Saturday, March 6, 2021

Companies apply to provide private-bodyguard services

Upon suspicion that the Directorate of Intelligence Services had planted spies in his security detail, former president Ian Khama engaged private bodyguards. When the Umbrella for Democratic Change presidential candidate, Duma Boko, sauntered into the Diphetogo Primary School last year to cast his vote, he was under the protection of two bodyguards (both former commandoes in the Botswana Defence Force) and two were on standby at his house in Tlokweng.

Not long ago, Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane, said that he fears for his life and of late seeks the protection of bodyguards when he takes long road trips. In years gone by, the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, also enjoyed the protection of private bodyguards. These are just some of the examples that are indicative of a burgeoning private-bodyguard sector and this past week, parliament learnt that commercial interest in it is also burgeoning.

At the time that Mmusi himself was possibly the only person in Gaborone getting private-bodyguard protection, there was no law that regulated this sector because the Control of Security Guards Services Act of 1990 didn’t cover it. The Private Security Services Act, which started its legislative journey in 2015 under Mmusi’s successor, Shaw Kgathi, completing it the following year, is being activated to close that gap. A legislative framework for it has been developed and beginning March this year, the Act is finally being operationalised.

For purposes of this report, the Act creates a category for “close protection services”, which is the more formal language for bodyguard services. In response to a parliamentary question, Mmusi mentioned this category among those for which new licence applications have been made. Politics could well play into the administrative machinery that is being set up but a security source with a background in VIP protection says that the vacuum in which close-protection services were provided in Botswana was highly dangerous.

“There was no legal guidance with regard to when and how private bodyguards could protect their principals,” says the source. In most cases, the bodyguards were actually people who either worked or were working as nightclub bouncers and had received absolutely no training in close-protection. However, this is a job that requires a lot of training. Historically, only the president, vice president and First Lady have been provided with bodyguards as a matter of course and the task has traditionally fallen to Special Branch (SB) in the Botswana Police Service.

That changed in 1994 when BDF commandoes were trained in VIP protection. The training involved weapons handling and martial arts. SB became DIS in 2008 and the latter, which has officers with army training, is in charge of VIP protection.

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