Never before in the history of modern Botswana has an unelected official wielded so much unaccountable power like Isaac Kgosi.
Together with President Ian Khama he established a dreaded security apparatus that has in every sense become a national albatross.
On the day that he ascended, President Khama named Kgosi the head of DIS (Directorate on Intelligence Services) ÔÇô a dreaded security machine with almost unfettered power.
Since then, the DIS has become more powerful than all security institutions put together.
To its detractors, and there are many, it is a law unto itself.
At its apex sits Kgosi, answerable to no one but Khama whom he shares an opaque relationship that blurs all the known lines of governance.
That has however not been without political costs.
Against Kgosi’s unassailable power, governance and political accountability have been the biggest casualties.
Parliament for example has no oversight authority over DIS.
And as shown over and over again, Kgosi is much more powerful than the ministers that are at least nominally supposed to be his political superiors.
This bizarre arrangement has been one of the best selling points for opposition parties which they successfully harnessed and harped on in the recent General Elections.
Cabinet Ministers are also known to be not only helpless against Kgosi but also fearful of him.
And not without a reason!
When a dispute broke out between Kgosi and the then Minister for Defence, Ndelu Seretse under whom DIS fell, President Khama responded by removing DIS from┬á that ministry. It was seen as a victory for Kgosi.
Rightly, President Khama’s action was interpreted as taking sides with a trusted friend against good governance.
Many Batswana are however lost for answers when it comes to explaining the basis for this long enduring friendship.
Theories abound. What is clear though is that it is a partnership wrought in the trenches of the military and solidified by many years of service, trust and loyalty.
Government insiders are adamant that while the friendship remains as strong as ever, Kgosi’s hold on Khama is no longer as strong.
Insiders say recent events prove that President Khama is by no imagination a puppeteer.
They say in unprecedented regularity, Kgosi has been losing key internal debates inside government.
As President’s tenure slowly draws to a close one big decision on succession is still yet to be made.
That decision has over the last three weeks literally paralysed the state.
Kgosi is known to prefer Nonofo Molefi, while President Ian Khama prefers his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama.
Key government insiders are beginning to brief that this glaring disconnection on such an important matter underscores an important reality that is substantially at variance with a commonly held public narrative that what Kgosi says goes.
They also point to a recent debate in government over who had to be appointed Permanent Secretary to the President replacing Eric Molale.
Kgosi’s preferred choice, insiders was Botshelo Mathuba, one of the permanent secretaries in the presidency.
Khama demurred and ultimately turned down the advice.
He ultimately settled for Carter Morupisi ÔÇô a former director at the Directorate of Public Service Management .
The Permanent Secretary to the President is operationally the most powerful position after the President. The PSP is the secretary to cabinet. After the vice president, he is also the most senior voice that is ever present in all the decisions that the president takes.
As head of DIS, Kgosi is junior to the PSP and is required by law to make declarations of his assets to the PSP.
The fact that Kgosi even felt confident he could influence who could become PSP is by itself instructive.
It shows the extent of his power and confidence.
More telling however, is the fact that President Khama rejected Kgosi’s choice.
“I think the President still trusts him [Kgosi] at operational level. But I don’t think he has enough confidence in him to make decisions on such strategic high level appointments. Kgosi was simply overplaying his hand,” said one source.
Kgosi is a little less than a decade Khama’s junior.
But he is an operations man whose long proximity to power led him to think he could be a strategist.
To the ordinary public who have come to regard Kgosi and Khama as inseparable Siamese twins linked at the hip, Kgosi’s backing of a Vice President contender different from Khama’s choice is regarded as not only defiance but also a proxy battle against he who has made the intelligence operative who he is.
No wonder some insiders are already calling this a betrayal of the President by his most trusted aide.
“He won’t be losing his job anytime soon. He remains the most loyal and can be trusted. But he is painfully aware of his dwindling influence. He has been winning all his battles inside this government. And when his choice of PSP was rejected, he took it with a heavy heart,” said a source close to the Office of the President who would not want to be named for fear of offending a powerful and influential figure like Kgosi.
“His power and prestige has been declining inside government. People no longer fear him the way they used. It is a result of corruption allegations leveled against him. All of a sudden everybody sees him as just another man. It will not help him that he has been losing out on who he wanted on key appointments,” said another source.