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As Botswana continues to evolve in highly unusual ways, someone who knows a little too much about how civil wars start has raised concern that far from protecting the country’s national security interests, the Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) is actually a threat to national security.
“The Directorate of Intelligence Services was a very good idea,” said the Gabane-Mankgodi MP, Major General Pius Mokgware when contributing to the debate on the budgetary request for this department as presented by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale. “I supported this idea but it is dying.”
In one respect, such death manifests itself in the form of DIS getting “tainted with the same corruption it is supposed to fight.” The most recent example of what the MP was complaining about is a criminal case in which DIS is alleged to have unlawfully diverted money from the National Petroleum Fund to an expenditure item that didn’t have official sanction. As a source told Sunday Standard late year, the money actually ended up “in the pockets” of some people. The defence lawyer in the NPF case, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae, actually confirmed that theory this past week when he named President Ian Khama, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and two cabinet ministers among those who allegedly benefitted from the NPF money. Mokgware expressed concern that in the 2018/19 financial year, as in previous ones, huge sums of money were once more being given to a department which has never been audited. In addition to the normal recurrent and development budget allocations, DIS has also benefitted handsomely from supplementary allocations that occur in the middle of a financial year.
“We have even heard that some funds are taken from other departments and transferred to this department but no audit has been done. Is this right? Are we creating a monster that we cannot even deal with later?” queried the MP who expressed astonishment upon noticing that Masisi, who is the Leader of the House, was somehow amused by his statement.
Part of the official reason why it has not audit DIS’ finances is that it handles highly sensitive national security matters that should be known to very few people. However, there is a very strong feeling that this special dispensation is being abused. Last year, the Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe, called on the government to develop a specialised audit process for the agency in order to exercise some oversight. Save for the president, DIS doesn’t answer to any higher authority. Beginning 2014 to date, a parliamentary committee that is supposed to keep tabs on DIS has never met.
Mokgware is as worried that DIS has usurped the mandate of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship by vetting foreigners who can come into the country. He wondered what qualification DIS has to perform this task.
“It is everywhere. We hear that it even hires people and some intelligence companies privately to do government jobs. If we leave this department, there is going to be chaos,” he warned.
Alongside Mauritius, Botswana is Africa’s oldest democracy and for a long time has kept certain words out of the description of its national politics. However, that changed in 2009 when “extrajudicial killing” entered public lexicon. This was after DIS hit men killed a Gaborone man called John Kalafatis in cold blood. Then followed rumours about a “hit list” on which were names of prominent opposition politicians. Ahead of the 2014 general election, one of those leaders, Botswana Movement for Democracy leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi, died in a car accident. To date, some believe that he was “assassinated.” In his debate, Mokgware used another term that has never been associated with Botswana politics.
“If we are going to continue [like this], this department is going to cause a civil war,” he said.
This is a subject that Mokgware is more than qualified to talk about. He is a former member of the Botswana Defence Force and at the time of his self-described forced retirement, was part of the high command. From the barracks, he went to teach security studies at the University of Botswana. “Civil war” is not a term that someone with his background would use lightly and when he could have said something in his response to allay fears, Molale steered clear of this issue. In the past, the government has given a variety of non-answers in response to specific and detailed concerns about DIS.
Parliament’s rules don’t allow MPs to talk about outsiders and when he had to identify what he deems to be main DIS problem, Mokgware was constrained by this rule. According to the general, DIS “should not be controlled by only one person” that he did not name.
Mokgware’s words are chilling for what a now deceased Zambian fortune teller, Dr. Francis Ngombe, has predicted for Botswana. Ngombe, who accurately predicted the prime ministership of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, the political rise of President Khama and the fall from grace of Uganda’s Milton Obote, has predicted that the end of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) rule will be accompanied by civil strife. At the time that Ngombe made his prediction about the future of Botswana’s politics, Khama was still in the BDF. Ngombe never mentioned Khama by name; he only said that there will emerge a very powerful figure would join politics and that a future vice president will overshadow the president. He also said that after dominating Botswana’s politics, this powerful person will sink into oblivion. In one respect, DIS is the direct result of Vice President Khama having overshadowed President Festus Mogae. On account of how weak parliament is and on the orders of the BDP parliamentary caucus, MPs merely rubber-stamped a bill that created an agency that they themselves were deeply uneasy about.
The strength of Mokgware’s concern is such that he feels that in order to avert looming danger, DIS has to be reined in.
“We have to do something about this department and see to it that we take control of it,” he said when concluding his debate.
Other MPs have also communicated their worries about DIS but, at least judging by press reportage, the agency’s aggression against the very same people who fund it continues unabated.