GABORONE, May 21 — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has refuted media reports that relations between him and Botswana’s President Ian Khama are hostile, saying it is a figment of the media’s imagination.

Responding to questions at a media conference here Wednesday following his visit to the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) located in the Botswana capital, President Mugabe also denied that relations between the two countries were not friendly.

“On hostility between me and President Khama, no, there is no hostility,” he said. President Mugabe had been asked whether the declaration by Botswana that Zimbabwe’s 2013 harmonized elections were not free and fair was evidence of hostile relations.

He said Botswana, which chose to differ with the SADC and Afircan Union (AU) election observer missions on the conduct of the elections, was entitled to its views. “You do not have people having the same mind always,” he said.

“There was the SADC verdict, the AU verdict. As well as the internal systems that had been running the elections. They had all been of the view that they were free and fair. Those things do happen. You cannot
have a hundred per cent verdict.

“But even if they say they were not free and fair, must we hate them for that? And take spears against them?”

President Mugabe described as nonsense reports that President Khama had left the recent SADC summit of Heads of States and Government in a huff after an altercation with him.

He explained that when President Khama got into the meeting, he had informed him that he wanted to leave at 2 pm. Mugabe is the current Chair of the SADC

President Mugabe said the meeting went on as scheduled and ended just before 2 pm, with the remaining business being issuing of the communiqué and lunch, which President Khama decided to skip. “So we do not push each other away. It is the media which pushes us away,” he said to laughter from the members of the media.

Prior to his arrival in Botswana, some media houses in that country had reported that President Mugabe had not been accorded an honour befitting a head of state. This prompted the Botswana Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to address a media conference where she condemned the media for deliberately seeking to create animosity between the two countries.

Dr Venson-Moitoi, who welcomed Mugabe at the airport and not President Khama, explained that President Mugabe’s visit was not a State visit therefore there would not be a guard of honour at the airport as well the hoisting of national flags.

“It is normal practice throughout the world that as the Minister responsible, I protocol his visit and not the President,” she said. “I afford him the necessary protocols linked with visits of other heads of state visiting the country on other official capacities.”

She said the absence of President Khama at the airport should not be viewed as lack of respect for President Mugabe.

After touring the SADC offices and meeting the secretariat staff, President Mugabe paid a courtesy call on President Khama and they had lunch together, after which he left for home.

President Mugabe also met former Botswana President Sir Khetumile Masire before he returned home.