Zimbabwe appeals Botswana rangers ruling

The Zimbabwe government is appealing a Monday court ruling in which a Magistrate’s court dropped two of the three counts that Botswana wildlife officers were facing in the country.

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The officers were facing charges of entering the country illegally, smuggling a vehicle into the country, and possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence. They were fined USD100 each for illegal entry into the country, while the other charges were dropped.

The three officers were released yesterday but the vehicle and firearms were confiscated so they could be used as evidence in the appeal case, said Botswana Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Gladys Kokorwe. The three officers spent their last night in jail on Monday after the acquittal, as they had to wait for immigration officials to escort them to the border. They were arrested on January 19, after they accidentally crossed into the country while tracking lions that had been terrorising farmers at Lesoma village along the borderline.

Speaking on the issue yesterday principal public relations officer for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Archibald Ngakaagae said that the three officers are expected in Gaborone in the next two days where they will undergo counseling, medical checkups and be given days off.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi told a press conference this week that Botswana was overreacting to the issue, which he said was an administrative one.

An online news agency said that the minister cited two police officers from their country who were arrested last year for accidentally crossing into the country and they were tried and acquitted by the court here. He stated that they wanted to allow their courts to do their work without interference from government.

“As the Zimbabwean government, we have no intentions of straining relations between ourselves and Botswana because we share the same border and we belong to the same continent,” the agency quoted Mohadi as saying.

“That is a good statement and I hope it could be followed in action,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani responded. He said that the Botswana government still has faith that relations could be normalised through dialogue.

He confirmed that the two governments will engage in talks on the 22nd of this month at Victoria Falls during which “all security matters including the border issue” will be discussed. He stated that they have not reported the matter to the Southern Africa Development Community because of the belief that things could still be normalised.

The Botswana government has already recalled its military and intelligence officers attached to its embassy in Harare and announced that it expects Zimbabwe to do the same before end of this month.

Skelemani said that the outcome of the talks will determine whether the two governments can reinstate the military, and intelligence attach�s to the embassies.

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