Close your borders to bring down Mugabe, says minister

Zimbabwe's neighbours should close their borders in an attempt to bring down President Robert Mugabe, Botswana's foreign minister said in the strongest call yet for action from Africa.

Zimbabwe's neighbours should close their borders in an attempt to bring down President Robert Mugabe, Botswana's foreign minister said in the strongest call yet for action from Africa.

Foreign minister Phandu Skelemani told BBC World News television yesterday that southern African nations have failed to move Mugabe with mediation and they should now impose sanctions.

The leaders should "tell Mugabe to his face, 'Look, now you are on your own, we are switching off, we are closing your borders,' and I don't think he would last. If no petrol went in for a week, he can't last," said Skelemani.

Zimbabwe's government made no immediate comment.

Botswana and Zambia have been lonely African voices against Mugabe as Zimbabwe has undergone an economic and political crisis in which agriculture, health and education services have collapsed and shortages of food, clean water, medicine, electricity and fuel have become routine.

South Africa began taking a harder line last week, announcing it was withholding R30million in agricultural aid until Mugabe forms a coalition government with the opposition. It still appears unlikely to heed Botswana's call for a closure of its border, the lifeline for landlocked Zimbabwe, for fear of creating a wider humanitarian crisis.

An outbreak of cholera among hundreds of Zimbabweans has spread to South Africa and Botswana in recent weeks.

South Africa is hosting a new round of talks aimed at getting Zimbabwe's rival parties to agree on wording of a constitutional amendment that would form the legal basis for a unity government with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister.

But opposition sources said yesterday the two sides cannot even agree on what to discuss and are meeting "without prejudice" - meaning nothing binding will result.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a media blackout imposed by the mediator, said opposition negotiators are pressing renewed calls for the withdrawal of mediator Thabo Mbeki, the ousted South African president whom they accuse of favouring Mugabe.

Among other issues, Tsvangirai's party wants to negotiate the sharing of cabinet posts. Mugabe's party, says secretary-general Kumbirai Kangai, is prepared only to give them the finance ministry among key portfolios and to share the contentious post of home affairs. - Sapa-AP

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