Former Botswana president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama has come out guns blazing against his detractors.
In an exclusive interview with Independent Media in his Gaborone office, Khama sought to allay allegations of an affair with South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and attempts to topple the movement of his successor, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi.
Khama’s office is decorated with pictures of his father, Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, and his mother, Ruth Khama. VIP protective services stand a few metres away, to give him some space but also see to his safety.
Overwhelmingly tall, Khama takes a seat behind his crowded desk. “Dumelang,” he says with a slight grin on his face.
It’s time to take the bull by the horns: “Mr President, did you have an affair with Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe?”
“Absolutely not. It is unfair to attribute whatever challenges exist between Bridgette Radebe and her husband (ANC national executive committee member Jeff Radebe) to me.
“I’ve known Bridgette since my military days. This is the agenda of some in this country to connect me to her and allege that myself and Bridgette were attempting to overthrow this government. There are serious things wrong with the BDP. That’s why I left. But we will never take government through the barrel of the gun. In this country we follow democratic process.”
Khama has been part of a political storm since leaving the party his father founded. He plans to contest elections through a new outfit called the Botswana Patriotic Front.
Although in its constitution the BPF has registered Khama as it’s patron, his power base in the party is clear.
Motsepe-Radebe has also denied any interference in Botswana’s politics. She said Botswana media reports were aimed at tarnishing her reputation and dragging her into a political spat.
Motsepe-Radebe has also been red-flagged by the Botswana government, which labelled her a “risk to governments”.
The Botswana Police Service says Radebe is being investigated for fraud, corruption, political manipulation, money-laundering and allegedly plotting to overthrow the Masisi-led government.
However, Motsepe-Radebe has slammed Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper, saying she has been a victim of false reporting and character assassination.
Motsepe-Radebe has been named as a co-signatory to at least two bank accounts holding some of the more than $10 billion (R150bn) allegedly taken from the Botswana government to finance “terrorism”.
A City Press report said the details emerged in a Botswana court in Gaborone during the bail application of a former spy, Wilhelmina Maswabi, who was identified as holding the funds.
The court was told that Maswabi, code-named Butterfly, had more than $390 million in her nine personal global accounts and had allegedly been transferring funds to former Botswana spy chief Isaac Kgosi, who is being probed for threatening to topple the government.
The state is opposing bail, in an affidavit by Jako Hubona, the directorate on corruption and economic crime investigating officer.
The court heard that billions were stolen from the country’s government from 2008 and hidden in offshore accounts.
Hubona said Maswabi and Motsepe-Radebe were co-signatories on South African bank accounts owned by two companies, Blue Flies and Fire Flies. Through their companies, the duo hold 17 bank accounts outside Botswana.
Motsepe-Radebe, earlier this year, faced accusations of bankrolling Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a journalist and politician.
Hubona’s affidavit says Khama and Kgosi instructed the Bank of Botswana to create three “special unit accounts” to which Maswabi had access. That had been the catalyst for the investigation. He said that on August 14 Maswabi transferred $2.9m to Kgosi.
“It is common cause that Mr Isaac Kgosi is a fugitive of justice and is being investigated for having said he will topple the government. He was arrested on January 15 this year,” Hubona said.
Motsepe-Radebe told City Press she was interested in Venson-Moitoi’s campaign, so much so that she was willing to finance at least one project. An audio recording of Motsepe-Radebe talking to Venson-Moitoi’s son, Kabelo, was leaked to the media earlier this year. The two were discussing an election campaign event. She said the event never took place.
The Sunday Standard also published damning articles linking Motsepe-Radebe and her associate, businessman Malcolm X, to an intricate plot that also allegedly involved Ian Khama.
The plotters reportedly wanted Masisi to be replaced with former cabinet minister Venson-Moitoi, who was reportedly Khama’s preferred candidate, before the congress in Kang in April.
Motsepe-Radebe denied allegations of a romantic relationship with Khama. She said the Khama and Motsepe families had been friends for decades.
“Our fathers had a close friendship at Fort Hare University. There is no romantic relationship with Ian Khama.”
According to media reports, the affair reportedly led to the breakdown of her marriage with Radebe. Khama denied this.
“All these allegations are a machinery against me. I take comfort that the truth will come out, as it is starting to come out. We are bringing in auditors to investigate these claims. How can so much money disappear undetected? In 2008, which is when the money was allegedly taken, there was an economic meltdown in the world. How can so much money disappear? Where is this money kept? Where is the evidence?
“We are going after the people making the allegations. We will sue them. The truth will come out,” Khama said.
Earlier this month, Khama snubbed Masisi’s inauguration as Botswana’s fifth president.
“One cannot pretend to not see what is happening in Botswana. Our inaugurations have always been primarily small and cost efficient. If you look at this latest inauguration and how much was spent with the excess security and pomp and ceremony, it was clear we were going on a downward trajectory,” Khama said.
The inauguration was attended by Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Khama denied there was a personal feud between himself and Masisi. Some reports allege that the real cause of the rift was his decision not to appoint Khama’s younger brother, Tshekedi Khama, as vice-president.
“As soon as he came into office, he took away the weapons from the anti-poaching units because he feared an uprising. How ridiculous is that? We’ve heard of coups, but not by the Wildlife Department!”
Masisi has also overturned Khama’s ban on elephant hunting. The decision has been popular in regions where the animals have encroached on citizens.
“We won’t leave this here. The truth will come out,” Khama said.
In response to questions by Independent Media, Masisi’s office said: “The president has just taken office and has been entrusted to build this country. That is his focus. He also trusts and respects the process of the law.”