Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

Why SA billionaires, diplomats are accused of trying to overthrow Botswana’s president

Botswana MasisiDIRCO have moved swiftly to separate the government from any potential link to the political situation in Botswana, but allegations have been flying about.

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Maintaining strong diplomatic relations with a neighbouring country is a cornerstone of our democracy. That’s why International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has been flying back and forth to Botswana recently after several allegations of “political interference” were made against South African businesspeople and diplomats.

On Tuesday, the Botswana government confirmed they were satisfied that no political representatives were involved with a “regime change” plot, but their guard remains in place.

Who is Bridgette Radebe?

Bridgette Radebe, one of the influential figures caught up in this yarn, has been slapped with travel restrictions to our northerly neighbour. Usually, no South African would need a visa to cross the border into Botswana – but that requirement has now been put in place especially for her.

But why is President Mokgweetsi Masisi on such high alert? We’ve briefly unpacked the current situation that’s developed between our two countries, in an attempt to make a little more sense of what’s happening:

Botswana and South Africa: Who’s influencing who?

At the end of March, a report from a Botswanan national newspaper – the Sunday Standard – had alleged that both SA and UN representatives were aware there would be an effort to topple the current regime. This prompted the government to deploy armoured vehicles and soldiers to key strategic points in Gaborone.

This was the start of a slew of accusations aimed towards South African bigwigs. In the past month, Bridgette Radebe – wife of Energy Minister Jeff Radebe – was blamed for funding an opposition candidate to run against Masisi at the Botswana Democratic Party conference.

Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is the former foreign minister who was said to be preparing a bid to oust the incumbent president. The political situation in Botswana has become strained, with the current regime facing fierce international criticism. In fact, ex-leader Ian Khama has publicly stated his disdain for Masisi.

Radebe’s “support” for PVM raises suspicion because of how close she is to a political network. As well as her husband being a cabinet member, she’s the sister of Cyril Ramaphosa’s wife, Tshepo Motsepe. Patrice Motsepe, one of Mzansi’s most prominent billionaires, is also her brother – and he hasn’t escaped criticism either.

How Patrice Motsepe has been dragged into the Botswana debate

Patrice has been accused of wanting to destabilise the government in Botswana by the BLF, who said he has an active interest in the country’s diamond mines. This latest claim could end badly for the political party, who already have Motsepe’s lawyers on their case.

However, after the apple-cart had been upset, it seems that there have been no significant ramifications for DIRCO or the South African government. Sisulu confirmed that the meeting with her counterparts went well, and the situation remains “cordial” between both states.

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