The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander Major General Gaolathe Galebotswe and the Chief of Military Intelligence (MI) Colonel Cullen Nkete were kept in the dark about a secret bunker complete with an armoury currently under construction near Sebele on the way to Phakalane, Sunday Standard investigations have revealed. The army commander and the head of Military Intelligence only became aware of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) multi-million Pula black operation following an expose in the Sunday Standard last month.
Military analysts told the Sunday Standard that it was highly irregular that such an operation should be carried out outside the BDF military installations. Stopping short of confirming that the army command was kept in the dark about the top secret military installation, the office of the BDF commander this week issued a written response to a Sunday Standard questionnaire stating that, “the BDF works hand in glove with other security organs in this republic with a view to defend Botswana’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and national interest. Albeit each security department is independent in the execution of its mandate.”
Asked what it meant for the security of the country that a bunker with an armoury is being built outside the BDF installation? Colonel Tebo Dikole who signed the response, “for/ Commander, Botswana Defence Force”, stated that, “there are armouries in security departments and the BDF does not monopolise the existence of the same.” Dikole further explained that, “independent security departments do not have to seek the approval of the BDF in the execution on their mandate in any way, shape or form.” Even the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) politburo was not privy to the operation which the DISS wanted to keep as black.
BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi was last month quoted in a South African television station eNCA insisting that there was no secret bunker under construction. The Sunday Standard investigation team last month tracked down the plot location where the new top secret bunker commissioned by the DISS next to the spy agency’s office and petrol station in Sebele is under construction. The bunker complete with an armoury and an elaborate system of underground tunnels going under the main railway line into Phakalane Estates is being built by Rimu Enterprises.
There is no construction board announcing that major construction work is underway as is norm. Insiders say this is a sign of prudent planning in a country where the security calculus was being altered in preparation for possible civil war. The construction of the bunker coincided with another DISS black operation in which contraband cargo was smuggled into the country.
Sunday Standard can reveal that a Ukraine cargo career, Antonov from Israel landed at Sir Seretse Khama airport on the night of August 30. To evade going through customs formalities, the cargo carrier was parked inside the OK 1 hanger instead of going to the Customs cargo area as is practice, and the OK 1 service crew was chased out of the hanger to ensure confidentiality.
Customs officials and intelligence agents deployed as customs officials at Sir Seretse Khama airport told Sunday Standard that no one was allowed near the contraband cargo which was smuggled out of the airport by military green trucks that had gone into the airport area through the VIP entrance. Vehicles going in and out of the airport through the VIP gate are not searched.
Intelligence sources stated that the contraband consignment was mortars and other arms of war procured from Israel. Other sources inside the intelligence community, however insisted that this was only a cover story designed to lend a less sinister appearance to the contraband cargo that was smuggled into the country. They claimed that this however was not a convincing cover story because both the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the DISS have in the past imported arms of war and surveillance equipment but they all went through the normal customs clearance procedure. Some of the imported military equipment was brought into the country by Antonov but they still had to go through customs clearance. “There is nothing secret about importing mortars from Israel. In 2009 Botswana imported 12 81 mm mortars from Israel, and the consignment went through regular customs clearance procedures.
“You can find that out from Zebra Shipping who usually do customs clearance for both the BDF and the DISS. I can tell you now that Botswana has 22: 81mm mortars and 6:22mm mortars, it is not a secret, and so what would be so special about the mortars that have to be secretly smuggled into the country? It is all a cover story. A number of my colleagues in the intelligence who are all curious about the consignment did an analysis, and we all came to the same conclusion that the cargo was most likely ballot papers. In the unlikely event that indeed the consignment was weapons of war smuggled into the country, then it would mean someone is preparing for a civil war and is stockpiling guns and not accounting to both the customs officials and the central arms registry.”
The Source explained that “for BDF and DISS imports, customs officials and the central arms registry would issue an import permit in advance. When the consignment arrives the goods would be checked against the permit and a clearance certificate would be issued.”
In this case, no import permit was issued and customs and customs officials were not allowed to inspect the consignment.
Head of the Independent Electoral Commission Gabriel Seeletso has however dismissed reports that the contraband was ballot papers to be used in ballot staffing by the ruling party. This then leaves us with the theory that “someone may be preparing for a civil war.” The Office of the President, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Customs have however chosen to remain mum about the contraband cargo and speculations that the Office of the President may be preparing for a civil war.