Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party Julius Malema. File photo: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe.
Firebrand EFF leader Julius Malema and prominent Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri may have their Botswana travel restrictions lifted as early as next month, with strong indications that a decision to reverse the bans has already been taken.

The duo, together with lawyer and EFF chairperson Dali Mpofu, Korean-American actor Rick Yune and British human rights lawyer Gordon Bennet, who previously represented Basarwa (San) people in court cases, were among over 40 foreign nationals who were placed on travel restrictions by former Botswana president Ian Khama over “security concerns”.

Botswana’s Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) director-general Peter Magosi on Thursday said that they would present a report on their assessment of the restrictions.

Brigadier Magosi said, in most cases, there was no evidence of security threats.

“We felt some of the allegations were baseless and we want to ensure government is not condemned internationally for being antagonistic. We believe this was wrong and needs to be corrected and that will be reflected in our quarterly report that will be presented to the president,” said Magosi.

According to a source close to the developments, the EFF leader and Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) general overseer, Bushiri, top the list of beneficiaries when DIS exercises its discretion on the matter.

Malema was slapped with the ban in 2011 during his time as the ANC Youth League leader after calling for the overthrow of Khama’s government. 

He described the regime as a “foot stool of imperialism and a security threat to Africa”. Malema further irked Khama when he vowed to establish a “command team” to unite opposition parties in Botswana.

Prophet Shepherd Bushiri

At one time, he failed to attend an opposition event in Gaborone after his visa application was rejected.

The EFF leader refused to comment on the development.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said on Thursday.

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”.

The 36-year-old clergyman has been unable to visit his 58 branches in Botswana since 2017 after Khama’s government marked him "persona non grata". It is estimated that his church has thousands of members and followers in the country.

His spokesperson Ephraim Nyongo said he welcomed the efforts of Botswana in engaging Bushiri.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Sadique Kebonang has all along stood by Bushiri and Malema arguing they did not pose a threat to the country.

He told The Star that government’s decision to ban the duo was “based on poor intelligence”.

Outspoken Botswana DJ Laninah Benz, a member of Bushiri's church, said they never understood the reasoning behind the ban and welcomed the news.

“We’ve been travelling to Pretoria to attend his meetings and it would be nice to have him come this side once the visa free entry is restored” she said.

BDP chairperson of communications and international relations, Kagelelo Kentse, said it was only fair to reconsider the decisions made by Khama’s government to see “if fairness of law was applied correctly”.

A fortnight ago, Botswana slapped Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and Joburg socialite Malcolm X with visa free entry bans without giving reasons.

Botswana media have, however, accused Motsepe-Radebe and her billionaire brother Patrice Motsepe of meddling in Botswana politics.

They have both denied the allegations.

Last week Motsepe, the African Rainbow Minerals founder and chairperson, filed a lawsuit against a Botswana newspaper, Sunday Standard, over its claims that he smuggled R22-million to influence the outcome of the ruling BDP election last month.

The Star