Gaborone – A billion dollar row involving Botswana’s former President Ian Khama, South African business mogul Mrs Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe, and some financial institutions threatens to strain relations between authorities in Gaborone and Tshwane.
In an effort to diffuse the blossoming diplomatic row, the two countries’ international relations ministers – Dr Lemogang Kwape (Botswana) and Dr Naledi Pandor (South Africa) – have had several engagements to thrash out the issue.
Ex-President Khama and former Botswana Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) head Mr Isaac Kgosi allegedly used Mrs Motsepe-Radebe and a spy, Mr Wilhelminah Maswabi to funnel P100 billion (US$8.9 billion) from the country’s central bank to financial institutions in South Africa and elsewhere.
Former President Khama and Mrs Motsepe-Radebe deny the charges.
Authorities in Gaborone want South Africa to avail data related to the bank accounts allegedly used in the siphoning, so that the information can be used for possible prosecutions in Botswana. South Africa has been reluctant to do so.
Mr Maswabi (codenamed “Butterfly”) was this week acquitted by the High Court in Botswana on several charges related to the case. Among the charges against him were financing terrorism, money laundering, possession of unexplained property and false declaration of passports.
Justice Zein Kebonang said the charges were “fabricated and outright false”.
This week, Mr Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for South Africa’s Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services, said they had received the High Court judgement and were studying it with a view to engaging the Botswana Government once more on the matter.
He said in an interview with SABC that, “Now that the High Court has ruled on the matter that this case is a fabrication, we will seek clarity from our sister nation. Our particular concern is that they had sought to engage with us through right-wing Afrikaner organisation Afriforum, instead of going through the SADC protocol or bilateral and diplomatic process.”
He also said, “We are taking it up with Botswana and we hope to get a response from them. The accusations which were levelled against us for refusing to assist with information are baseless as a result of the judgement.”
But Botswana’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi, has said South African authorities were to blame for slow progress on the case.