The Sunday Mail
Lincoln Towindo in MAUN, Botswana
THE closing press conference of the Fourth Session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission Summit buzzed with the usual flurry of questions.
Questions to leaders of the two respective countries — President Mnangagwa and his counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi — ranged from inquiries about trade agreements, border cooperation, agricultural development and migration.
But one journalist’s query stood out.
He wanted to know why the two men sitting in front of the room kept referring to each other as “my dear brother”.
While the question elicited a ripple of laughter through the room, it echoed a deeper unspoken curiosity: What binds two powerful men, Heads of State, in such a public display of affection, respect and camaraderie?
The question, though light-hearted, sparked a deeper reflection on the extraordinary bond between the two leaders, cultivated in recent years through high-level exchanges and a shared vision of regional prosperity and integration.
“It’s not a façade,” said President Masisi.
“He is my real brother. (Our relationship is) borne out of our disposition in the positions we hold as leaders, which expresses how we want to be perceived and how we want our citizens to perceive one another.
“So, you and your Zimbabwean counterparts are brothers and sisters, I so declare.
“Because, if the truth be told, that is what we are.”
Africans from different countries, he said, were tied together by historical bonds steeped in respect, unity and family ties.
“I can flip it and say what is behind the non-brotherliness; what was the mischief?” he continued.
“I think you ought to be asking why we have not been calling one another brother all along, from Seretse Khama to Robert Mugabe, may their souls rest in peace.
“They were brothers.”
He said it was the duty of African leaders to inspire unity among citizens from their respective countries.
“When you are a leader, you ought to inspire, demonstrate and be a point of reference for your citizens.
“And, I, Mokgweetsi Masisi, am a true, legitimate and legal brother of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. Full stop!”
On his part, President Mnangagwa said shared traditions and customs among Africans were a compelling reason for closer collaboration between leaders and citizens.
“What you should have asked is: What was the essence in the past, when Presidents did not call each other brothers?” said the President.
“Now that we call each other brother, brother, brother . . . that is an English word.
“In Shona, munin’ina wangu, ini ndiri mukoma.
“In English, I am saying he is my younger brother and I am his elder brother.”
He said, as brothers, the two leaders often consult each other and share knowledge and wisdom to ensure they deliver on the aspirations of their two respective countries.
“Now, because he is President of a republic, I advise him as a younger brother privately,” he continued.
“In the public, he stays as President and I also as President; but when we are together in private, he regards me as elder brother.
“That is African custom.”
He said their brotherhood was rooted in African culture.
“In our African culture, your brother is not only one who is born to the same mother as yourself.
‘‘But every other boy or girl should call each other brother and sister in our custom.
“So, he is my brother and I am his brother and you are also my brother.”
He added: “It is true that even in a family, when you are born, say, three boys and three girls from one mother and possibly one father, you may not all agree, but you don’t cease to be brothers and sisters because of different characters and attributes. You still remain brothers and sisters.”
In their addresses during the summit, the two leaders agreed that their bond extends beyond mere cultural affinity.
They both highlighted their shared vision for the future of the region — a future built on economic cooperation, regional integration and sustainable development.
It was clear that their commitment to tackling common challenges like poverty, climate change and cross-border insecurity has fostered a sense of shared purpose, pushing them beyond mere diplomatic niceties.