Inside the covert operation that led to Isaac Kgosi’s arrest!

21 Jan 2019

The video footages – which have since gone viral showing Isaac kgosi’s arrest by plain clothes security agents at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport tell less than half the story of what really went on to plan and ultimately execute the sting operation on a man who only a few months ago was the most feared in Botswana and at times also arguably the most powerful.

Planning the operation was a nerve wrecking affair involving only a handful of trusted and highly trained security agents and law enforcement officers.

The operatives came from the intelligence services (DIS) formerly led by Kgosi himself and also from the Military Intelligence (MI) which he also once worked for and one that towards the latter part of his career he dominated and sought to dismantle.

On the Morning of 15 January, 2019, Malebogo Keitheng, an accounts clerk at one of the up-market but otherwise secluded hotels in Gaborone noticed a peculiar steady stream of a dozen or so hefty-built men loitering up and down the stairs at her workplace.  The strange looking team of men generally spoke in hushed tones and kept to themselves.

Though generally reserved as if to avoid attention, from their demeanour it was clear to Keitheng that the men knew each other quite well and were probably work mates.

As she sat down at her desk for the day’s duty she asked her colleague who had arrived earlier the name of the company under which the guests had booked at the reception desk.

The answer she got was that the men had all booked as private individuals. They carried with them no luggage. And had all paid in cash.

At the parking lot Keitheng also observed that the mysterious guests were also driving at least half a dozen gleaming and shiny SUVs, with a few of the cars carrying foreign registration numbers.

As the day progressed it became apparent to her that the leader of the pack was a dark, fast walking short man who seemed to have boundless amounts of energy. The man would from time to time strut up and down the stairs before walking out to the parking lot to make a phone a call and light a cigarette.

His phone rang non-stop.

For all of the day he was wearing dark glasses, a basketball cap and a sleeveless khaki cardigan.

By the time Keitheng knocked off at 1730hrs, all the mystery guests had disappeared – as quickly as they had come.

When her excited boyfriend shared with her news as it broke out on social media later that evening that Isaac Kgosi had been arrested, Keitheng did not pay much attention. She had no reason. Politics and current affairs are generally not her thing. For a better part of an hour Keitheng’s boyfriend was immersed in the steady stream of news surrounding Kgosi’s arrest.

It was only after she had gleaned through the trending pictures on her boyfriend’s mobile handset that she closed her eyes and sat back in utter shock – almost as if she was collapsing.

All the men shown making the arrest were vividly familiar to her.  They had spent that entire day around her as she was busy working at her office during the day. She learnt from her more current affairs savvy boyfriend, that the charcoal skinned short man in a sleeveless khaki cardigan was Brigadier Peter Magosi, the head of the much feared and much reviled DIS.

As it turned out, the hotel where Keitheng works had been used as a war room, a planning and operations centre ahead of the arrest of Isaac Kgosi.

The other tall men, some of who had spent a lot of time at the gym were among the finest among the country’s Special Forces.

When a decision was hatched to arrest Kgosi and search his properties, the biggest headache among the planners was not how to arrest him, but rather how to avoid word getting to him first that such plans were afoot, thus allowing him time and space to preempt the plan to arrest him.

From details so far gleaned, logistical planning was a nightmare and also much more nerve-wrecking than the actual arrest , not least because manpower had to be kept  to the bare minimal; enough to mount a successful arrest yet small enough to limit chances of information leak.

During the planning stages trust was everything. And the fear of information leaking kept the planners awake at night.

But there was little consolation. A few months ago a much bigger and riskier operation against Kgosi had happened seamlessly and with near scientific precision.

That was when President Mokgweetsi Masisi had taken a decision to sack Kgosi from his powerful position as Director General of the DIS.

As all the executers knew so well at the time, Kgosi was armed to the teeth. A fabled trigger happy marksman with few qualms to use his weapons, all those involved were abnormally conscious of the risks. In the end they pulled it off, including successfully disarming Kgosi.

That operation was led by Magosi.

This past week Magosi found his path once again crossing that of Kgosi.

He was the leader of a pack of security professionals that was going to arrest Kgosi as he arrived at Sir Seretse Khama from his trips abroad that saw him go to India, Dubai and Israel.

