South Africa firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema has added fuel to the diplomatic tiff with Botswana saying an influential family in Pretoria was keen on removing President Mokgweetsi Masisi's government from power.
In a tweet on Sunday, Mr Malema said he believes there is a “plot to remove the current Botswana government by some members of a powerful South African family,” adding weight to growing accusations that the Motsepe
family was meddling in Gaborone's ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
“I will speak about it and the plot to remove the current Botswana government by some members of a powerful South African family on the 16 June 2019 at University of Fort Hare Sports Complex, Alice Campus,” read Mr Malema’s tweet on his verified handle.
The tweet has provided a curious sideshow to tensions between the two countries over Botswana's ban of visa free entry to top ranking South Africans including Mr Malema and Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe, sister of South Africa’s billionaire businessman, Patrice Motsepe. Bridgette is also the younger sister of South Africa first lady Tshepo Motsepe, the wife of President Cyril Ramaphosa and wife of South Africa's former energy minister Jeff Radebe.
In April, President Ramaphosa was forced to send foreign minister Lindiwe Sisulu to Botswana to assure President Masisi neither South Africa, nor any of its citizens, was angling for regime change in the northern neighbour.
This was soon after Bridgette's visa free entry status to Botswana was revoked by Botswana’s Immigration minister Magang Ngaka Ngaka on April 17, 2019.
Dr Patrice Motsepe last week sued a weekly paper for claiming he had smuggled millions of rand out of South Africa to influence Botswana's succession politics.
The suit came a couple of weeks after Mr Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama differed publicly over Botswana's lifting of a ban on hunting of elephants.
Mr Malema's claims came as Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) director general Peter Magosi said the visa restrictions were under review.
Prominent Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri, Korean-American actor Rick Yune, South African lawyer Dali Mpofu, Gordon Bennet, a human rights attorney, are also under the visa restrictions.
They, together with Malema, are tipped to be beneficiaries when DIS exercises its discretion on the matter and there is a suspicion that Mr Malema could be seeking to sway the decision in his favour.
Impecable sources said a decision on lifting the restrictions could come as early as next week.
Mr Malema, South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters’ leader was slapped with the ban in September 2014 after calling for the overthrow of Mr Khama’s government.
He described the regime as a “foot stool of imperialism and a security threat to Africa.”
The ban was embarrassing for such a high profile leader as there are no advance visa requirements for ordinary South African entering Botswana.
At one time, he failed to attend an opposition event in Gaborone after his visa application was rejected.
Mr Malema has previously said “there are absolutely no grounds for a so-called democratic country to refuse a person a visa merely on the basis that he holds a different political view to that of the government.”
During his tenure as the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) leader Mr Malema irked President Khama by saying he would establish a “command team” to unite opposition parties in Botswana.
Botswana politician Sadique Kebonang has all along stood by Mr Malema arguing he did not pose a threat to the country.
“I think time has come for you to reconsider whether Julius Malema should still be in the list of people who are required to have Visas,” Mr Kebonang said after the President Masisi's State of the Nation Address on November 6 last year.