Magosi must not make his position vulnerable

29 Jan 2019

By Richard Moleofe

We have all watched Hollywood movies depicting Federal Bureau of Investigations special agents making arrests in America. Even in movies, those operatives remain as professional as they possibly can. They make the scene look real even though they are just a bunch of actors.

Last week we saw the arrest of Isaac Kgosi, the former Chief of Intelligence in Botswana. During his arrest at the airport, the current Chief of Intelligence, Fana Magosi was not only present during the arrest but was heavily involved in the whole exercise.

Magosi has done this in the past as Head of Cobra at Botswana Defence Force. This sub-sector of the Military Intelligence was responsible for dealing with the spate of robberies in the country and indeed they fulfilled their mandate to the fullest degree. Magosi did not lead from behind, but rather, he was always in the forefront getting involved in the chase and the exchange of gunfire during interceptions of criminal elements.

Cobra was so infamous with criminal syndicates all because of Magosi. When Magosi was fired from BDF by Ian Khama who is publicly a known friend of Isaac Kgosi, I spoke against his irregular dismissal. One thing I did not hide when writing on my column was the fact that I did not like Magosi’s cowboy’s approach to security operations.

Military leaders and all other leaders in the security realm are always leading from behind. They draw plans and give orders on how their plans have to be executed. Magosi knows very well that he should not be presenting himself as a target in the manner he still continues to do. In the art of war, capturing a general is the best thing that can ever come to the enemy camp.

I watched with so much disbelief how Magosi came so close and personal to his sworn enemy, Isaac Kgosi. Kgosi will never come to forgive Magosi until he goes to the grave. And Magosi should know better. Imagine a situation where Kgosi had had prior knowledge of his embarrassing arrest at the airport; he would have prepared in one way or the other for his personal defence. The worst thing I can think of is sulfuric acid which is readily available in the streets of India.

It is easy to bring in sulfuric acid in check-in luggage and once you get a green light from the customs officers, then you can freely open your bag and get your lethal weapon at the ready. Such acid would leave Magosi with permanent scars on his face and possible blindness on both eyes. We are all glad nothing bad happened. But Kgosi came close to releasing a terrifying blow on Magosi especially at a point where the former was being pushed and shoved into a waiting vehicle.

When one reaches the position of executive leadership, they must learn to remain in the office and wait to be briefed on the progress of such operations. With current technology, the boss can watch an operation live from his operations room. We saw that happen with the operation on Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan. President Obama watched live along with his national security team that included the Secretary of State along with the many chiefs of all intelligence organs in the country.

Read history and understand about the arrest of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist. I have watched the documentary on this man several times and he thought he was untouchable and invisible. After agreeing with the government to build his own prison and live in it under his own terms, he bolted out of his personal prison and was killed in a shootout.

The team that killed him was led by Brigadier Hugo Martinez and the use of radio trilateration technology was helpful in tracking him because he used a satellite phone. Brigadier Martinez remained in the control room and issued orders from there as he was given periodic briefing by those who were given the mandate to either capture or kill.

The radio trilateration is the same technology that was used to track down Jonas Savimbi of Angola who was finally killed by a team led by an army captain. Having been at BDF with Magosi, I think his style of leadership was taken from General Khama. Khama was notorious for getting himself involved as an operative during the Segametsi Mogomotsi riots that started in Mochudi. The unrest spread to Gaborone and Mogoditshane. Gen Khama would wear a bandana and arm himself with a shambok and would be seen pursuing rioters in the evening under the cover of darkness. We told him he was acting badly and that time he listened.

If matters get really wrong in an operation, the buck always stops at the boss’s desk. Executives most often act like politicians. They would pretend they know nothing about an incident or claim ignorance of the details of an operation while at the same time promising stern action should the events turn out to be what they are suspected to be. They would promise to come back as soon as they get information on the matter and all this is a cooling exercise on the flaring tempers of the public.

Magosi must act in a manner that would not expose him to immediate danger and he needs to defend the actions of his operatives who are sent on different missions. Intelligence work can be very sensitive especially when you deal with criminal elements. It will be easier for him to defend their actions if he remains as coach and leave the ball to players. The days of player coach are over. The last player-coach was Jomo Sono and his attention was always divided.

*Richard Moleofe is a Security analyst