Govt to oppose AfriForum application over Botswana request for legal assistance in Motsepe-Radebe saga

Ronald Lamola Minister of Justice and Correctional Services can be seen at GCIS during a press briefing , 16 December 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

In opposing the application, the justice ministry said Botswana’s enlisting of AfriForum was unprecedented.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola will be opposing the mandamus application from AfriForum on behalf of the Republic of Botswana, which wants the South African government to facilitate mutual legal assistance in a money-laundering case implicating businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe.

On Thursday, AfriForum announced that it would bring the application against Motsepe-Radebe, who is the sister-in-law of President Cyril Ramaphosa and married to former energy minister Jeff Radebe.

Head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, advocate Gerrie Nel said they had been appointed by the Botswana government to represent them in this matter, claiming that Botswana’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), submitted a request for mutual legal assistance on 25 September 2019 to the South African government, but that the request “conveniently vanished”.

It’s alleged that a second application was prepared, but that the Department of International Relations and Cooperative Governance (Dirco) informed the Botswana High Commission that it did not accept any documents due to Covid-19 regulations.

News24 previously reported that Botswana DPP, advocate Stephen Tiroyakgosi, bemoaned the lack of response from Dirco following their request for mutual legal assistance.

Opposing the application

In opposing the application, the justice ministry said Botswana’s enlisting of AfriForum, a non-governmental organisation, to deal with such matters which were purely of a diplomatic and bilateral nature, was unprecedented.

Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said: “In international law, the SADC Protocol on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters – makes no provision for non-governmental entities to serve as intermediaries between states, whether solicited or not, since bilateral relations is the exclusive preserve of sovereign nations.”

Phiri added that South Africa and Botswana enjoyed strong historical relations, dating back to the days of the struggle against apartheid.

“To underscore the point, in the past year alone, South Africa has provided Botswana with mutual legal assistance on six matters.”

In addition, the ministry disputed claims that the request had “conveniently vanished” or was not being dealt with.

“The Mutual Legal Assistance request in this case refers to an alleged element of money laundering.

“Owing to the nature of the alleged crime which is a serious crime in South Africa, there is legal requirement for law enforcement agencies to conduct a preliminary investigation. As such, a request of this nature may become protracted and complicated by the multiplicity of law enforcement agencies involved.

“This is not peculiar to South Africa, it is standard practice across the world.

“In our case, the procedures on how such matters are to be facilitated are provided for in the International Co-operation in Criminal Matters Act, 1996 (Act 75 of 1996).”

The ministry added that it had been communicating directly with the central authority in Botswana, the DPP and Head of International Cooperation Unit at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in Botswana.

“To this end, the Republic of Botswana, through these established channels of communication has indicated that, on this matter in particular, a new request will be made. This new request has not been received yet,” Phiri concluded.

Allegations against Motsepe-Radebe

Motsepe-Radebe had been implicated in a money laundering matter to the tune of billions.

News24 reported that Motsepe-Radebe was named as a co-signatory in two South African bank accounts holding more than $10 billion (R170 billion) allegedly stolen from the Botswana government.

Nel previously said: “Money originating from the Bank of Botswana was illegally laundered through various international accounts and pertinent to this particular account, $48 billion found its way to bank accounts in South Africa.”

City Press reported that Motsepe-Radebe denied the accusations and challenged the Botswana government to “produce evidence that such a large amount of money left the country in the first place and how and if the Reserve Bank of Botswana has no records of that”.

News24 has since reported that an independent investigation into the allegations exonerated the businesswoman.

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