Ex-top cop, ambassador accuses Khama of being worse than a thief

03 Apr 2018

A man who not only understands Botswana crime landscape thoroughly but has also had top-secret clearance for decades, is a qualified lawyer and has represented the country abroad as ambassador, has used quite shocking language to describe President Ian Khama’s relationship with white-collar crime.

“Ga wa utswa, o haladitse itsholelo!!” wrote Kenny Kapinga after Sunday Standard posted a video clip in which Khama tells his party faithful that “I never stole public money.”

Contextually, the Setswana translates as “What you did was worse than stealing, you ransacked the treasury.” The key word, haladitse, comes from the base form of the verb, halatsa, which means to clean out. Itsholelo means economy but within the context of the remarks that Kapinga was responding to, would take the more narrow meaning of public money than the national economy in general.

Khama, who steps down as state president this morning, was making his last address as party president to the Botswana Democratic Party’s National Council. This statement came amid allegations made in court documents by a disgraced asset manager that the P250 million that was tricked out of the National Petroleum Fund ended up in the pockets of some people. Seretse alleges that Khama, who is a blood relative of his, was cut in and used his share to build a house and buy a luxury caravan trailer. Ever since the allegations were made, the president has been protesting his innocence and the Office of the President has also issued a written denial.

Khama felt the need to wash his hands of the sordid affair when he addressed the BDP National Council. Sunday Standard took a video of the Khama’s speech and later uploaded portions of it on its Facebook wall. Midway his speech in one clip, the outgoing president veers off-script and declares to the audience in Setswana: “Ga ke a utswa madi a puso.” One of those who visited Sunday Standard’s Facebook wall was Kapinga, a career police officer who rose from Constable to Deputy Commissioner. Khama redeployed him to the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation where he served as Botswana’s High Commissioner to South Africa and later Ambassador to Zimbabwe. Kapinga’s response to Khama’s message reads in full: “Ga wa utswa, o haladitse itsholelo!! Re tlaa kopana [we will meet] one day. You will answer for all the corruption you encouraged, covered up, promoted and participated in. In a few days, the veil that has been protecting you will be removed. You are going to be bare.”

Many more people express similar sentiments about Khama using almost similar language but Kapinga is in a different category. As a top cop and a member of the security community, Kapinga had the highest security clearance and knows a lot of secrets. Some of that information would have resulted from investigative work and as well as from social and professional interaction with fellow senior government officials.

What Kapinga told The Voice in an interview last year when he was asked to explain what he did as Deputy Commissioner is really telling: “My duty was to provide leadership for the operational side of policing, which is the core business of the police service. My duties included overseeing traffic, criminal investigations, forensic services and the rest.”

As a holder of a University of Botswana LLB degree, he also knows an awful lot about the law of libel and would appear to be daring Khama to sue him. His other academic qualification is a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. He has also studied law enforcement at the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in the United States. As the principal federal law enforcement agency in the US, the FBI is considered one of the best in the world.

Going back to when Khama was the commander of the Botswana Defence Force, the private media published stories about his relatives benefitting from lucrative tenders that were never advertised. The main beneficiaries were his own blood brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony, who did business with the BDF through an arms-dealing company called Seleka Springs. This company has made hundreds of millions of pula – if not billions of pula, from the army. In the Wikileaks documents, the former head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, Tymon Katlholo, is quoted as saying that Khama called him to his office to quiz him about the investigation that the directorate was conducting on Seleka Springs. Breadcrumb morsels from the army’s dining table were also thrown in the way of Khama’s blood relatives – some got tenders to supply bread at army barracks.

Rumours about Seleka Springs would be elevated to a new level of scrutiny when the Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, asked then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi, to share information about BDF tenders - which were never advertised – that this company won between 1980 and 1998. Motsumi confirmed that the company did indeed do business with BDF. That angered Khama who promptly demoted Motsumi, who was a specially-elected MP, to Botswana’s High Commissioner to India, a position she still holds. Years later when the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi, sought to change the answer she gave, Motsumi stuck to her story from New Delhi through the public airwaves.

Interestingly, Kapinga and Motsumi may have a similar story with regard to their redeployment under Khama. Kapinga is said to have been assertive with Khama which the latter didn’t take well because he is much more comfortable with people who fear him. As deputy commissioner, Kapinga was suitably placed to take over full command but was passed up for the job in favour of the current commissioner. In The Voice interview, he said the following with regard to his redeployment when he was so close to the top seat: “I think the president was not comfortable with the kind of person that I am or was. I am one professional that would not be influenced by any other consideration except the facts before the law and me. I believe that policing is there to protect the rights of the people and not intimidate them.”

No less a person than former BDF commander and current Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lt Gen Louis Fisher, has himself questioned (in a confidential document) the awarding of hundreds of millions of pula worth of contracts to Seleka Springs while Khama was still army commander. The letter suggests that as Vice president in 2001, Khama may have leaked confidential tender pricing information to Seleka Springs in a bid to help the company win a multi-million pula tender.

Having left the civil service, Kapinga has joined the opposition Botswana Congress Party and announced plans to contest for the Okavango MP seat. The incumbent, Bagalatia Arone, won on a BCP ticket but later crossed the floor to the BDP. For two decades, Okavango has been a BCP stronghold and if that is still the case next year, Kapinga will replace Arone and become MP of a constituency that includes an area (Okavango Delta) in which Khama has substantial shareholding in a string of high-end luxury tourist operations that mostly target the super-wealthy like Hollywood stars, international tycoons and European royalty.

For someone eager to prove his innocence in his last days in office, Khama has never publicly acknowledged the mere existence of Seleka Springs - or sought to quell rumours about personal his relationship with it. Kapinga’s remarks mark the first time that a senior government official – one from the top echelons of the security sector at that – who served under Khama has blatantly accused the latter of criminal wrongdoing.