Did ex-DIS boss pass DIS security check?

05 Aug 2018

For as long as it has been going on, the public debate about whether President Mokgweetsi Masisi can legally block the appointment of Colonel Isaac Kgosi as Lieutenant General Ian Khama’s private secretary has missed one very important detail.

With Brigadier George Tlhalerwa having retired from public service, Khama finds himself without a private secretary to provide him with administrative support as provided for in the Presidents Pension and Retirement Benefits Act. Legally therefore, Khama is entitled to a private secretary but the process of appointing one is flexible on both sides. The principal has leeway to choose whomever he wants to provide administrative support in his private office. Such leeway is necessary because the candidate has to be someone that the principal can trust to the fullest. In this respect, Khama was well within his rights to submit the name of Kgosi, his former aide-de-camp in the army, as private secretary.

However, the principal is not the appointing authority and doesn’t have the final say. This process was in place during Khama’s presidency and was used for every appointment. If he ever thought that it was defective, Khama neglected to correct it. Through internal processes, the appointing authority enlists the assistance of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) to conduct a thorough security and background check on a candidate and report back. Until May 2 this year, Kgosi had been DISS head for a little over a decade and agents tasked with running a background check on him would have been people that were his juniors before Masisi relieved him of his duties. The person overseeing the process was Kgosi’s successor and nemesis, Brigadier Peter Magosi who, in turn, would have submitted the report to the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, who reports to Masisi. Out of all this, the natural questions to ask are: Did Kgosi pass the DIS security check? If he did, would Morupisi have re-appointed him to the civil service, effectively overturning a decision by Masisi to fire Kgosi? There is no way that Khama would not have known that Masisi wouldn’t allow Kgosi back into the civil service – the same Kgosi who publicly undermined Masisi by telling a parliamentary committee that he doesn’t take orders from anyone.

There is also no way this was not a ruse by Khama to portray himself as a victim when he is merely being required to comply with hiring processes that he is very well acquainted with. Khama would be gambling on the chance that his staunch, see-no-evil, hear-no-evil fan base genuinely believes that by being required to obey the law as all other citizens, he is being victimised. From flying army aircraft to hitchhiking on corporate ones to submitting names of ineligible candidates, there has emerged a very clear pattern of Khama playing a false victim and starting battles whose actual fighting he outsources to others. In line with said pattern, another fighting between Masisi and Khama is looming.

Before leaving office on April 1, Khama was appointed chief campaigner of the Botswana Democratic Party ahead of the 2019 general election – an appointment, some believe, he personally engineered behind the scenes. Last month, he called a meeting of all dikgosi (tribal leaders) in the Central District to tell them that he plans to assume his position as Bangwato supreme traditional leader. Section 13 of the Bogosi Act prohibits dikgosi from abusing their powers which is exactly what Khama is doing by assuming two contradictory roles – that of kgosi and BDP chief campaigner. Former president Festus Mogae over-indulged Khama by letting him become a politician while remaining kgosi but Masisi has been very strict with him. At some point – and it could be pretty soon, Khama will likely want to portray himself as a victim when Masisi asks him to choose between bogosi and politics, which is something that the law requires of all dikgosi. One of the penalties for contravening Section 13 of the Bogosi Act is de-recognition – fate that Khama approved for Bakgatla’s Kgosi Kgafela II whom he installed when he was both president and Bangwato kgosi.