The Botswana government is engaged in a bitter visa war with South Africa’s opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), it has been revealed.
EFF, which has declared in their manifesto that should they assume power in their country, they will isolate Botswana as it is home to imperialists and will convince other African countries to do the same, seems to have rubbed government the wrong way.
Botswana government through the Department of Immigration has slapped visa restrictions against the EFF leadership.
A few days before South African President Jacob Zuma arrived in Botswana, the department listed EFF’s Dali Mpofu, the party’s chief whip Floyd Shivambu, MPs Magdalene Moonsamy and Andile Mngixtama and spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi among people who require visas to enter the country.
Prior to this, during the General Elections last month, they placed a visa restriction on the EFF firebrand leader Julius Malema - making him the first South African to need a visa to come to Botswana. At the time, Malema was to attend an Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) rally at the invitation of the party’s then Borakalalo council candidate in Molepolole, Arafat Khan, who has since won the seat.
In an interview on the sidelines of the South Africa/Botswana Bi-National Commission held in Gaborone recently, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu said that the EFF leaders are a security risk to the country.
“We need to monitor them when they come to our country and know their activities whilst in Botswana. It is not like they have been prohibited from coming here,” said Batshu.
Asked what EFF leaders have done that warrants government to impose visa restrictions on them, Batshu said that he could not divulge the reasons, noting that it is intelligence that they cannot share with public.
Batshu refuted allegations that government rarely approves visa application for people that they have imposed visa restrictions on, saying that if they apply well in time they could be granted one.
He denied accusations that they were in cohorts with the South African ruling party, African National Congress, which is facing a torrid time in the country’s parliament due to EFF Members of Parliament, to frustrate EFF and ensure that the movement does not spread to Botswana.
EFF has since its formation has taken swipes at President Ian Khama and his government accusing them of stifling freedom of expression in the country and being a stooge for western countries, especially the United States of America (USA).
Botswana government has a close relationship with ANC at both government and party level and the growth of EFF into Botswana could prove lethal to both parties. Currently EFF has close relationship with Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) especially its secretary general, Khan. BNF is a member of the UDC.
Are Namibia and Botswana trying to close off EFF?
EFF, which was formed to be a radical left, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement, has now spread to Namibia, trading under the banner Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters.
Recently EFF members were detained in Windhoek, Namibia en route to a rally of NEFF ahead of the country elections. Their detention came on the heels on Botswana imposing visa restriction on Malema and the party noted that they see sinister motives on the two incidents.
Permanent secretary in Namibia’s ministry of home affairs and immigration, Patrick Nandango was quoted in one of Namibia’s local newspaper, saying that EFF members need visa to enter the country as they were coming to work. Namibia’s ruling party, SWAPO, has close relationship with both ANC and BDP and the three parties have been in power since their countries took power.