World Bulletin/News Desk
The government of Botswana on Thursday slapped American actor Rick Yune and British actress Jennifer Lindsey Bell with visa restrictions hours before their scheduled arrival in the country.
"From time to time, we assess certain individuals and decide if they should require a visa to enter Botswana," Minister of Labor and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu told Anadolu Agency.
He said the government was not motivated by any belief that the two could be sponsoring the opposition.
"It could be anyone; the system applies to all individuals," Batshu added.
Americans and Britons do not require a visa to enter Botswana.
"Whoever thinks that this particular decision is politically motivated should know that's not true," Batshu said. "But then, everyone is entitled to their opinion – if they think it is politically motivated, it is up to them."
Yune and Bell could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sources say the two film stars received news of the restrictions as they were about to board a connecting flight from Johannesburg, South Africa.
Yule and Bell, both hugely popular in Botswana, were scheduled to attend the weekend launch of a parliamentary campaign by Duma Boko, the leader of Botswana's fastest growing opposition party.
Botswana has a first past-the-pole electoral system whereby the party with more parliamentary seats wins elections and its leader becomes president.
Boko's Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) announced Thursday that it planned to unveil five double-decked, fully branded campaign buses at the Boko launch.
"We are not surprised because this government does not tolerate people who hold a different opinion," UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa told AA. "They think this will weaken us, but they are wrong."
Yune, famous for his role in Hollywood's blockbuster "Fast and Furious" films, is known to be a close friend of Boko, who is a noted human rights lawyer.
He, together with Bell, came to Botswana early this year at the invitation of the opposition leader.
During the visit, they accompanied Boko as he toured the country in a chartered helicopter.
However, neither film star has made a political statement.
Yule also appeared with Boko alongside former U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation conference in Vienna in 2012.
During the conference, Boko said Botswana – long known for its democratic credentials and respect for human rights – risked losing these ideals under President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
He cited several arbitrary killings allegedly carried out by the Directorate of Intelligence Services, which Khama established soon after assuming office in 2008.
Antony Morima, a noted lawyer, said the government decision should sound warning bells for the nation.
"This just shows how victimized the opposition is in this country," he told AA.
"Obviously, the restriction is just a formality. They will certainly turn down their visa applications," Morima suggested.
Last month, Botswana turned down an application for entry by maverick South African opposition leader Julius Malema.
Malema was listed as the only South African who needed a visa to enter Botswana after calling on the latter to "remove Ian Khama's puppet government from power."
Botswana will hold its tenth general elections on October 24.
The opposition, struggling for years in a country where political parties are not funded by the state and where the ruling party has enjoyed the support of big businesses, has fielded a fierce campaign.
Last Mod: 03 Ekim 2014, 11:32