It makes sense for people in Botswana to fear the Directorate in Intelligence Services (DIS) because of all the things that its agents are supposed to do and what they have been observed doing in public. As it turns out, even some Batswana living overseas live in dread of this agency which the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando once described as “a terror squad” when he was still Gaborone Central MP.
Sunday Standard learns that one peculiar group of Batswana living overseas do all they can to ensure that they stay off the DIS radar. This group lives in Canada which has the most generous asylum system of any country in the world. Naturally, this hospitality has been subjected to abuse by opportunists from all over the world. Those who qualify for refugee protection are called “convention refugees” and are defined as “people who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.” Taking advantage of this broad definition of persecution, some Batswana (and Namibians claiming to be Batswana) have sought refuge in Canada for such things as judicial corporal punishment and circumcision in initiation schools.
Students in Botswana government schools, where corporal punishment is administered daily, actually do qualify for legal protection in Canada as convention refugees. Sunday Standard learns that a young man from Kgatleng sought and was granted refugee protection after claiming that he feared he would be circumcised at the indigenous initiation school that was restarted by Kgosi Kgafela II in 2009. What is commonly known as “passion killing” in Botswana qualifies one for refugee protection in Canada. The Botswana penal code outlaws sodomy and some heterosexual Batswana are said to be getting refugee protection in Canada because they claimed to be homosexuals.
According to a source in Canada, these false refugees are never at ease around other Batswana because they know that they cheated the system. They are said to be particularly suspicious of strangers whom they fear might expose them.
“They get particularly nervous when a DIS-looking Motswana leaves a group and walks a little distance away to speak on the cellphone. They fear that this person might be calling his DIS handlers,” says the source.
Formed ahead of President Ian Khama’s administration, DIS has severely eroded social cohesion and the effects will last long after the current administration (even party) is out of power. It is unlikely that if you heard that someone is a DIS agent, you will ever trust that person again for as long as you both live.