BDP’s history of banning critics

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 30 April 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Radebe Radebe

Bridgette Radebe joins Julius Malema, Rick Yune, Gordon Bernett, Professor Kenneth Good (Pied) and a long list of critical journalists that former President Sir Ketumile Masire threw out.   

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Bridgette Radebe has joined a list of already blacklisted individuals whose only crime was to dare oppose the Government or fund the opposition or represent the rights of the minorities. In fact, expelling critical foreigners dates back many years with former President Sir Ketumile Masire having spared no effort in showing critical journalists the door back to their countries of origin. She sits among this list with her crime having been to root for and fund a campaign to block a sitting president from gaining a crucial vote of being a presidential candidate for the ruling party. While the ruling party gladly welcomes external support it rebukes with extreme harshness any similar gesture for its opponents – a clear case abusing incumbency to the detriment of rivals.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved to use Government apparatus to fight its own political battles by revoking the free VISA provision for South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) member and top businesswoman Bridgette Radebe on April 17, 2019.

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Radebe will going forward have to apply for a VISA to enter Botswana as punishment for meddling in the BDP political battles after throwing her weight behind Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi who was challenging President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the leadership of the party.

Her hope for the reversal of the ban would be if the opposition wins elections or if the faction she helped could somehow outsmart Masisi and throw him out of power.

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Before the ban, there was shuttle diplomacy between Pretoria and Gaborone as South Africa’s International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu had to come and offer Government’s apology to President Masisi and the BDP for ANC member’s regime change expedition.   

How Radebe was exposed

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A number of deliberate leaks possibly engineered by state security apparatus or her rivals showed the extent of Radebe’s involvement with a BDP faction that had the blessings of former President Ian Khama who eagerly – almost desperately – used every possible means to ensure that Masisi was defeated at the special party congress in Kang.

The leaks – including audio recordings – demonstrated their war plan strategy, including the urgency they faced of transferring funds to Botswana from South Africa which was allegedly to be used to buy delegates to vote for their candidate.

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This exposure of the plan was well timed to block their intentions and forced things to derail to the extent that after candidate lost a last-minute court action to try and bock the congress, she withdrew from the race. Radebe’s involvement was a matter that rattled the BDP’s winning faction that they took the matter up with the ANC and SA presidency, raising exception at the involvement of their member in engineering a regime change.

Having studied in Botswana and very much a close friend some of the country’s political elites, Radebe – also with mining interests in the country – could easily have felt at ease in her act as she saw that helping his associates while also protecting her interests.

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A leaked private chat with the former Chief of Protocol showed how much knowledgeable and interested with national issues she is. In particular what came out strongly was how eager she was to protect and help advance the interest of former President Khama; suggesting even that she would ask her brother to buy an aircraft for him.

Motsepe Radebe is sister in law to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who is married to her sister. She is also the President of South African Mining Development Association.

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Suggestion have been made that she was previously involved in BDP factional fights, going to an extent of supporting a candidate for an elective congress. This however has been denied by those who were mentioned to have worked with her.

The Khamas, Motsepes

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The families became close in the early 1980s when Bridgette Motsepe was doing bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Botswana and later worked in the corporate industry.

She will later move to South Africa where she became involved in the mining industry, rising to become the first black woman to be involved in the production and executive management of gold, platinum and diamond mines.

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The growing relationship between the families reached high group when Patrice Motsepe, one of Africa’s richest persons, pledged P1 million donation to the party’s campaign in the 2014 General Elections.

Her interests in Botswana

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Motsepe Radebe, a shrewd businesswoman whose interest is in mining, is said to be eyeing the exploration of platinum in Dikoloti in north-eastern part of the country.

The area has ore deposits of about 4.1 million metric tons containing platinum group metals, nickel and copper.

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In 2009 Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) partnered with Australian firm Discovery Metals to jointly explore for platinum and nickel in Dikoloti.

Another project that she is allegedly interested in is the Maibwe Diamonds which is owned by the liquidated BCL Limited. The Maibwe project which is located in the Central Kalahari region consists of a block of ten licenses.

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In 2015 four kimberlite containing diamonds were discovered in the area. BCL invested in the project as part of their POLARIS II Strategy.

Other partners include local Botswana group Future Minerals (20 percent ownership stake) and private South African venture Siseko (29 percent ownership stake), in which Botswana Diamonds has a 51 percent ownership stake.

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The Khama family has keen interest on BCL state in the mine as one of his nephew tried to sell the prospecting license and sought advice from the industry players.

Other expelled people

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Professor Kenneth Good was declared a Prohibited Immigrant for a research paper he produced which was critical of then Vice President Ian Khama and President Festus Mogae’s Government.

A top notch lawyer Gordon Bernett was put on the list of people to require VISA with his only issue with Government having been to have represented Basarwa of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in their demand for the restoration of their land rights.   

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Julius Malema, South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters leader, was put into the VISA requirement list in 2011 after he called for regime change in Botswana, accusing Botswana of being a security threat to Africa for working closely with imperalists.

While he was still ANC Youth League president, Malema labelled Khama and the BDP as a “footstool of imperialism and a security threat to Africa” and called for regime change in Botswana.  

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Journalists Charles Mogale (founding editor of Botswana Guardian), John Mukela, Gwen Ansell, and Samu Zulu, among others were harshly shown the door for critical articles that they wrote under former President Masire’s regime.   

When UDC leader Duma Boko publicly paraded Hollywood star Rick Yune as his friend Government quickly moved to have him listed among those with restricted entry.   

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What this means  

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For President Masisi it sends a chilling message down the spine of those that will oppose him that he will not take it kindly. The use of state apparatus to fight internal party fights and dealing with the opposition shall, based on this development, continue. It is understandable that individuals should be sensitive to the sovereignty of other states and in particular if such states have been good enough to afford such individuals business opportunities. However, in a Botswana where state political party funding is  not enforced and everyone has to look all over the place for financial support – it makes things very difficult for those in opposition to have access to financiers who will not be harassed by the ruling party. It goes without saying that had Radebe invested her money on President Masisi’s campaign she will be the toast of the party and be guaranteed even more possible business opportunities. She will not be lining among those who are applying for VISAs to enter the country.



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