Bridgette Radebe. File photo: Nonhlanhla Kambule.
Cape Town - Political analysts have warned the government of a “diplomatic disaster” if it does not weigh in on escalating tensions between Botswana and South Africa.

This comes amid allegations that one of South Africa’s top mining businesswomen, Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe, who has mining operations in Botswana, was trying to influence that country’s leadership elections.

They described the situation between the two countries as a “diplomatic disaster” that could undermine the efforts of President Cyril Ramaphosa to drive a clean, corruption-free and accountable government.

Lieutenant Mmuso Tseleng of the Botswana Police said: “Motsepe-Radebe is alleged to have sent money into the Republic of Botswana to lobby votes in the Botswana Democratic Party presidential election.

“That is illegal, according to our laws. That money was not declared and did not follow the correct international money flows, according to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime.”

Last week, Ramaphosa sent a special delegation including Minister of Foreign Affairs Lindiwe Sisulu in a bid to quell the escalating feud.

This week, Botswana moved to curtail Motsepe-Radebe’s entry into the country and published a notice that Motsepe-Radebe and her associate, a Sandton businessman known as Malcolm X, would in future have to apply for visas to enter Botswana.

Media reports in the neighbouring country also reported that the mining mogul’s private jet was intercepted by Zimbabwean officials after allegations that she flew to Victoria Falls with $5.5million (R79m) to “buy votes” for Botwana’s former foreign affairs minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said it appeared that the Botswana government had either made the decision against her based on sound evidence of an attempt to interfere in that country in a way that undermined its sovereign rule, or it was acting undemocratically.

“But when a country takes such measures, the situation lends itself to suspicions. And given Motsepe-Radebe’s proximity to the president (as sister-in-law) and to a minister (Jeff Radebe’s wife), government has to clear the air, “Matshiqi said.

Another analyst, Ralph Mathekga said the matter lent itself to suspicions that a “family cabal” was interfering in another country’s affairs.

Additional reporting by Sifiso Mahlangu

Weekend Argus