Highly critical of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, the President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana has decided to boycot a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in South Africa this weekend because the veteran Harare leader will be in attendance.
Botswana has said in recent months that Mugabe is not the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe after winning a violent, one-man presidential race in June.
The opposition pulled out of the election because of violence against its supporters, allegedly by government militants.
Since then, Botswana has led a crusade in SADC against Mugabe, saying he should not be allowed to represent Zimbabwe at SADC or continental meetings.
However, Botswana is being represented by its foreign minister.
Earlier, Zimbabwean officials threatened on Thursday to stop Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, from travelling to South Africa, where regional leaders meet this weekend for a summit set to be dominated by the Zimbabwe crisis.
Officials at Harare’s airport seized the passports of Mr Tsvangirai and two top advisers, before handing them back a few hours later without explanation.
Mr Tsvangirai is hoping to use the occasion to continue cajoling African leaders into taking a tougher line with the ageing autocrat.
Maintaining momentum has been central to his MDC party’s goal of pressuring Mr Mugabe to cede power. Mr Tsvangirai’s aides have crossed the continent in recent days urging leaders to boycott the summit.
Mr Tsvangirai and his advisers were hoping to leave on an evening flight to Johannesburg.
Their documents may have been taken by Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation. However, there was speculation that the Zimbabwe authorities had been urged to return them by South Africa.