This week, the government through the Ministry of Home Affairs, announced that five members of the militant South African political organisation, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have been added to the list of foreigners that need to apply for visas to enter Botswana. The EFF leader, Julius Malema, was slapped with similar restrictions a few months ago.
While we understand that Botswana is within its right as a sovereign state to impose visa restrictions on anyone, we are worried that this trend is further exposing the current administration as intolerant and autocratic.
We know fully well that EFF members, including their leader Malema have said nasty things about Botswana and President Ian Khama. In fact, Malema and his supporters were expelled from the African National Congress (ANC) in 2012 after they called for the overthrow of Khama’s government. This was not appropriate: Malema did not only rankle the ANC, but Khama as well.
Did Malema and EFF members deserve to be placed under visa restrictions? We submit that as much as Malema and his EFF lot can be irritants, they are in fact harmless. They have no means or capacity to overthrow the Botswana government.
The government should understand that EFF is not a terrorist organisation, but a legally registered political movement in South Africa.
This is a party that was voted by more than one million South Africans. Of course the party maybe excessively militant, but it is not a terrorist organisation. As an ultra-leftist party,
For example, the party wants to expropriate land without compensation and to eliminate borderlines between South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.
This is extreme. But is it enough to put the activists of the organisation under visa restrictions?
We submit that instead of barring some of the key party members of the party from entering the country, the government should debate the issues raised by EFF.
The government should show the world that some of the proposals that EFF is proposing are not feasible. Malema once attacked Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and called him a useless old man. But Mugabe did not try to ban the exuberant young politician. Instead he engaged him. It is no surprise that the two have since buried the hatchet.
We are not saying that Malema and Khama should kiss and make up; but we are telling Khama to be tolerant.
He should allow people to criticise him, even on our own soil. The Khama government should not hide behind visa restrictions but face Malema and his EFF members.