Botswana: Butterfly Case Sinks Masisi

26 November 2020

Schoolboy errors by the Masisi administration, which led to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) suffering humiliation before the courts of law in high profile cases, is damaging the integrity, reputation and legacy of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, political analysts observe.

On Tuesday, DPP suffered another humiliation after they were forced to withdraw a charge of financing terrorism against Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) agent Wilhelmina Maswabi, codenamed Butterfly.

The P100 billion fraud case has attracted international media especially South Africa where Butterfly was alleged to have connived with prominent businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe and former President Ian Khama, in an attempt to cause regime change in Botswana in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. Butterfly is only left with charges of failing to account for property in her possession and false declaration of passports. She will appear in court in February next year.

State Prosecutor, Priscilla Israel submitted before Southern Regional Magistrate Goodwill Makofi an application for the withdrawal of the charge with liberty to reinstate it after completion of investigations. In her submission, Israel said there is likelihood of a delay in the investigations since some evidence was to be gathered from sources outside the country. She explained that the State has engaged private investigators to assist in sourcing information from other countries; thus delaying the completion of the investigations.

Political Analyst Bonginkosi Dube said the continued losing of high profile court cases by the state will dent the presidency of Masisi who when he assumed power vowed to uproot corruption. "This is clearly showing that all the cases against Maswabi, former President Khama, Motsepe-Radebe and former DIS boss Isaac Kgosi were politically motivated and this undermines the rule of law," observed Dube.

Dube emphasised that the loss of numerous high profile cases has exonerated Khama who has always insisted that they were politically motivated to tarnish his name, but warned that there would be some crash landing in the end. "He is now vindicated. They have made him a political martyr, which is going to be costly for the state as they might face multiple lawsuits," he said, adding that the integrity of the Office of the President has been dented and people are going to be skeptical about President Masisi's promises.

Another political analyst, Leornard Sesa said it will be disappointing if the state is not going to reinstate the charges later. "This will be an embarrassment to the presidency of President Masisi and Batswana will lose confidence in him," he said.

Sesa said to restore confidence Masisi will have to address the nation regarding his mission to fight corruption and that he is still committed to the rule of law as he has professed. He observed that the withdrawal of the charges against Butterfly might be a tactical move by the state as they have realised that they have done a shoddy job. "Maybe they want to do thorough investigations and gather concrete evidence," he said.

Will heads roll?

Dube said that in a normal set up, heads were going to roll especially at DPP, Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and DIS. "I doubt if that will happen," he said.

Although Bank of Botswana insisted that no money was stolen from its coffers, the then Director General of DCEC Brigadier Joseph Mathambo and DIS Director General Peter Magosi insisted that money was stolen.

Dube said the case is similar to the one where former US President George Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction only for that to be proven to have been false after he had led forces against it.

"We know Masisi was not the investigator nor has any experience in forensic investigations but he was obviously given the files and if indeed he believes he was misled he must fire those responsible," he reasoned.

Relations with SA

Dube contends that the relationship between Gaborone and Pretoria is currently sour because of the Butterfly case, which implicated South African financial institutions allegoing that they were used in illicit funds from Bank of Botswana. "Remember that it was said that money was channelled through South African banks. This on its own is actually saying South Africa aided money laundering," he said.

Former President Khama said he is happy with the outcome of the case and respects Maswabi for her courage. "The next time I meet her I will salute her for her courage in the face of animosity, and I have not saluted anyone since I left the BDF," said Khama, reiterating that the charges against Maswabi were fabricated with the intention to intimidate her into implicating others like him which was motivated by political and vindictive intentions.

"For this regime to fabricate charges against anyone is the height of irresponsibility and stupidity. It has done our nation great harm and affected institutions through such foolishness. Such stupidity is best explained by those from where it comes. I have tremendous respect for Miss Maswabi for standing up to this criminality and harassment," said Khama.

Masisi responds

Responding to questions sent to Masisi's office, Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang said: "His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Botswana does not interfere with oversight institutions and does not have investigative, arrest and prosecutorial powers. The law takes its course without His Excellency's interference and the President does not opine on oversight or prosecutorial deliberations. It is important to also note that all these institutions represent the state in their own right and mandate and can thus comment on their respective activities".

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