BOTSWANA’s former president Ian Khama has dismissed rumours that he is seeking asylum in South Africa, but confirmed he fears returning back to Botsana as long as Mokgweetsi Masisi is in power.
The 68-year-old former military officer who was the fourth President of the Republic of Botswana from 2008 to 2018 fled to South Africa in November after a court order for him to relinquish his weapons to the Botswana Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) was granted.
Before he left, Khama had been accused by the DIS of threatening national security. He has been alleged to be hiding weapons in some of his properties. Khama was expected to arrive late last year after he was granted access to his house known as State House Number 4.
Speaking to SABC News, Khama said he has used his stay in the neighbouring country so far to meet some eminent persons in SA and outside, civil society representatives, government officials and people from the African National Congress (ANC).
He said he had in the past written letters to Presidents across Africa whom he felt were harassing opposition leaders therefore, he does not know how they will deal with the Botswana situation especially new presidents who came in after he left office.
Even though he has openly said he is not seeking asylum in the neighboring country, Khama feels that SA is the only country better suited to help address his current situation looking at their past.
Khama said he expected so much from SA because during his father Sir Seretse Khama’s reign, he allowed so many liberation struggle leaders to pass through Botswana and stood with them during apartheid era. Khama also said he was having meetings to discuss his persecution in Botswana.
He clarified that he is not comparing apartheid to his situation but emphasised that Botswana is heading towards the direction with the persecution and human rights violations.
Khama expressed his intention was to return to Botswana but worried that the move to arrest him may not happen immediately when he lands in the country but “it will certainly happen as long as Masisi is President”.
“We have someone who is very intolerant such that he would mobilise State resources to achieve self interest. I have been a target for speaking out against this government,” he said. “They have not issued a warrant of arrest yet but it is their intention is to do so.”
Even though former president has dismissed rumours that he is seeking asylum in South Africa, his delayed return to Botswana is beginning to raise eyebrows, more than two months later.
Khama said at the time Masisi and Magosi had schemed and showed their intentions to put him behind bars by Christmas. The DIS alleges that most of the firearms that Khama owns or have were obtained through dubious means.
Khama is also accused of obtaining an arms and ammunition licence by false pretence.
However, his lawyer, Tebogo Tladi of Ramalepa Attorneys said Khama has not shared details about his return yet but he will definitely return to Botswana.
“Surely there is nothing that can keep him away and there is no reason for him to be in exile, he has nothing to run away from because he has not been charged with anything compared to the former DIS director-general Isaac Kgosi,” he revealed.
Tladi added that even though the DIS has been on a mission to link Khama to the alleged hidden weapons in Khama’s possession, the DIS has not charged President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s predecessor and at the moment the agency has nothing on him. “Khama will return, I don’t see any reason for him to prolong his stay in SA,” he concluded.
In another development, last week London based firm Omnia Strategy LLP submitted a new petition to the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) over the Botswana government’s failure to adequately respond to grave concerns already raised by the UNSR.
“While President Khama is currently in South Africa, he cannot and should not have to remain abroad indefinitely purely to avoid threats to his safety at home in Botswana. As things stand, President Khama is due to return imminently to Botswana, where he will continue to participate lawfully in civic activities, as is his right, and will again be exposed to the violent campaign orchestrated against him.
“The severity of the situation cannot be overstated, and urgent action from the UNSR is required to guarantee President Khama’s safety,” further read the request submitted to the UNSR.