Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe is acclaimed for several achievements: meaningful contribution to the economy, upliftment of communities through his foundation and support for soccer excellence.
With a net worth of about R35 billion, Motsepe has also been recognised by Forbes this year as being one of the wealthiest people in the world.
The list includes other South Africans in Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert, Koos Bekker and Michael le Roux.
Given the rocky road many black businesspeople have travelled to get to the top, with few whose companies earned a listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) – Motsepe African Rainbow Minerals is a success story.
While we celebrate the Motsepe business triumph, a story in Botswana’s weekly, the Sunday Standard, about the alleged role of him and his sister, Bridgette Radebe, in what appears to be support for a regime change in that country, is disturbing.
Supported by credible information and backed by highly placed sources, the Sunday Standard has claimed that:
- Motsepe pledged R22 million towards helping politician Pelonomi Venson Moitoi topple President Mokgweetsi Masisi as Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leader.
- Former Botswana president Ian Khama – before his recent departure to India to meet the Dalai Lama – met Motsepe, Bridgette and a Malcolm X at the OR Tambo Intercontinental Hotel’s presidential suite. There, Motsepe pledged R22 million and his sister R11 million towards Moitoi’s campaign to unseat Masisi.
- Bridgette financed Khama in a recent meeting in Serowe where he announced his resignation from the ruling BDP, unveiling the new party, Botswana Patriotic Front.
There is information backed by invoices from Are You Afro Printing Pty in SA, made out to Mmakau Mining (owned by Bridgette) for about 30,000 black T-shirts with Khama’s face on the front.
Motsepe is suing the Sunday Standard for R6.7 million in damages for injury to his reputation and is demanding a retraction on claims by the newspaper that he smuggled R22 million out of SA to influence succession politics in the diamond-rich Botswana.
With defamation of character, it is crucial to separate fact from fiction.
According to media law expert David Goguen, defamation is “a false statement someone makes about you, published as a statement of fact, and which harms your personal or professional reputation, causing damages, which include financial loss and emotional distress”.
So, a statement that is someone’s opinion is not defamatory, unless it is presented as fact.
“To prevail on a defamation claim, you must first prove the statement was false.
“If it is true, no matter how unflattering, your claim will be barred because truth is an absolute defence to defamation,” says Goguen.
The Sunday Standard will have to prove reliability and validity of its information. On the other hand, Motsepe will have to prove that what has been published is untrue and not factual.
If there was any financing from Motsepe, was this part of political party funding, done in line with the Botswana electoral laws?
Was the motive purely to deepen constitutional democracy in that country?
A regime change, as the Sunday Standard seems to suggest, assumes a serious and different meaning.