Monday, July 4, 2022

DIS assembling a hit squad?

There are fears that the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) is assembling a hit squad following reports of mass resignations from the Botswana Defence Force Commando Unit, Special Forces, to join the spy outfit.

Reports from the army barracks have revealed that the BDF Commando Unit, Special Forces has been hit by a spate of mass resignations of Commando soldiers who have been lured to join the DIS with attractive salaries.

It is reported that by next month, at least twenty Commando officers will have joined the DIS following in the footsteps of some who have already joined the spy agency. This move has attracted some murmurs within the army circles that the DIS may be assembling a hit squad.

It is speculated that the recruited commando’s will be part of a unit modeled after the British No. 30 Commando, Ian Fleming’s top secret crack team of commandos trained in all the tricks of intelligence gathering, ready to be sent into battle ahead of the advancing troops during World War 11. The 30 Assault Unit, as the commandos were known, was Commander Ian Fleming’s greatest single contribution to the war effort and became the real-life inspiration for his most famous creation, James Bond.

The DIS which is a brainchild of President Ian Khama is run by his longtime associate in the army, Isaac Kgosi. When Khama left the army to join politics in 1998, Kgosi was seconded to his office as his Private Secretary. Kgosi went on to become the Director of the DIS when it was hastily formed when Khama ascended to the presidency.

Reports of recruitment of commandos by the DIS add to the already rife speculation that Khama is surrounding himself with soldiers to protect him in the event he refuses to step down from the presidency in 2018, a claim the president has repeatedly dismissed.

Khama has already built a mini army barracks at the State House and has filled many strategic government positions with his former colleagues from the BDF. Reached for comment on allegations of mass exodus at the Commando Unit, retired Brigadier Iphemeleng Kgokgothwane, who founded the BDF Commando Unit in 1981, was in utter shock and disbelief. “Please, I think you are lying because that would be very sad.”

Kgokgothwane said it would hurt him to know that the Unit he formed, with the support of Khama while still in the army, was being torn apart by mass resignations of soldiers who want to join the DIS.

“The cost implications are just too massive. It is very very expensive to train a commando and, besides, commandos are not trained to gather intelligence information. They are trained to take orders and take action based on the intelligence that would have been gathered by Intelligence Units.”

Kgokgothwane said commandos are trained to take action and are the most sophisticated and ‘dangerous’ branch of the army.

“Ke di gatlhamela masisi,” he added.

During the trial of four army commandos who killed John Kalafatis, Kgokgothwane, who trained them, said at the time that he was not surprised they went and killed him in cold blood.

“I trained commandos to take instructions even if it’s to kill someone. I trained them to kill and not to arrest. I never trained those boys to arrest so it is wrong to blame them.”

Kgokgothwane said arresting criminals is the duty of the police and they can be assisted by the Special Support Group (SSG) and not soldiers. He defended the four army officers and said the blame should be directed at the person who sent them.

Contacted for comment, BDF spokesperson, Tebo Kacho Dikole, said: “We regret to inform you that given the sensitivity of the BDF’s Special Forces Unit we are unable to comment on matters related to its recruitment or attrition.”

Efforts to get comment from DIS Director Isaac Kgosi were unsuccessful as his mobile was off at the time of going to press.

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