The Botswana government through the department of immigration has denied Economic Freedom Fighters' leader, Julius Malema from visiting the country this weekend to launch Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) council candidate for Borakalalo in Molepolole, Arafat Khan.
Khan, who is also the secretary general for Botswana National Front Youth League has revealed that they might cancel the arrival of other EFF members as it has shown that the environment is not conducive for them.
“Right now the advance team which arrived on Friday is being harassed by being constantly asked to produce their passports and searched for no apparent reasons,” said worried Khan.
Khan, who invited EFF leadership to his launch said that they might find alternative ways for Malema to address them.
By Friday late afternoon, Khan said that they have been told that Malema is still being vetted by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security services (DISS) but said they do not have any hope that he will be granted VISA.
Malema was supposed to be accompanied by a four-strong delegation comprising EFF chief operation officer, Magdeline Moonsmi, its spokesperson Ndlozi, advocate Dali Mpofu and MP Andile Mngxitam.
Last week, one of the local weekly newspapers said that EFF has announced that Malema has been granted visa to visit the country. On Friday, Immigration Director, Mabuse Pule, told a radio station that Malema has not been granted visa as his application was not one of those that were approved this week by the board.
Asked about the document which appeared in Mmegi newspaper showing that Malema’s visa application has been approved, Khan distanced himself saying he does not know anything about it.
Efforts to get comment from Pule were futile as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
Malema, EFF react to the visa denial
Malema who is required to acquire a visa when visiting the country, vented out his frustration on his twitter account, accusing Botswana government of denying him visa.
“This autocratic military government of Botswana has refused me a visa even when the Botswana people want us to visit them this weekend,” wrote on his twitter page.
EFF also issued a statement condemning Gaborone for refusing to grant their leader the visa.
“There are absolutely no grounds for a so-called democratic country to refuse a person a visa merely on the basis that he holds a different political view to that of the government,” reads part of the statement.
They labelled the country as not democratic and cite the recent arrest of Sunday Standard editor, Outsa Mokone for publishing a critical story about President Khama.
The statement, which was signed by its national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi also condemned the silence of the South African government over the issue and said they will raise it in parliament.
EFF is the third-largest party in both houses of the South African parliament, receiving over one million votes translating to a 6.35% share of the vote in the 2014 general election.
The big fall out and visa restrictions on Malema
In 2008 Botswana Democratic Party National Youth Executive Committee led by its chairperson, Kenaleone Motsaathebe, hosted his then counterpart at ANCYL, Malema and other members of his executive in Gaborone.
During a press briefing, Malema stated that they (ANCYL) actually want to "strengthen" the youth wing of the BDP from which they hope to learn how a party stays in power forever and how to bridge over factions.
This was a time when ANC was in political turmoil after the formation of COPE.
However, things took a dramatic turn in 2011 when Malema turned the heat on the Khama led administration saying that they will set up a command centre in Botswana to help oust President Ian Khama’s government. He said the country was a puppet of the west and will work with opposition parties in the country to oust him in the coming general elections.
"The BDP is a foot stool of imperialism, a security threat to Africa and always under constant puppetry [sic] of the United States,” he said while addressing ANCYL members in Johannesburg, South Africa.
His party, ANC did not take kindly to this. It suspended and later expelled him over the remarks and others that he made against the leadership of ANC President, Jacob Zuma.
After he formed his party EFF in 2013, he again took a swipe at Botswana, saying that they will cut economic ties with the Khama administration, should they win the general elections held sometimes this year.
Last year, the government of Botswana imposed visa restrictions on Malema. After he became a Member of Parliament, Malema is now the only prominent South Africa with a diplomatic passport who needs a Visa to visit Botswana after his harsh criticism of the Khama-led government.
Since he entered parliament, Malema and his EFF have been a thorn in the ANC, forcing parliament business to come to a standstill on several occasions.