Monday, September 21, 2020

Dow denies resignation linked to SA, Bots diplomatic tension

Former International Affairs Minister Unity Dow maintains her latest decision to quit Cabinet does not have anything to do with the ongoing diplomatic tiff between Botswana and South Africa.The timing of her resignation, coming on the back of the heavily publicised Ian Khama, Bridget Motsepe press conference followed by a statement from the South African government condemning Botswana’s conduct in relation to the alleged Bank of Botswana P100 billion heist, fuelled speculation that Dow could have fallen out with President Mokgweetsi Masisi over the matter.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation have been completely side-lined by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the latter’s efforts to seek mutual legal assistance from the SA government.The DPP’s initial decision to engage Afrikaner pressure group AfriForum only served to further cripple the already severed relations between Masisi and Cyril Ramaphosa’s administrations. Dow’s silence on a matter that fell within her portfolio as Minister of International Affairs, and her subsequent decision to step down, have given credence to speculation about the former Minister’s difference of opinion with President Masisi, DPP’s Stephen Tiroyakgosi, and Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) boss Brigadier Peter Magosi. It remains a subject of speculation as to why the DPP bypassed the Ministry to directly seek mutual legal assistance from the SA government. Mutual legal assistance is a form of cooperation between countries for the purpose of collecting and exchanging information. A state may ask for and provide evidence located in another to assist in criminal investigations or proceedings in from the other country.

This is in the form of a formal request from the judicial authority of the State to a judicial authority of the other State in which the requested judicial authority is asked to perform one or more specified actions, usually collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses on behalf of the requesting judicial authority.Requests are under normal circumstances transmitted through diplomatic channels. After the prosecutor prepares a request, it is authenticated by the competent national court in the requesting State and then delivered by the foreign affairs ministry to the embassy of the requested State. Dow’s Ministry of International Affairs have however been conspicuously absent from the process.The SA government expressed shock at Botswana’s conduct in relation to a request for cooperation on the alleged money laundering case implicating Motsepe (Ramaphosa’s sister in law) and former President Khama.

“The enlisting of the assistance of a non-governmental organization, to deal with such matters which are purely of a diplomatic and bilateral nature is unprecedented,” SA’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services wrote in a press statement this past week. “In international law, the SADC Protocol on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters -makes no provision for non-governmental entities to serve as intermediaries between States whether solicited or not, since bilateral relations is the exclusive preserve of sovereign nations.” The SA government confirmed receiving a mandamus application from AfriForum on behalf of Botswana. The application, they said, contains confirmatory affidavits ‘purportedly’ signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Tiroyakgosi.The desperation demonstrated by the DPP actions seems, by all accounts, unwarranted given SA’s own confirmation that they have provided Botswana with mutual legal assistance on six matters in 2019 alone.Speaking to Sunday Standard former foreign minister Dow would not be drawn into discussing the current diplomatic tensions between the two countries saying her resignation was based on internal Botswana Democratic Party matters.

While she denies having made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to quit office over the previous weeks Sunday Standard has been reliably informed the Specially Elected MP expressed her decision to President Masisi as early as mid-July 2020. “I believe I can contribute more to Parliamentary debates as a back-bencher than a minister,” she has said.

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