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Cablegate: From the Mouths of Babes - Botswana Public Opinion

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DE RUEHOR #0979 3150751
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100751Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY GABORONE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5368
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0379

UNCLAS GABORONE 000979

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/S

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ZI BC
SUBJECT: FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES - BOTSWANA PUBLIC OPINION
ON ZIMBABWE

NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING

1. (U) United Nations Day was celebrated in Botswana
on October 24 in Kang, a small, remote way station on
the Trans-Kalahari Highway in the Central Kalahari
District. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, many
other GOB officials, and representatives from about
14 diplomatic missions and the UN agencies attended
the event.Pol/Econ Officer represented the Embassy.

2. (SBU) The UN Day celebration centered on this
year's theme of Youth Empowerment and featured two
youth choirs, a traditional dance group and a youth
drama group from a local intermediate school. The drama
group wrote a play for the occasion, in which an
imaginary "product" had been developed to aid youth
empowerment. The play's plot involved the marketing
of this "product" to Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Iran's
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Throughout the play, the
promoters of the product were met with lines,
especially from the child portraying Mugabe, that
sounded as though they were taken directly from
speeches - "this is just a Bush plan from the
West," "we don't need the West's interference,"
and "the West can go to hell if they think we will
accept their plans for us."

3. (SBU) The audience, which included hundreds of
local school children and adult community members,
seemed to love this portrayal of Mugabe and laughed
after each line was delivered. However, the Zimbabwean
Ambassador to Botswana, seated in front of Poloff,
was visibly upset by the play and its portrayal of his
government. The Ambassador summoned a UN official to
his seat and repeatedly protested that the play was
insulting and had no connection to the theme of UN Day.
At the end of the play the audience gave it rousing
applause, while the Ambassador from Zimbabwe made a
hasty exit from the gathering, skipping the remaining
UN Day events.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: Though the UN Day celebration was a
light-hearted event, the crowd's reaction to the play
demonstrates that Robert Mugabe does not enjoy grassroots
support in Botswana, including in the most far-off corners
of the country. The audience in Kang was largely made
up of rural Batswana from the central and western part of
the country who are the least impacted by the current
influx of Zimbabwean refugees, and yet even their reaction
seems to show that the average citizen agrees with the
GOB's tough stance against the Mugabe government.
END COMMENT
NOLAN

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