Botswana invited the United States to send troops to guard a transmission station used by the Voice of America’s Studio 7 to broadcast into Zimbabwe, leaked diplomatic cables show.
Zimbabwe’s neighbour was concerned by rising rhetoric against the radio station which is funded by the United States government and broadcasts from Washington through medium and shortwave.
The then Defence, Justice and Security Minister Ramadeluka Seretse is said to have made the extraordinary request in July 2008 over concerns that Zimbabwe would try to take out the controversial transmitters operated by the International Broadcasting Bureau, a US government agency.
Philip R. Drouin, the Chargé d’Affaires at the US embassy in Botswana at the time, said Botswana’s invitation of US troops to be stationed on its soil provided “extensive background on President (Ian) Khama’s strategic thinking, decision-making style, his views of and inclinations towards the United States”.
But as the embassy warned in other dispatches following another Botswana request for arms of war in preparation for a feared invasion by Zimbabwe, it cautioned Washington against granting the request.
Seretse, who resigned in 2010, revealed that Botswana had “placed small numbers of troops at the VOA facilities to provide 24-hour security in the form of roving patrols”, but warned that “if the BDF were to become over-extended due to the Zimbabwe situation, the BDF might no longer be able to provide the troops”.
Other leaked diplomatic cables show that at around the same time, Botswana asked the United States to supply various military equipment, fearing an imminent military assault by Zimbabwe.