BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
Member of Parliament for Lobatse Sadique Kebonang has called on government to lift the visa restriction conditions imposed of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) Leader Julius Malema.
Responding to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Thursday, November 22nd Kebonang said there was no reason to keep Malema on the Visa restriction list because he was not posing any threat to anyone or the country.
“I would like to call upon you, there is a particular politician, it is unpopular to talk about him in some quarters, that I think time has come for you to reconsider whether Julius Malema should still be in the list of people who are required to have Visas,” Kebonang said.
Kebonang also called for the same to be extended to Malema’s comrade and EFF’s National Chairperson Dali Mpofu and Basarwa lawyer Gordon Bennet among others.
“Whether lawyers representing people in this country such as representing Basarwa, Gordon Bennett is supposed to be in the Visa restriction, and so Dali Mpofu. I see this purely, based on that they are not a threat. I have never seen a lawyer being a threat simply for carrying the mandate of his clients to come and represent them in a court that exists in Botswana,” Kebonang said.
Malema and Mpofu were among a number of foreign nationals former President Ian Khama’s regime had placed on visa restrictions. The controversial EFF leader’s visa restriction followed an invitation from the 2014 Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) council candidate Arafat Khan to address a campaign rally in Molepolole in the lead up to the highly contested General Elections.
Malema had always made public his stance against Khama’s style of governance. A friend of UDC President Duma Boko and one of Hollywood’s top actors, Rick Yune, was also placed under Visa restriction following his visit to Botswana, and addressing a UDC press conference in Gaborone. The Khama regime believed the American to be one of the major donors for the coalition in the buildup to elections. Responding to a question on how many foreigners needed to apply for a visa when entering the country and their countries of origin then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu said they included South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom.
“This is done for monitoring purposes, hence as a country, the protection of our national interests and security are a priority,” Batshu told Parliament in 2014.
British advocate Bennett, who has represented Basarwa against the government and Survival International’s Miriam Ross were among those required to apply for visas to enter Botswana. Bennett and Malema’s applications for visas were rejected.
Still in his response to SONA Kebonang also accused his government of religious intolerance. “I do not know why that is the case. I know that in this House we have passed certain laws, again those laws I think were based on our own prejudices, where we now sought to have a minimum number for one private church. We seem to have put people on Visa requirements that do not threaten the security of this country,” the Lobatse Legislator said.