When South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa delayed in congratulating his Botswana counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi on his election victory, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive.
Curiously, the African National Congress (ANC) a fraternal party of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) did not even bother to send a goodwill message.
Then Ramaphosa skipped Masisi’s inauguration and flew off to Tokyo to support the Springbok, South African national team in the Rugby World Cup final and the hitherto fringe conspiracy theory went mainstream. Even reputable media outlets simply joined the dots and a sinister outline emerged: That what started off as Botswana’s push back against South Africa’s businesswoman, Bridgette Motsepe Radebe’s campaign to unseat President Masisi was now threatening to become a far wider and ominous cold war between the two Southern African neighbours.
The tension between the two countries is now playing itself out in the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) corruption case which implicated Motsepe Radebe alongside former DIS intelligence agent Wilhelmina Maswabi code named Butterfly, former President Lt Gen Ian Khama and former DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi in the alleged Bank of Botswana P100 billion heist.
As the dispute grows and neither side shows any intention of holding back, the potential fallout between Masisi government and South Africa might jeopardize the stable sub-continent that looks up to South Africa as the regional leader.
Beneath the surface, a new tone has begun to emerge as the South African government moves to close rank around Motsepe Radebe. South African Minister of International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor has gone on record telling the media that she believed Motsepe-Radebe did not commit any crime in Botswana.
What was billed as Botswana’s biggest corruption case is being framed in South Africa as a plot by the Botswana government and President Mokgweetsi Masisi in particular to malign Ramaphosa’s sister in law. Motsepe Radebe is ramping up the paranoia, telling the South African media that there is a bullet in Botswana with her name on it.
Deploying their local and international propaganda arms, the newspapers, television channels and social media, Khama, Motsepe Radebe and the South African intelligence are honing this message.
The DCEC and The DIS have been caught flat footed and by Friday evening it was obvious that they had lost this battle of competing narratives and were in danger of being swamped by the unlimited local and international propaganda resources at their adversaries’ disposal.
The DIS information output which started as a roar last month when Maswabi was arrested had shrunk to a squeak this week as the spy agency reeled from the blowback. The DIS however denies that they are being routed in the information warfare and are instead shifting goal posts and spinning stories of a victory in the not so distant future.
The story is still unfolding, however bits of information which are emerging suggest that the DIS boss Peter Magosi and his colleague at the DCEC Joseph Mathambo may have been blindsided by their crafty adversaries who served them a red herring in a nifty disinformation warfare attack. This has resulted in one of Botswana’s biggest intelligence failures ever, reminiscent of the CIA mea culpa which led to the Gulf war on the back of false intelligence about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that at least two of the DIS and DCEC covert sources were not some rogue agent provocateurs, but were double agents and possibly sponsored faux dossier peddlers with links to Motsepe Radebe and Isaac Kgosi.
A source close to the case told the Sunday Standard that the whoppers in the dodgy dossier bore the mark of professional intelligence disinformation with accurate basic facts provided as bait to convince the DCEC and the DIS that the fake information was real. Indications are that the DIS had a serious blind spot and failed to see through the window dressing.
For the past two weeks, however, their questionable dossier has been fraying like a fong-kong pantyhose, with Khama and Motsepe Radebe using the apparently false intelligence to dismiss real evidence on their role in the plot to oust Masisi and the Bank of Botswana’s hundreds of millions that cannot be accounted for.
Most of the information contained in the dossier which serves as the backbone of the case against Maswabi, Khama, Kgosi and Motsepe-Radebe has failed to check out. It appears DCEC and DIS sources sold them a dummy to tarnish the investigation and undermine President Masisi’s campaign against corruption.
The situation is not helped by the fact that Motsepe Radebe and her South African backers enjoy the home ground advantage in the ensuing information warfare as most of the banks and alleged co-conspirators are based in South Africa.
For the past two weeks, the focus of the case has been on the flurry of documentation from South African banks discrediting the DCEC and DIS dossier, while the audio tape recordings of Motsepe Radebe planning the ouster of Masisi and the Auditor General report that hundreds of millions of BoB money cannot be accounted for have been conveniently veiled in the information warfare smoke and mirrors.
The Auditor General last year issued a qualified audit opinion on government’s main pula accounts with the Bank of Botswana because transactions running into billions of pula cannot be accounted for.
The Auditor General further called for an investigation into the account. Government cannot account for debits of P 4 933 156 857 in its remittances account which is the main government account at the Bank of Botswana, it emerged in the 2016/2017 Auditor General’s report.
“The reconciliation statement of this figure with the bank statement balance included among others unidentified debits totalling P4 932 156 857 in the bank statement and receipts totalling P114 459 342 728 in the general ledger which should be investigated”, stated the Auditor General’s report.
In Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul discusses psychological warfare as a common peace policy practice between nations as a form of indirect aggression. This type of propaganda drains the public opinion of an opposing regime by stripping away its power on public opinion. This form of aggression is hard to defend against because no international court of justice is capable of protecting against psychological aggression since it cannot be legally adjudicated. “Here the propagandists is [sic] dealing with a foreign adversary whose morale he seeks to destroy by psychological means so that the opponent begins to doubt the validity of his beliefs and actions.”