/ 30 December 2022

No extradition request yet as Botswana issues warrant of arrest for ex-president Ian Khama

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South African authorities have not received any request from Botswana to extradite the country’s former president Ian Khama, according to department of justice and correctional services spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri.

A Gaborone regional magistrate court issued a warrant of arrest for Khama on Thursday. Khama is believed to be residing in South Africa.

South Africa and Botswana are members of the Southern African Development Community and signatories of that organisation’s extradition protocol, which states that each member state agrees to extradite to the other any person within its jurisdiction who is wanted for prosecution. 

The protocol also sets out grounds to refuse to extradite, including if the requested state has substantial grounds for believing that the extradition request has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of their political opinion.

The arrest warrant states that the former head of state, who is wanted for the unlawful possession of firearms, should be apprehended on sight.

Khama was initially charged in April, but was reportedly a no-show in court. His co-accused — former spy chief Isaac Kgosi, suspended police commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe and Victor Paledi, the former director-general of Botswana’s corruption and economic crime directorate — did go to court.

The charges stem from a crime that was allegedly committed in 2016. Khama has previously denied the allegations against him.

In an interview with the SABC on Friday, Khama called all the evidence against him “fabricated” and “trumped up”.

An official statement issued on behalf of Khama’s office said the former president is consulting his legal team.

The matter has already been before the courts, the statement said, noting that an application by the Botswana government to search Khama’s official residence was denied in the high court of Botswana last year. Last month, the appellate court also denied the search warrant application  .

“The former president, who is currently residing in South Africa for safety reasons, has been advised by his legal team that any comment around this warrant of arrest may compromise the integrity of the legal process.”

Khama has accused his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi, of targeting him since relations between the two men turned sour. The pair have engaged in a war of words for some years now.

Last November, the SKI Khama Foundation released a statement alleging that the former president was the target of politically-motivated persecution. The current office of the president, the statement said, had turned out to be “the biggest persecutors” of Khama.

“There is an urgent need for sanity, self-introspection and wise counsel by a neutral person, persons or entity at the office of the president, or from anywhere else before the titanic that is Botswana sinks,” the statement read.

Khama hand-picked Masisi as his replacement before he left office in 2018.

But when Masisi came into power, he turned on his predecessor and his legacy. Since taking office, the current president has, among other things, controversially lifted a ban on elephant hunting imposed by Khama.

In turn, Khama has accused Masisi of authoritarianism. Khama went as far as resigning from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party after Masisi was re-elected in 2019. The party was founded by his father, Sir Seretse Khama. 

Khama launched a new party, the Botswana Patriotic Front, and is reportedly at the centre of an opposition campaign to oust Masisi in the 2024 general elections.

This article has been updated to include official comment from Khama’s office.