Mmegi Online :: EFF not a terrorist organization
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EFF not a terrorist organization

The decision by the government to ‘bar’ senior EFF leaders from entering Botswana is an act of cowardice. Mmegi Staffer NTIBINYANE NTIBINYANE argues that by barring EFF leaders the Khama administration has lost a war of ideas against the militant organisation
By Ntibinyane Ntibinyane Fri 21 Nov 2014, 14:12 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: EFF not a terrorist organization








It is a truism.  The government of Botswana has clearly taken a draconian position that senior members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deserve to be kept away from the corners of this beautiful republic.  The recent visa restrictions imposed by the government bare testimony to this.

The question is, why is Botswana so hostile towards Malema and his red-beret brigade?  The answer to this lies in the utterances by Malema more than two years ago when he was still the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League President.

He reportedly said the ANC Youth League would establish a command team, which will work towards uniting opposition forces in Botswana with a sole purpose of overthrowing the ‘puppet regime of Botswana’.  His expulsion from the ANC was partly because of some of these utterances.

While it is true that these undiplomatic and indiscreet statements by one of its senior leaders irked the ANC, it is also true that President Ian Khama was equally upset.  He clearly viewed this as a direct attack on his rule and of course it was. Khama a self-proclaimed disciplinarian labelled Malema an ‘ill-disciplined boy’.

Surprisingly before the ‘fallout’, or whatever one wants to call it, in 2010 President Khama’s party invited Malema to Botswana where he dined and drank merrily with the ‘who’s who’ of the ruling party.

Following his bitter expulsion Malema formed his own socialist political movement. In its first Manifesto the EFF continued to spew anti-Khama or Botswana sentiments to the chagrin of Khama. Surely this further chagrined the hypersensitive Khama administration.  It was no surprise that in June 2014 Malema was added to a list of people that need to apply for a visa before entering Botswana. His Lieutenants, Floyd Shivambu, Andile Mngixtama, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Dali Mpofu, and Magdalene Moonsamy were later added to the list.  

But really was this necessary? Of course not. Well, from the look of things, it is clear the government is one way or the other fearful of this movement hence the visa restrictions. Perhaps the Khama administration is fearful the EFF radicalism would spill into Botswana and result in a revolution.

The government’s fear is misplaced. It is paranoia. It is an act of cowardice. The organisation is harmless. Members of the organisation are passionate and at times extremely passionate, but this is nothing that the government should be afraid of. EFF is not a terrorist organisation. It is not Al Qaeda or ISIS or something close to that.

EFF is a lawfully registered political movement with significant representation in

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the South African Parliament. This is a movement that was voted for by more than one million people during South Africa’s general election on May this year.

What we get from these visa restrictions is that the government does not want to engage in debate. This is not surprising. The Khama administration and Khama himself abhor debate.

By placing EFF leaders under visa restrictions the administration is sending a message to the world that whoever differs with it will face the music.

The administration forgets that the world we are living in is a world constantly in a muted war of ideas.  The EFF and its militant 30-something-year-old leader are clearly catalysts in a war of ideas. EFF as an ultra-leftist party is putting forward controversial policies for South Africa and the Southern African region. For example the party wants to expropriate land from the whites without compensations, the party wants to nationalise mines and banks.

Their intransigent form of socialism is unsettling. The party’s foreign policy is even more radical and scary; it wants to remove borderlines between South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho. Basically what the EFF wants is for South Africa to annex countries like Botswana. Extreme! Yes this is extreme.  But is this enough for our government to ‘bar’ its leaders from coming to Botswana?

Unfortunately the Khama administration does not understand and appreciate that in a heated war of ideas you have to engage and debate those you differ with. It is normal. It is the nature of the game, governments and leaders around the world are subjected to intense criticism.

Here in the Republic of Botswana the situation is different. Our hypersensitive government has always failed to engage its opponents and has often used draconian laws to silence critics.

The deportation of Professor Kenneth Good in 2005 by the Mogae/Khama administration is a classical example of how the Botswana government acts when it is losing a ‘war of ideas’.

It resorts to brutality.  The poor professor was subjected to humiliation and kicked out of the country for critically examining and critiquing the government.  Last year a British lawyer was refused entry into the country to represent Basarwa in a case in which they were suing the government over the use of a borehole in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

The government decision to require Malema and his crew to apply for visas to enter Botswana to address their legion of admirers is a direct attack on freedom of expression, which is an indispensable tenet of democracy.

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