Friday, September 25, 2020

No end in sight for Bots, SA bilateral tensions

Just as there seemed to be progress in talks between Botswana and South Africa over the mutual legal assistance matter, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has come out to distance themselves from SA’s claims of renewed request for assistance.The DPP Director Stephen Tiroyakgosi has denied any knowledge of a fresh request being made to SA ‘through diplomatic channels’. “I have only learnt of such statement from those who said they saw on social media,” he told this publication.

The contract between the DPP and AfriForum, he said, remains.The SA government released a new statement this past Friday August 28, 2020 claiming Botswana had refreshed its request for mutual legal assistance in relation to the controversial P100 billion money laundering case supposedly implicating former President Ian Khama and SA’s Bridget Motsepe.“The Ministry confirms that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has received a new request for mutual legal assistance on 26 August 2020 (Wednesday late afternoon) from the Republic of Botswana,” the statement from the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services read.“This follows a commitment by the Republic of Botswana, made through diplomatic channels that a new request would be sent.” The Ministry said they would continue to update the Botswana government on the status of their request through diplomatic channels. 

SA had earlier in the week expressed disappointment at the DPP’s decision to engage Afrikaner NGO AfriForum to push the government to respond to Botswana’s request. “These requests are conventionally transmitted through diplomatic channels to provide for direct communication between central authorities of concerned states. Under normal circumstances, each state usually appoints a Central Authority to receive assistance requests and the Central Authorities communicate with each other directly and forward the requests for assistance to the competent authority in their respective States,” another statement from SA’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services said earlier in the past week.The Ministry said Botswana’s enlisting of the assistance of AfriForum to deal with matters which are of a diplomatic and bilateral nature is unprecedented, saying it goes against international law.

A said even 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. “South Africa and Botswana enjoy strong historical relations, dating back to the days of the struggle against apartheid.”AfriForum Advocate Geri Nel has held a couple of press conferences accusing the SA government of defeating the ends of justice by refusing to cooperate with Botswana on the alleged money laundering case.Khama and Motsepe held a press conference together recently with former SA Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Britain’s Cherrie Blair in which they released findings of a forensic investigation sanctioned by the accused duo with the aim of exonerating themselves.The Findings by Blair’s company Omnia Strategy said “there is no evidence that USD10.1 billion ever left the Bank of Botswana or entered international or South African bank accounts.”

They also quoted  Bank of Botswana Governor Moses Pelaelo who was reported to have said the money never left the bank and that Botswana never had that amount of money in its accounts in the first place. “Furthermore, in relation to the alleged inflow into South Africa of part of this money in 2019, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has confirmed it “could not find any record of the (i) transaction referred to, (ii) the payment having been approved (cleared), either inbound or outbound, or (iii) of any cross-border flow of funds in the amount referred to, inbound or outbound from South Africa.”

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