Thursday, June 13, 2024

Khama afraid of legal process, not death threats-Gov’t

The Botswana government has said former president Ian Khama is, in fact, running away from the legal process as opposed to threats to his own life.

The government says it is in everyone’s interest that the former president remains safe from any harm. Speaking to Sunday Standard following news reports from South Africa calling for Khama to leave, State President Assistant Minister, Meshack Mthimkhulu, said Khama never alluded to any threats to his life when he left the country.

“He denied reports that he was fleeing the country. He said he left on a short notice and would be back soon,” Mthimkhulu said. 

“Khama’s only fear is facing prosecution.” Mthimkhulu said it was not an anomaly that a former president would face criminal charges, citing former South African, US, and French presidents.

“Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been prosecuted and even jailed but he never ran away,” the Assistant Minister told Sunday Standard, adding “Former US president Donald Trump is also facing prosecution. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was also prosecuted by the state. They all submitted themselves to the legal process. They may not have liked it but they understood the nature of a democratic legal process.”

Mthimkhulu said Khama’s actions speak to the “mind-set of the man” and not any wrong doing by the government of Botswana. He also made reference to Khama’s failed pre-emptive attempts to block possible extradition attempts by Botswana’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) saying now the former president has already exposed himself to possible incarceration by the SA government should the DPP decide to apply for his extradition.

“It has now come to a point where, should the necessary legal processes be undertaken, he will be jailed while awaiting the extradition process to be concluded.”

Since he is not fearing for his own safety, Mthimkhulu said, that is why Khama contemplated relocating to the Kingdom of Eswatini upon losing his legal attempt to block extradition.  “It is not our wish as the government of Botswana for our own former state president to be incarcerated in a foreign country awaiting extradition.”

Questions about Khama’s residential status in SA emerged again following a statement by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius Malema that Khama should “go back to Botswana”.

Malema was responding to a question from a journalist about the status of Khama’s resident in the country. Khama fled to SA in 2021 following charges relating to “unlawful possession of firearms, procuring the registration of firearms by false pretences and ownership of unregistered firearms”.

A warrant of arrest was eventually issued against the former president by the Gaborone High Court in December 2021.

Khama unsuccessfully filed an urgent application in January 2023 opposing the warrant of arrest. He had also unsuccessfully filed a review application earlier in 2022 against the DPP’s decision to charge him in relation to the firearms case arguing that the prosecution did not personally serve him with the charge sheet and summons as he was out of the jurisdiction of the Court.

Assistant Minister of State President, Mthimkhulu, also confirmed to Sunday Standard that the state did organise a workshop for international media to counter Khama’s “propaganda” against the government Botswana and President Mokgweetsi Masisi. “We had to respond,” he said. “We cannot allow Khama to use South Africa as a platform to attack Botswana. And we responded adequately.” Mthimkhulu said the former president’s “attacks” undermined the democratic principles, institutions, as well as national interests of Batswana at large.

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