Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SA businesswoman’s woes sour Gaborone, Pretoria relations

A diplomatic row between Gaborone and Pretoria heightened this week as President Cyril Ramaphosa sent a special envoy to meet with President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

This follows a decision by the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) to engage South African alleged white supremacist organization, Afriforum, to help facilitate a request by the Botswana for mutual legal assistance from South African government in the Bank of Botswana fraud and money-laundering saga.

The Telegraph has learnt that as tension between Botswana and South Africa boiled over, relations between the two neghbouring countries are at a risk of deteriorating to a point of weakened cooperation between the two.

Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, said Ramaphosa’s Special Envoy, Minister of State and Security Ayanda Dlodlo will meet with Masisi on 30th June in the afternoon.

This will not be the first time that Ramaphosa took a decision to send a special envoy to meet with Masisi over a related diplomatic spat. In April last year, Ramaphosa sent the then Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu to meet with Masisi after businesswoman Bridgette Radebe who is also Ramaphosa’s sister-in-law was accused by Botswana Government of meddling in the country’s politics during the build-up to the 2019 general elections.

Leagajang was cagey when contacted for comment. “The meeting is normally secret but part of the meeting is all about COVID-19 issues,” he said. He was non-committal when asked to comment on whether the decision to engage Afriforum by Botswana issue was part of the agenda. Immediate comment from Foreign Affairs Minister Unity Dow was not available.

As the storm rages on, the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has also waded in, accusing the government of being in cahoots with white supremacists.

The Sunday Times quoted the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco)’ spokesperson Clayson Monyela as saying:“AfriForum is barking up the wrong tree, as we have documentary proof that the request for mutual legal assistance was received by Dirco, which responded to the Botswana High Commission and also transmitted the request to the department of justice.”

Monyela is also quoted as saying that after receiving the MLA request from the Botswana High Commission on September 17 2019, its chief directorate for consular services acknowledged receipt of the request a week later, on September 25 2019.

The head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, Gerrie Nel is quoted as saying that there had been no response to this request. Nel said on Tuesday the brief from the DPP was to facilitate any request or development related to a request for mutual legal assistance in the matter.

Nel reportedly said money originating from the Bank of Botswana was illegally laundered through various international accounts, and $48m (about R828m at Tuesday’s exchange rate) found its way into various accounts in SA.

In a statement, the LSB said it was alarmed that the Government of Botswana has elected to engage the services of Afriforum, an organization in South Africa whose principal preoccupation is to fight for the preservation of the legacy of apartheid and set itself up as opposing force to reforms that seek to redress racial inequalities of the past.

“The purpose of the engagement, as we understand it, is to assist in processing mutual legal assistance requests made to the South African Government. The Government’s decision is incomprehensible and perplexing given that there is extensive choice of legal representation in South Africa, in view of its much larger population and more developed legal services industry,” reads the statement.

In choosing Afriforum, ahead of many other Afrikaner legal practitioners, whose commitment to the values of racial equality are indisputable, society said, the Government is conveying to its citizens that it is ready to harbor and provide a paradise for racists and supremacists.

According to South African media, while pleading her innocence, the politically-connected woman is now threatening to sue the Botswana government. I’ll sue everybody. Remember who we are. We are the protégés of great men. I’m Motsepe’s child,” she reportedly charged.

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The Telegraph October 21

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.