Botswana’s Ian Khama can’t get asylum in SA as refugee offices are closed – govt

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Botswana’s Ian Khama can’t get asylum in SA as refugee offices are closed – govt
News 24 – 29 November 2021
• The home affairs department denied reports in Botswana that its former leader was seeking political asylum in South Africa.
• A home affairs spokesperson said even if Ian Khama wanted to apply for asylum, it wasn’t currently possible as refugee processing offices were closed due to Covid-19.
• The Seretse Khama Ian Khama Foundation issued a statement on 10 November stating that Khama was in South Africa.
The Department of Home Affairs has denied reports doing the rounds in neighbouring Botswana that its former leader Ian Khama has left the country and is seeking political asylum in South Africa.
Responding to media queries from News24, Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza said the “refugee reception offices are currently closed, and this means that no new asylum applications are being processed”.
He went on to say that “the Department of Home Affairs has no record of Mr Ian Khama having applied for asylum in SA”, as was being reported in Botswana.
Sources at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) told News24 the department was watching the matter closely.
A Dirco official said:
This situation threatens to be a repeat of the former Mozambique finance minister (Manuel Chang). That scenario caused friction between the two countries, and this too threatens the same.
Chang has been jailed in South Africa since 2018 and is set to be extradited to the US.
Seeking protection
When approached for comment, the head of public diplomacy at Dirco Clayson Monyela said questions by News24 would be best directed to the home affairs department.
The Seretse Khama Ian Khama Foundation issued a statement on Wednesday, 10 November denying reports that Botswana’s former statesman had fled the country to South Africa.
The foundation issued the statement after media reports that Khama had ditched state security and crossed the border with South Africa, where it was alleged he was seeking protection from Pretoria, claiming Gaborone wanted to arrest him.
“The SKI Khama Foundation office is receiving a flurry of enquiries regarding the absence from the country of former president Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who is in South Africa on a private visit.
“We are also observing commentary that seems to be deliberately untrue and causing undue public alarm. The notion that he has fled the country or has gone into exile is simply not true. It is also not true, as alleged by some, that he at any point confirmed fleeing Botswana, never to return. The former president is on a pre-arranged private visit to RSA, visiting friends and family, and having a series of meetings connected to his private visit. When Gen. Khama has completed his engagements in South Africa or anywhere else where these may take place he will return home,” read the foundation’s statement.
Khama was understood to have made his way to South Africa after Botswana’s Intelligence Director-General Peter Magosi demanded that he hand over all his firearms.
Magosi even lodged an urgent application in the Botswana High Court for permission to raid Khama’s residences, which was triggered by an allegation that Khama had threatened Botswana’s security.
The former president had also previously been accused of conspiring to dethrone incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
In the court papers, the Intelligence Agency says Khama may be in violation of the Penal Code, which includes the concealment of treason, obtaining unlicensed firearms and possession of arms of war.
This went back to a case in which three members of Khama’s private security detail were accused of possessing illegal firearms. The matter was later dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
Search and seizure warrant
Khama and his successor, Masisi, had a fallout in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
The High Court dismissed the application for a search and seizure warrant to raid Khama’s home.
There were also reports that the Intelligence Directorate had approached the Lobatse High Court for a warrant of arrest for Khama, with the court dismissing the application on Monday.
University of Botswana lecturer in politics and administrative studies Adam Mfundisi has said the rivalry between Khama and Masisi can be traced back to Masisi’s ascendance to the highest political office on 1 April 2018.
He said:
Upon assuming office, Masisi adopted an aggressive policy of damning everything his boss did or did not do. According to his interpretation of the political environment, anything that the Khama administration pursued was detrimental to the socio-economic and political development of Botswana. Even if he was SKI’s (Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s) most trusted lieutenant, he wanted to trash SKI’s legacy, which was riddled with serious problems.
Mfundisi said public confidence and trust in the Khama administration at the end of his tenure was extremely low. Generally, people accused the Khama-Masisi regime of being undemocratic, authoritarian, unethical and unaccountable, among other things. Mfundisi said Masisi wanted to disassociate himself from the unpleasant perceptions of the former administration.
“To him, Masisi went all out to demonise former president Khama to woo the voters to his newly branded CAVA BDP (Botswana Democratic Party) brigade. The 2019 general election was used as a platform to launch vicious and vitriolic propaganda against Khama and his associates. Anyone who associated with Khama was a demon and needed to be shunned by the voters. An assault on Khama’s presidential benefits was questioned and assertions of Khama’s autocratic leadership tossed,” said Mfundisi.
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