South Africa’s billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe has sued a Botswana newspaper for a story it published claiming that he was meddling in politics in Botswana.
The Sunday Standard published an article on April 1 claiming that police were investigating Dr Motsepe and a number of mining companies for smuggling campaign money into Botswana.
In article with the headline “New Jerusalem Vic Falls secret meeting scuttled”, the weekly paper said that Dr Motsepe smuggled approximately $1.4 million to influence the outcome of the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) election in May.
It claimed the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals donated money to Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s campaign ahead of the decisive elective conference held last month.
Dr Venson-Moitoi is former President Ian Khama’s ally and was challenging the incumbent, Mr Mogkweetsi Masisi, for the party’s presidency.
Dr Motsepe’s lawyers quoted part of the article in their court papers, which said: “By Friday, a team of Botswana Police Service officers were investigating a number of security companies which are allegedly being used to smuggle campaign money into the country. This followed unconfirmed reports that South African mining tycoon Patrice Motsepe, who is also brother to Brigette, had donated R22 million to Venson-Moitoi’s campaign, which had already been smuggled into Botswana.”
Dr Motsepe finds the statement defamatory as it implies that he is a dishonest businessman and he wants the offending article pulled down from the website, his lawyers said.
In addition to the $335,000 damages, Dr Motsepe is demanding that the newspaper publish an apology on its website and also on its front page, taking up a quarter of the page, and the apology should run for seven calendar days.
The case is before Lobatse High Court Judge Justice Tshepo Motswagole.
In April, the Botswana government banned Dr Motsepe’s sister, Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe, from entering the country visa-free, accusing her of meddling in their political affairs.
Following the ban, President Cyril Ramaphosa sent the then minister of international relations and co-operation, Lindiwe Sisulu, to meet with President Masisi in Gaborone.
In a Facebook post after the meeting, President Masisi said: “The special envoy conveyed a message reiterating the longstanding and excellent relations between Botswana and South Africa despite the recent media reports.”