Africa

Botswana court drama

Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe ‘fears for her life’, presents new evidence to clear her name

Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe ‘fears for her life’, presents new evidence to clear her name
Illustrative image | Sources: President of Botswana Seretse Khama Ian Khama (Photo: Felipe Trueba/EPA) / Bridgette Motsepe Radebe (Photo: Ziyaad Douglas/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and former Botswana president Ian Khama are fighting back hard to clear their names in a high-stakes battle following Botswana’s recent elections. As the bickering continues in court this week, the State’s case appears weakened by new information coming to light.

After months of allegations and denials in a drama that was central to Botswana’s recent elections campaign, South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe now fears for her life – but she’s fighting back to clear her name.

On Sunday 17 November, her PR team put out a statement with two bank letters attached which appear to clear her from wrongdoing after her name came up in the “Butterfly” court case in Botswana. “Butterfly” refers to the codename of the 46-year-old intelligence agent Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi, who stands accused of financing terrorism, among other things.

The letters, from Absa and Nedbank, state that the bank accounts as cited by Botswana prosecutors in the State’s case against Maswabi, and which were allegedly used by Motsepe-Radebe to launder millions of dollars to fund a campaign against Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, do not exist. The banks on Monday confirmed the authenticity of the letters.

Motsepe-Radebe said in her statement: “As spurious as the accusations are, I am, naturally, concerned about the damage these claims have caused to my reputation. I am also fearful for my life now.”

She said she was part of a “black propaganda” campaign – presumably by Masisi’s supporters – which “also include the so-called elimination of targets”. The accusations against her have neither been proven nor tested in a court of law, she said.

I therefore ask, what is next to follow, an attempt on my life?”

Motsepe-Radebe’s public relations company confirmed that the letters would be submitted as evidence in the “Butterfly” case.

The statement follows days after Khama submitted his affidavit to Maswabi’s bail application, set down for 22 November. In his statement, Khama lashes out at Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime investigating officer, Jako Hubona, saying that Hubona’s allegations against him in the case were “false, malicious and defamatory of my character” but in line with Hubona’s “personality and character trait”.

Khama based his claims on a judgment in another case in October in the Gaborone Regional Magistrate’s Court which found Hubona “fabricated evidence by adding extrinsic content to a witness’s sworn statement”.

Khama denied the State’s allegations that he unlawfully instructed former spy chief and confidante Isaac Kgosi to open special unit accounts or any other accounts at the Bank of Botswana in 2008, while he was still president and Kgosi still director-general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security.

Khama said the State had failed to produce evidence to this effect. Kgosi, incidentally, was fired by Masisi as soon as the latter took over the presidency from Khama in 2018 in a smooth transition after Khama had served as president for a decade – the maximum time allowed by law in Botswana.

Khama said he furnished the affidavit after a request by Maswabi’s attorney, Uyapo Ndadi. Ndadi himself recently spent some days in South Africa on a fact-finding mission for evidence to support Maswabi’s bail application.

Maswabi has been in detention since the start of the case two months ago, and a video posted by Botswana daily Mmegi on its Facebook page shows how the police van that transports her to a court hearing is guarded by heavily armed police officers.

In her founding affidavit for a bail application, filed last week, Maswabi claimed the evidence against her was “malicious and defamatory” and fabricated by the State, as the bank accounts that are central to the State’s case were shown not to exist.

A senior digital forensic analyst, Bennie Minnaar from Basileus Consilium Professional Services, confirmed in an affidavit that the companies Blue Flies Inc., Fire Flies Inc. and Royal Bank of Scotland, alleged to be involved in the money-laundering, “are not registered in South Africa and consequently are non-existent”. Maswabi also said Minnaar found that alleged emails between her and ex-spy chief Kgosi were manufactured. She also denied having a romantic relationship with him.

Daily Maverick is seeking comment from Botswana prosecuting authorities on the latest developments.

Newspaper reports earlier this year that Motsepe-Radebe was bankrolling a campaign for former Botswana foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, backed by Khama, to run for the presidency of the Botswana Democratic Party against Masisi has caused some strain in diplomatic relations with South Africa. Khama lost and jumped ship to the newly-formed Botswana Patriotic Front, which performed badly in the elections.

Former international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu earlier this year made a trip to Gaborone to assure Masisi that there was no official interference from South Africa’s side.

Motsepe-Radebe’s sister is married to President Cyril Ramaphosa and her brother, businessman Patrice Motsepe, is a high-level ANC supporter and always present at the party’s gala events. Diplomatic ties might yet be strained again, given that Motsepe-Radebe has in effect now accused agents of the Botswana state of being out to murder her. DM

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