A border dispute is reportedly brewing between Botswana and Zimbabwe, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt. The neighbouring countries officials allegedly all declared overlapping boundaries on either side during the border line reaffirmation exercise that was conducted last year. In 2006, Botswana and Zimbabwe were once locked in a border dispute along the Kazungula frontier, thereby delaying the construction of the multi-million Pula Kazungula Bridge between Botswana and Zambia. Numerous attempts by former President Festus Mogae, then Presidential Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani and the late Foreign Affairs Minister, Mompati Merafhe, to resolve the issue amicably with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe failed. This publication has been reliably informed that the exercise started in 2010 and ended last year in June. However, the two countries are involved in unremitting disagreements over the border line, hence the dragging on of the exercise this far. After the reaffirmation exercise, sources have hinted that the two countries were expected to maintain the border line and put up new beacons marking the boundary line between Botswana and Zimbabwe. According to informed sources, the reaffirmation exercise started at Tuli Circle in the central administrative district to the Makhurare in the Chobe area with the sole purpose of ensuring the regurgitation of the border line.
Defense, Justice and Security Minister Shaw Kgathi confirmed the border reaffirmation exercise but quickly dismissed suggestions that a border dispute is looming between the two neighbours. “It is true that we reaffirmed the borderline between Botswana and Zimbabwe but there is no looming dispute, as you are suggesting,” said Kgathi, adding that the exercise has been going smoothly since its inception many years ago. Kgathi admitted that the exercise started in 2010 and got completed last June and confirmed that they are yet to put up new beacons marking the boundary line. However, he dismissed suggestions that the delay was due to the disagreements, saying that was due to “the complexity of the exercise.” “We are talking of a vast and complex distance from Tuli circle to Makhurare. And it is justifiable that the exercise has taken this long to be completed,” said Kgathi, MP for the borderline constituency of Bobirwa. Kgathi said the issue cannot bubble into a diplomatic row because “we do discuss these issues at the sessions of the Botswana-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission on Defense and Security without animosity.” “We (the joint permanent commission on defense and security teams from Botswana and Zimbabwe) will be meeting sometimes next month to discuss such matters. There is no dispute looming at all,” he said. Attempts to get a comment from the Zimbabwean government proved futile, as phones at its embassy in Gaborone rang unanswered.