Former Botswanan President Ketumile Masire has leveled a tacit but sharp criticism at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in a book just published which speaks of the “political and economic destruction of Zimbabwe” under Mr. Mugabe's rule.
Writing about Zimbabwe, Masire speaks of the “persecution of many Africans and the destruction of the capacity of the economy to function.” He does not take Mr. Mugabe to task explicitly - but the implication is quite clear that he deplores his legacy.
The ex-president’s book, entitled “Very Brave or Very Foolish: Memoirs of an African Diplomat,” was published by Macmillan Botswana Publishing in Gaborone to coincide with the recent 40th anniversary of Botswanan independence.
Masire says that his relationship with Mugabe was chilly from the start when Botswana maintained a close relationship with Joshua Nkomo, Mugabe’s rival in Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. Mr. Mugabe "appeared to mistrust us," Masire writes.
The author says that he hoped relations would improve once Zimbabwe had secured its independence, but says those hopes were dashed when Harare imposed duties on imports from Botswana in what he calls “a violation of our free trade agreement.”
For a Botswanan perspective, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed historian-author Jeff Ramsay, who is also press secretary to Botswana President Festus Mogae, who said Masire's book is one of the first accounts of the liberation period from a senior participant which is also reasonably candid.
Attorney Tafadzwa Mugabe of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said that the criticism from Masire is welcome - but comes when the damage has been done.