The Zimbabwean government has hit back at the President of Botswana, Ian Khama, over his call for 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, reports Al Jazeera.
In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, President Khama reportedly called on his Zimbabwean counterpart to resign, adding that Mugabe’s resignation would be in the best interest of Zimbabwe and the South African region.
Two days later, Zimbabwean Minister for Information Chris Mushohwe released a statement castigating the Botswana leader:
“The government of Zimbabwe is shocked by this uncharacteristic behavior on the part of President Khama. It is taboo in African etiquette and diplomacy,” Mushohwe said in a statement on Friday.
“We sincerely hope that this will be the last time Botswana’s leader opens his mouth to bad mouth President Mugabe and fellow African leaders. Why should President Mugabe be removed from office unconstitutionally as President Khama’s sentiments seem to suggest?”
In his remarks, President Khama urged Mugabe to step down to allow new leadership to solve the current economic crisis that has “dragged down the entire South African region since 2000.”
“It’s obvious that at his [Mugabe’s] age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he’s not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament,” President Khama said.
He also said that Zimbabwe has plenty of people with good leadership qualities to take over.
These comments come at a time when President Mugabe is facing stiff challenge from protesters who have been calling for his resignation since July.
The anti-government protest was triggered by the collapsing economy and Mugabe’s refusal to relinquish power after almost four decades of being in power.
Many protesters have also been angered by Mugabe’s declaration that he will be vying for another term in office in 2018.
Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, has dismissed calls to step down, promising to “crash” anyone protesting against him.
Meanwhile, the economy has forced many Zimbabweans to flee to neighboring countries, including Botswana, for greener pastures.