Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Botswana faces traumatic transfer of power from Khama to Masisi

While international commentators are raving about Botswana’s peaceful transfer of power, Sunday Standard has turned up information suggesting that Botswana’s peace is at its most fragile in the history as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s rivals in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) try to mobilise for a future challenge on his presidency.

The Sunday Standard can reveal that Masisi’s close circle has received intelligence information that a clique of BDP leaders some in cabinet are trying to deploy their allies in parliamentary constituencies and to de-campaign Masisi’s loyalists so as to erode the president’s base in parliament.

It is however not clear if plans to make former President Lt Gen Khama the BDP campaign coordinator are part of a bigger campaign to attack Masisi’s power base.

Sources close to the Office of the President say a major shakedown at the government enclave may be on the cards as President Masisi moves to assert himself and loosen President Khama’s grip on power. It is however understood that President Masisi is caught between reversing former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama’s plan to retain a grip on power even after retiring on the one hand and avoiding a groundswell of dissent which could result in former president Lt Gen Ian Khama’s loyalists regrouping to destabilise his presidency on the other hand.

The recent dramatic expulsion of former Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services Director General Isaac Kgosi which followed a very covert operation that excluded the country’s top security personnel spoke to President Masisi’s trust on his disciplined forces.

Among high profile security officers who are facing Masisi’s guillotine is Botswana Defence Force Chief of Military intelligence Culleen Nkete. The Chief of MI is not only a sworn enemy of Masisi’s new security advisor Brigadier Peter Magosi, but is also believed to be loyal to axed DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi.

Brigadier Magosi who was Nkete’s immediate predecessor as Chief of Military Intelligence fell out with his successor after Magosi refused to hand over some intelligence officers to Nkete. At a meeting of the BDF command July 2014 Brig Magosi was grilled on why he had not handed over one of the MI agents to his successor, but Brig Magosi maintained that he could not do so because the new command was compromising MI agents.

There are also trust issues between Masisi’s circle of confidantes and Nkete following suspicions that the Military Intelligence was part of a black operation  by the DIS to kill the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime DCEC) investigations against the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi. MI and the BDF were last month forced to beef up security around cars impounded from Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi and Capital Management Botswana boss Rapula Okaile after the Directorate of Intelligence and Security services allegedly tried to steal the eight vehicles.

Also believed to be part of Kgosi’s extensive network of loyalists is the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi.

Morupisi and Kgosi were part of an elaborate plan last year, to conceal the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) alleged diamond and ivory smuggling rogue operation.

As part of the smoke and mirrors scheme, Kgosi and Morupisi met the Minister of Tourism Tshekedi Khama at the Office of the President on Monday where they tried to persuade the minister to issue a rebuttal against the Sunday Standard story on DISS diamond and ivory dealings. Tshekedi Khama’s rejoinder was to be the ultimate brushstroke in the carefully planned whitewashing of the DIS scandal and the closing gambit in a series of administrative ruses meant to throw Batswana off the spy agency’s alleged shenanigans. It is understood that Tshekedi Khama refused to play along, insisting that the story was factual.

The meeting between Kgosi, Morupisi and Khama allegedly ended a chapter of manoeuvres to makeover the spy agency’s ivory-gate as a sting operation gone wrong. The DCEC is investigating Morupisi’s alleged links to CMB.

Morupisi is believed to be part of a powerful trio loyal to Kgosi that includes a cabinet minister and has for a long time had a stranglehold on Botswana’s civil service. Indications are that former president Lt Gen Ian Khama ensured that he kept the leavers that protect his power and interests firmly in place before he retired.

Five months before he retired as president, Khama abruptly moved Brigadier Macheng from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) to the Office of the President where he will be heading an anti-terrorist unit. Brigadier Sentsekae Macheng is a known Khama loyalist and was until his recent re-appointment the BDF National Anti-Poaching Coordinator.   

On the same day Brigadier Macheng was moved to the Office of the President, Colonel Kenamile Badubi was retired from the army and re-appointed Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services Director of Operations. Col Badubi who is now DISS third in command has extensive knowledge in defence intelligence and used to conduct force intelligence courses at the BDF Force Training establishment (FTC).

Khama’s  key intelligence appointments on the eve of his retirement suggests that Khama wants to exert control behind the scene after his retirement from office.

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