Officially, Kgosi is no longer a member of the intelligence committee, but for many in it he remains a godfather. His influence and outreach are immense. That made influence made planning doubly difficult for Magosi and his team of officers.

For the last twenty years Isaac Kgosi’s strong-willed and swashbuckling personality has defined Botswana’s political-security axis.

Barrel-chested with a rare cheeky smile, Kgosi arrived into public psyche as private secretary to then Vice President Ian Khama who has also acted as his patron saint.

He held that position for ten years. When Khama became State President on April 1, 2008, Kgosi was that same day appointed the first Director General of the DIS, a position he held beyond Khama’s ten year tenure, until Masisi took a bold step to sack him.

If the DIS made Kgosi feared and hated, it also made him rich and notorious – all in equal measure.

For the time that he was heads of the DIS he made sure that his personality was reflected in the body structure of the organization he led.

During that time there was no shortage of news linking Isaac Kgosi and/or DIS to corruption.

The departure of Khama from office however signaled that Kgosi was living on borrowed time.

That proved true when only a month or two later he was sacked.

His sacking has only proved to be a pre-emptive strike.

The tussle between Khama and Masisi inevitably meant that Kgosi, given his proximity to Khama  was never too far away from the new Viceroy in town.

And that too came to pass this week as Kgosi became the first and so far biggest prize to fall from the Masisi/Khama tussle.

Flight details show that Kgosi was due to arrive at the airport at 1900hrs on Tuesday evening.

He was flying Air Botswana Flight BP 222 code-sharing Qatar Airways.

Those who were around the terminal of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport say on that evening Brigadier Magosi was seen pacing restlessly from one point the other.

He was alone – or at least so they thought.

We now know that a huge security operation that would soon stun the nation was by that time already under way.

Together with his men, Magosi was waiting to pounce on Kgosi upon arrival.

As it turned out Kgosi’s flight was delayed by two hours meaning it would not be until around 2100hrs that the prized trophy arrived.

“Ladies and gentlemen, announcing the arrival of Flight BP 222 Code-sharing Qatar Airways,” blurted a voice from the airport public address system.

After a few minutes Kgosi emerged from the International Arrivals section of the terminal. He was pushing a trolley carrying a few bags. He was accompanied by his wife and son, probably twelve years or so.

As he walked out, a man in a striped t-shirt approached him. The same man was carrying a reddish folder from which he immediately pulled out a single sheet of paper and showed it to Kgosi for his attention.

We later learnt that the piece of paper was a “warrant of arrest” that had been issued by the magistrate for Kgosi’s arrest.

Like everything else that went into preparing for the operation, acquiring the arrest warrant had been a highly classified secret.

The planners had gone to extreme lengths to ensure it would not be leaked – not by the magistrate and certainly not by the magistrate’s staff.

As Kgosi started to reads the paper, four other men got closer to him. Kgosi is a tall and bulky man. Yet sandwiched by those four men he looked somewhat like a dwarf.

As there confusion ensued on what steps to do next, the dark man wearing a sleeveless cardigan and a basketball cap came closer to give direction.

“Fana [Magosi] why are you guys doing this to me,” was among Kgosi’s first few words.

By this time was leaning by the nearest wall crying.

His wife had run half way through the terminal building towards the exit before somebody reminded her not to leave the little boy behind.

She came back for the kid, running and screaming: “Motswana let’s go.”

Kgosi was handcuffed, taken into a holding cell- apparently for searching.

After what seemed like eternity, he emerged surrounded by the same security agents that had taken him in.

As they walked him to a convoy of cars waiting outside he looked calmer, but still visibly angry. It seemed like he was slowly resigning himself to his fate.

For the first time he attracted some sympathy without really asking for it from the bystanders around.

He tried to talk to a man he said was his lawyer, but Magosi would have none of it.

Then he asked to be allowed to hug a young woman he had identified as his daughter.

The hug elicited a pouring out of an emotional outburst from the young woman.

“I am going to topple this Government. I’m telling you,” Kgosi said as he responded to the wailing cry of his daughter, before being whisked away.