Zimbabwe’s controversial re-election of President Robert Mugabe is bringing new pressure on South Africa to resolve the conflict, and raising military tensions with neighboring Botswana.
Leaders of the G-8 and several African nations scolded South African Prime Minister Thabo Mbeki at a meeting in Japan Tuesday, saying his efforts to mediate Zimbabwe’s political crisis are not working, the Mail & Guardian of South Africa reports.
With violence against the Zimbabwean opposition escalating, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are pushing for harsher sanctions.
However, some African leaders, including Mbeki, warned against sanctions they said could potentially destabilize Zimbabwe, resulting in civil war.
At a press conference during the G-8 summit, Tanzanian president and African Union chairman Jakaya Kikwete and President Bush agreed to an additional meeting on the subject in August.
“Not all African leaders are in a position to support sanctions at this time,” Bush aide Dan Price told allAfrica.com following the president’s meeting with Kikwete.
Botswana, which is situated on Zimbabwe’s southwestern border, has joined the fray by refusing to recognize Mugabe’s contested re-election.
“We have no problem with the people of Zimbabwe, but we have a problem with someone who will beat up other people on the run-up to elections,” foreign affairs minister Phantu Skelemani told Botswana’s Mmegi newspaper.
SW Radio Africa also reported that Botswana has deployed an Army brigade at its border, to prevent post-election violence — which has left 20 people dead since the June 27 run-off election — from spilling over from Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, however, saw the move as provocative.
“If there are some who may want to fight us, they should think twice. We don’t intend to fight any neighbors. We are a peaceful country, but if there is a country, a neighboring country that is itching for a fight, ah, then let them try it,” Mugabe said to supporters last week.
“Mugabe is not President”
Mmegi (Botswana), July 7, 2008
“G-8 leaders grill Mbeki on Zimbabwe”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), July 8, 2008
“Deadly Zim violence intensifying, says MDC”
Mail & Guardian, July 7, 2008
“African leaders oppose sanctions”
AllAfrica.com, July 2, 2008
“Mugabe’s Regional War Talk”
AllAfrica.com & SW Radio Africa, July 4, 2008
“President Bush and President Kikwete of Tanzania Discuss G8 Working Working Session with Africa Outreach Representatives”
Press conference transcript, July 7, 2008