University of Botswana (UB) political science scholars, Dr Adam Mfundisi and Keaoleboga Dipogiso concur that Ian Khama could soil relations between South Africa and Botswana, after he was charged with possession of unlicensed firearms this week.
Khama, who is on a self imposed exile in South Africa since November 2021, failed to appear in court on Thursday where he was summoned to answer charges of unlawful possession of unlicensed firearms. He has been charged alongside former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) boss Isaac Kgosi, Botswana Police Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe and Deputy Permanent Secretary -Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, Victor Paledi.
On Thursday, Khama’s lawyer Tebogo Tladi told Regional Magistrate Masilo Mathaka that Khama has not been served with the summons to appear before court for the illegal; firearms charges contrary to the state claims. He said Khama was not available to appear before the court as he is outside the country.
During the court session, the state amended Khama’s charges to 14 increasing them from 13. Former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi’s charges were further amended from 20 to 33 by the state.
Makgophe and Paledi’s charge sheet was not further amended and still face three counts each of aiding and abetting unlawful possession a firearm. The case was postponed to 6th June 2022.
On Friday, Masisi travelled to Pretoria to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa in a joint meeting of the 5th session of the South Africa – Botswana Bi-National Commission, which observers say could test the strength of ties between the two countries.
Political and Administrative Studies lecturer at UB, Dr Mfundisi, said from the local perspective the ongoing political battles between Masisi and his predecessor Khama are polarizing society. He said the feud between Masisi and Khama is undermining the provision of quality public services in a country afflicted by rising poverty, unemployment, inequality, diseases and criminality.
According to him, Botswana is becoming a laughing stock in the region despite many years of the accolades depicting the country as a shining example of democracy and the rule of law. “These investigations and prosecutions are targeting SKI, others are just collateral damage. Maybe let’s wait for the court processes to begin and get more information for informed analysis. For now, we have seen the charges, many as they are, may defeat the purpose of the designers and prosecutors of the cases,” said Dr Mfundisi, commenting on the firearms case.
Furthermore, he said damning allegations levelled against SKI and prominent South African business woman Bridgette Motsepe in the alleged P100 billion stolen from Botswana has already caused diplomatic tensions. According to Dr Mfundisi the case involving SKI will further strain the already volatile relationship. He said South Africa is not likely to extradite its close ally (Khama) to face court battles in Botswana, adding that this is viewed as a politically motivated persecution.
Another UB political science academic, Dipogiso, said for Pretoria and Gaborone, the personal accountability of General Khama must not be permitted to dent the cordial relations of two countries. He said in his considered view, the international relations policy of the country should be driven by the interests of the country, not Masisi nor Khama. “Currently, the depository of social code in the impasse is the current regime. Khama’s defiance of the national interests must not be taken to represent the country. In this position, Dr Khama is required to appear before the same courts he has prosecuted other people before, where he himself has secured victories. This can’t be dependent on his personal whims and caprices,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, both Dipogiso and Dr Mfundisi concurred that firearms case is threat to national security. According to Dipogiso, firstly one must note that this is a big very sensitive matter that involves threat to the national security therefore it would need to be treated in sensitive manner it deserve.
“National security threats may be real or perceived and perceived national security threats may be substantive threat. This is how if preventative action is based on paranoia or feeling on non-existent insecurity, it may hype unnecessary tension. There are many examples of this elsewhere that led to substantive tensions and strife,” said Dipogiso, commenting.
For his part, Dr Mfundisi said the firearms case may expose national security covert operations as the four acussed persons are heavyweights in security and intelligence matters.“They have massive knowledge and skills on intelligence and security matters. The relationship between Botswana and SA is in shambles. Weaponisation of the criminal justice system is an aberration of the Rule of Law. And selective justice meted to only opponents of the regime is deplorable to say the least. We must, through the genuine constitutional reform, depoliticise the public service including the criminal justice system,” said Dr Mfundisi, who is also Public Policy expert.
Furthermore, Dipogiso observed that the firearms case could reveal that Botswana was under a deep state in the past. He said under the deep state officials use their offices in in an organized manner to benefit political opponents of the state from within to preserve hegemony of the counter power outside state power. “They are a state within state, utilise public resources to achieve ends of the adversary. They are saboteurs and are stumbling blocks to the plans of government as their allegiance is to the nemesis as opposed to their oath office. In many occasions, these would be political appointments ushered in by the past regimes or merely disgruntled appointees of the current regime,” he said, reiterating that if charges against Makgophe suffice, then he must have been agent of the deep state.
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