Mugabe pays tribute to Botswana
Gaborone – Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe on Monday said his country’s independence could not have come without assistance from countries such as Botswana.
“Some of our young men died here. Some passed through here. We don't forget that contribution and that binds us,” Mugabe told reporters in Kanye village, 70 kilometres from Gaborone.
His visit was to pay respects to the former first lady, Olebile Masire, the wife of former president, Sir Ketumile Masire who died on May 18 and was laid to rest on May 25.
Before his transit to Kanye, President Mugabe had lunch with President Ian Khama at the State House.
President Mugabe told journalists in Kanye that he saw it fit to express their condolences not only in words, but to come to Botswana and meet former president Masire and his family to express their condolences and deep sorrow.
“My brother here (Masire) was the President of Botswana and during that time, as president to president and as first lady to first lady, the governments of Botswana and Zimbabwe, we built that amity between us, the closeness between us which perhaps we don't always get as people,” he said.
He added that: “We became brothers and sisters. We made our contribution to the region together and let it be known that, that relationship occurred even before the independence of Namibia and the political dispensation of South Africa” President Mugabe first signed a book of condolences and later laid a wreath on the former First Lady's grave.
Mugabe reiterated his statement that although he could not attend the funeral due to work commitments, he saw it necessary to express his condolences in person.
“I have undertaken the visit, both on behalf of my family and also representing the people of Zimbabwe because Mai Masire was the First Lady of Botswana for a long time,” said Mugabe. President Mugabe said the two countries and others in the region also played an important role in brokering peace between Frelimo and Renamo in Mozambique.
“We assisted in Mozambique, President Masire and me as chairman of the Organ on Politics, as we tried to get Frelimo and Renamo led by (Afonso) Dhlakama together.
“This happened over a period, but the main meeting was in November 1992 when finally there was an agreement between the two sides,” he said. He added that, “So when we heard of the passing of Mai Masire, we said to ourselves, our good lady, our beloved lady is gone.” President Mugabe was accompanied by the First Lady Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and senior Government officials. Masire led Botswana from 1980 to 1998 and was succeeded by President Festus Mogae.