Monday, October 25, 2021

It was Gaolathe against Pilane and his ginger-spiced boys

Botswana Movement for Democracy presidential candidate Sidney Pilane and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) were this weekend fighting from the same corner, to dethrone the incumbent party president Ndaba Gaolathe.

The quick-witted Gaborone lawyer went to the BMD Elective Congress in Tonota yesterday (Saturday) as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the DIS Special Task Team (STT) elaborate black programme codenamed “Operation Tholwana Borethe” which aims to undermine Gaolathe’s leadership “and eventually push him off the helm”.

For the DIS agent provocateurs, a win by Pilane would be the crowning glory in their rouble rousing operation.  The DIS report by STT Director Tsosoloso Mosinki warns that “there is likelihood that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) government will dismantle the service and possibly pursue prosecution against officers.”

If the stakes are high for Pilane, they are even higher for DIS Director General, Isaac Kgosi. A corruption investigation against him is complete and the docket is being kept under lock and key at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).

A Pilane victory may, however, be Kgosi’s saving grace. Pilane and his son-in-law, Jacob Sesinyi are part of Kgosi’s ginger group, a collection of unofficial advisers he consults in parallel to the DISS and government officials ÔÇô a kitchen cabinet of sorts. They are his legal advisors, his publicists and his gate keepers.

Pilane has built a formidable war chest which has enabled him to harness part of the BMD structures to his side, ready to take on Gaolathe who is having the worst of DIS Operation Tholwana Borethe, in a fight insiders fear may push the party off the cliff.

The idea that Pilane is the BMD b├¬tes noire is not new. Over the past years, the man most BMD grassroots followers love to hate has occupied top spot in the demonology of the party. Across a range of activities ÔÇô from the row over forensic investigation into former BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi’s death to controversies in the elections of the BMD youth league committee and party executive committee, most BMD supporters believed that Pilane was forever the invisible hand behind the “fragmentation of the BMD into warring factions”.

The BMD money trail suggests that Pilane is the power behind the scenes who directed thousands of Pula to favoured party members, the puppet master who pulled the strings of party activists in key places, the power broker who is building a parallel power base inside the BMD. He is the central figure in what threatens to be a major melt-down of the BMD.

BMD Mochudi West Member of Parliament, Gilbert Mangole who is part of the group that is backing Pilane confirmed to the media that Pilane spend money from his pocket to finance BMD national, youth and women’s wing congresses. This has bought him influence among a section of the party and stacked the deck against Gaolathe which has perhaps inadvertently helped push the agenda of the DIS Operation Tholwana Borethe.

For months leading to this weekend congress, Pilane’s campaign for the BMD presidency and the DIS Operation Tholwana Borethe were cheek by jowl.

It is not clear if Gaolathe and Pilane would ever be able to work together, but indications are that there is going to be a lot of tears and blood before bed time. Few events show the underlying machinery of Botswana’s political culture better than national congresses which inevitably throw up backstabbing, legal wrangles, last-minute defections and backroom deals as politicians jostle to end up with winning tickets.

A series of congresses running up to the BMD national congress yesterday (Saturday)  took the usual tempestuous air a few notches up with deep seated divisions, private security outfits and flashes of political violence suggesting that the party was going to war rather than to a congress to elect a new leadership. All this reads like a page from the DIS plan to “exploit BMD vulnerabilities to undermine Gaolathe’s leadership, and eventually push him off the helm, in order to intensify factions and strife within the BMD”.

The BMD internal strife followed the DIS Operation Tholwana Borethe script. Around the time Operation Tholwana Borethe was set in motion a BMD women’s league congress in Tsogang Primary School, Gaborone North Constituency last year was disrupted after the group that is rooting for Pilane called in their private security to remove area Member of Parliament Haskins Nkaigwa and Chairman of the Branch committee Maano Thukwi both linked to the group backing Gaolathe.

The congress descended into chaos and Broadhurst police had to be brought in to quell the tension. Curiously, Director of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi was not far from the crime scene. The ink on witness statements from the crime scene had hardly dried when Kgosi showed up at the Broadhurst Police Station, disappeared into the back office and later emerged with a sheaf of papers.

Unconfirmed reports from witnesses who were at the Broadhurst Police Station claim the bundle of papers Kgosi left with were copies of BMD witnesses’ statements. This has stoked fears by some BMD insiders that the private security engaged by Pilane’s supporters may have been part of a third force that was exploiting existing strains on the BMD political campaign trail.

The BMD women’s group showed up a few weeks later in Molepolole with their private security on tow, for a women’s league congress that also ended up at the Molepolole Police Station after Pilane allegedly assaulted former councillor, Botshelo Kgatitswe who is associated with the Gaolathe group.

The DIS report confirms that the spy agency has infiltrated the BMD. The DIS Special Task Team boss states in the report: “I have also deployed a Liaison Officer to the Planning and Liaison Cell. However, this element should be soon reinforced to allow a better and more effective engagement with the party assets.”

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper