The government has confirmed that it has evoked a Visa Requirement clause from the Immigration Act to add Basarwa lawyer, Advocate Gordon Bennett and former African National Congress youth leader Julius Malema to the list of 17 individuals who need visas to enter Botswana.
Malema and Bennett join 17 individuals from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada who now need visas to enter Botswana. The list appears to comprise primarily of human rights activists, academics and journalists.
Under normal circumstances, the nationals of the above-mentioned four countries are exempt from Botswana visa requirements.
Regulation 5 (1) specifies that “No visa shall be required by a national of a country visited in the first schedule, who is the holder of a valid passport issued by that country unless the Minister by notice published in the Government Gazette declares that such a person is required to obtain a visa.” The UK, USA, Australia and Canada are included in the first schedule.
Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ikwatlhaeng Bagopi, confirmed the latest development in an interview.
“Contrary to reports, Bennett has not been declared a Prohibited Immigrant. But in order for him to come to Botswana next time he should apply for a visa. If he does not obtain a visa he will not be allowed to come into the country,” he said. Bagopi also confirmed that Bennett was not the only one who is required to obtain a Visa in order to enter the country.
“There are countries whose citizens need Visas even though it’s not a requirement for other citizens. They should seek authority to come here,” he said.
Asked what prompted the Government’s decision to slap Visa regulations on Bennett, Bagopi was non committal.
“We are looking at many things, among them security considerations for our country and whether it is in the best interest of our country when that person is in the country,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary also admitted that Bennett had been visiting the country without having to apply for Visas.
“The Visa requirements say you have to tell us when you are coming, flight details and what you are going to do in the country,” he said. Bagopi admitted that it would be the prerogative of the authorities whether to grant or reject Bennett’s Visa application when he intends to visit Botswana.
“When you apply for a Visa you should expect yes or no. But I’m not saying that Bennett’s application will be rejected when he applies for a Visa; it will depend on whether he meets the requirements,” said Bagopi.
Bennett recently successfully challenged the relocation of Basarwa from Ranyane settlement in Ghanzi District.
Speculation is rife that Bennett is being targeted for Visa requirements because of his association with United Kingdom-based human rights organisation, Survival International. Recently reports indicated that Bennett was interrogated by Government departments, but spokesperson Jeff Ramsay has denied such reports in a press statement.
Malema on the other hand earned the wrath of the Botswana government two years ago when he attacked President Ian Khama and called for an urgent government change in Botswana. Malema, who was then still ANC Youth League (ANC-YL) President said the ANC-YL would establish a “command team” to work towards united opposition against the “puppet regime” of President Ian Khama. The two other latest entries on the list are Joseph Bennett and Elizabeth Holberton
The other 17 affected individuals are: Steven Corry, Miriam Ross, Fiona Watson, Jonathan Mazower, Janie Workman, Jonathan Reed, David White, John Walsh, Oliver Duff, Karin Goodwin, Carol Midgley, and Jonathan Simpson ÔÇô all from the UK. Corry, Ross, Watson and Mazower are all from Survival International (SI), government’s well-known nemesis in the CKGR saga.
The listed Americans are: Rupert Isaacson, Eric Grossberg and Tom Price; while Ian Taylor is an Australian and Daniella Stor is Canadian.
Seven of the people in the list are journalists. They include Simpson, the respected world affairs editor with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Financial Times of London’s South African correspondent, Reed and its African editor, White; Price, a highly respected American freelance journalist who often contributes to major publications such as the Los Angeles Times. Other journalists are: Duff (Independent ÔÇô UK), Goodwin (Sunday Times ÔÇô Scotland), and Midgley (The Times ÔÇô UK).
Taylor is an Australian academic who previously worked as a lecturer on African Affairs at the University of Botswana. He co-authored a critical paper entitled “Presidential Succession in Botswana: No model for Africa” with Professor Kenneth Good. Speculation is rife that that paper, which Good was unable to present, led to his unceremonious deportation from Botswana.
American Isaacson is known to be with the Indigenous Land Rights Fund, while Grossberg is suspected to be associated with an organisation that deals with conflict-free diamond issues.