in the position she took. The likelihood of being
supported by the US and the British therefore might have provided
some sort of impetus for Botswana to Pivot,” the reports read.
It says for Botswana
to be regarded as a pivot between MDC-T and Zanu-PF, it had to show
that it had leverage over the two parties.
The country had been
sending strong messages to Zanu-PF that any violent takeover of
power would not be tolerated and was most likely to invite it into
Even after the
was brokered, Khama continued to express misgivings about such an
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