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The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) cabal that is hellbent on toppling President Mokgweetsi Masisi ahead of the 2019 general election is said to have an advantage that no other dissident group in the party has had before – literal mountains of hard cash.
Unlike his predecessors, Masisi has not enjoyed the figurative honeymoon because his legislative and policy agenda has put him on a collision path with very powerful people, some of them high-ranking BDP figures. Part of that agenda is an anti-corruption crusade that threatens to imperil the comfort of people who, for decades, have never had to worry about being hauled over the coals for their criminality, notably the looting of public funds. It is now common knowledge that, under the guise of engaging in legitimate intra-party opposition, the culprits are working tirelessly behind the scenes to either end Masisi’s presidency at the very earliest opportunity or replace him as a presidential candidate ahead of the 2019 general election.
As both state and party president, Masisi has access to both state and donor resources - which should have given him an edge under normal circumstances. However, circumstances are far from normal because the anti-Masisi cabal is said to have amassed so much money that it can easily outspend Masisi. This is public money that was looted over the past decade through the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda in New York and Washington, the United States has used its power to incrementally close loopholes that made it possible to launder money that was used to carry out the attacks. Unlike in the past, commercial banks ask a lot of intrusive questions when a customer wants to deposit money. The latter is said to be the reason some of the money that DISS stole from the government has been stashed somewhere as hard cash.
“The P3 million that was found at a house in Block 6 in May this year is a tiny fraction of the stash that is hidden all over town, possibly all over the country. That is the money that is being used to sponsor the plot to topple Masisi,” the source says.
However, Masisi is not entirely helpless and in the session of parliament that has just ended, successfully erected hurdles that will make it extremely difficult to use the loot. Under the perfect cover of acting on recommendations of a financial-action regional task force which Botswana is a member of, the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, has brought a spate of anti-money laundering legislation with retrospective effect under a certificate of urgency. Multiple sources say that taking advantage of loose legislation, DISS used trusts to launder millions of pula. The new law prohibits a trustee from destroying any document or record connected to a trust property before expiry of 10 years from the termination of a trust without the consent of the Master and Registrar of the High Court. Even if DISS-linked trusts are hurriedly shut down, they wouldn’t be able destroy documents to hide evidence and if they do, there will be grave consequences.
As an article in last week’s edition of Sunday Standard showed, the pre-April 1, 2018 DISS was little more than an organised crime organisation that engaged in underworld activities like diamond- and ivory-smuggling. Proceeds of such criminal activities could not go into state coffers and would most likely be part of the stash that is being used to fight Masisi.
The worst fear of the BDP cabal is that if Masisi gets an electoral mandate, dockets that have gathered layers of dust at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime will be dusted off and acted on. The sums of stolen money involved necessarily means that some of the culprits will definitely go to prison.