The State House has said stories that Malawi President Joyce Banda requested for a ride on the Botswana presidential jet on her planned trip to the US are a fabrication.
Reputable media outlets in Botswana, quoting that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Phandu Skelemani, were at the weekend awash with reports that the President asked her counterpart, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was also scheduled to make the trip to the US, to offer her the lift on his presidential jet.
But making a clarification on reports that the Botswana government turned down the request, Skelemani on Monday said his government did not snub Banda. He said it was not possible for the two leaders to travel together because Khama has since cancelled his trip to the US.
Said Skelemani: “It is true she requested to fly with us, but we declined because the President [Khama] will not be going to America.”
The story is published on Standard Online publication (www.sundaystandard.info) in Botswana and Africa Review among other outlets.
But presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane, in a written response to a questionnaire on Tuesday, said the President never asked for a ride in the Botswana presidential jet to the US.
Nhlane said State House was making commercial flight arrangements for the President to and from Washington DC.
The President is currently in the United Kingdom and has a planned official trip to Botswana next week Monday before connecting to the US where she has been invited by the US government to visit Washington DC alongside three other African leaders.
Nhlane said: “People should know that the government of Botswana invited Her Excellency for a State visit to that country. Her Excellency is undertaking that visit. Some people seem quite unsettled with this and are doing all they can to try and spoil the visit as well as the good and growing relations between the two countries.
“Malawi and Botswana have a general cooperation agreement and the State visit will help to strengthen this cooperation in areas of trade and investment.”
Botswana, the State House said, could not have turned down a request that was not made.
Malawi, bowing to pressure from the donor community and local activists to sell a presidential jet on the basis it was expensive to maintain and run, finally made a decision to put the aircraft for sale.