Botswana's new President Mokgweetsi Masisi (L) takes the oath by the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo as the 5th President at the National Assembly in Gaborone on 1 April 2018. Botswana's new president used his inauguration speech on April 1 to vow to tackle youth unemployment in one of Africa's most stable countries. / AFP PHOTO / MONIRUL BHUIYAN

A report by the Sunday Standard of Botswana says Zimbabwean intelligence operatives foiled a plan by Botswana politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (pictured) and her colleagues — including former President Seretse Khama Ian Khama — to topple Botswana President Mokgwetsi Masisi.

The plot involved moving US$5.5 million from South Africa to Victoria Falls using Bridgette Motsepe Radebe, who is the sister to South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe. She is also the wife to South Africa’s Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe.

The report says that Bridgette Motsepe Radebe left South Africa for Victoria Falls on a plane which carried the money. At Victoria Falls, she was supposed to meet former Botswana President Ian Khama and Botswana politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who were supposed to be handed the money.

On the same day the Motsepe Radebe’s plane landed at Victoria Falls, Ian Khama and Pelomoni Venson-Moitoi left Botswana on a chartered plane to meet Motsepe Radebe and get the money. Their delegation also included Botswana politicians Kabelo Binns, Daphne Kadiwa and Isaac Kgosi.

American diplomat Andrew Young was also part of the coup plot.

Khama and Moitoi intended to use the money to buy at least 850 votes to topple Masisi from power at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress set for next week.

The report says that Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) had received intel that Bridgette Motsepe Radebe was planning to smuggle US$ 5,5 million through Zimbabwe into Botswana to finance Venson-Moitoi’s campaign, but her diplomatic passport saved her from being searched by the CIO in Victoria fall last week.

Bridgette Motsepe Radebe enjoys diplomatic immunity as the wife to South Africa’s Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe.

But the CIO allowed Bridgette Motsepe “only a few minutes” to greet former President Lt Gen Ian Khama before deporting her and her jet back to South Africa, leaving Khama and Moitoi akimbo.

It is understood that Dr Moitoi’s delegation and that of Ms Motsepe were expected to meet American politician Mr Andrew Young.

Mr Moitoi’s delegation stayed behind for the meeting in Victoria Falls while Ms Motsepe and her team were deported to South Africa.

Reports say that according to the initial plan, Dr Moitoi and Ms Motsepe’s teams were to be airlifted by two helicopters to a secret meeting at a farm in Botswana.

The US$5,5 million purse was to be used to buy votes for Dr Moitoi in her BDP presidential bid against President Masisi.

After the CIO ordered the plane carrying Bridgette Motsepe Radebe and the money back to South Africa, the plan to topple Masisi fell flat.

Last Friday, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi then dramatically stepped down from challenging Mokgweetsi Masisi.

This will see Masisi, the current president of Botswana, being the candidate of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as the country moves toward elections later this year.

The Sunday Standard report also says that the Botswana Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) has frozen Avante Security Services bank accounts in Gaborone on suspicions that the company was used by South African businesswoman Bridgette Motsepe Radebe to launder money for Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s presidential campaign.

This was after FIA turned up a number of suspicious transactions in excess of P10 million from Mmakau Mining (Pty) Ltd in South Africa to the account of Avante Security Services in Gaborone.

Bridgette Motsepe Radebe is the founder, Executive Chairperson and CEO of Mmakau Mining (Pty) Ltd.

FIA has so far tracked three transactions of five million Pula, two million Pula and four million Pula which were transfers from Mmakau Mining to Avante Security. The money was then immediately disbursed from the Avante Security bank account to accounts of a number of people linked to Venson-Moitoi’s campaign.

Sunday Standard investigations have turned up audio tape recordings of Bridgette Motsepe Radebe, his sidekick Malcolm X, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s son Kabelo Binns and an unidentified Afrikaner man strategizing on how to move the funds from Bridgette Motsepe to finance Venson-Moitoi’s campaign.

In one of the tapes, Bridgette Radebe stresses that, “we need to get it out this week. The money is ready.” The unidentified Afrikaner man then cautions that “we need to be very careful how we issue the money.” Among the strategies discussed was to channel the money through service providers.

In one of the audio tapes, Bridgette’s son is heard asking Jeff Radebe to leave the room with him so that Bridgette and her team could discus Venson-Moitoi’s campaign financing. “Papa are tswele ko ntle ba batla gobua ka dichelete”, he is heard telling his father.

It has also emerged that contrary to earlier speculations, Patrice Motsepe was not among Venson-Moitoi’s financiers.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi was this week reported to be organising a meeting with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa in a bid to head off a possible diplomatic row as Botswana embarks on a money laundering and illicit financing investigations that may implicate a number of South African citizens among them Bridgette Motsepe Radebe.