President Ian Khama has appointed Justice Dr. Zein Kebonang of the Gaborone High Court as a member of the Tribunal on Intelligence and Security.
In terms of the Security Services Act, the Tribunal must be chaired by a practising lawyer which means that, as the only lawyer in the Tribunal, Kebonang will also become its (third) chairperson. The first chairperson was Isaac Seloko whose resignation was forced by a successful Sunday Standard application to the High Court. The paper lodged a complaint with the Tribunal about the manner in which the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services, Isaac Kgosi, had handled their request to gain access to a report about a cartel that controls Botswana’s construction industry. The paper challenged Seloko’s bonafides as a practising lawyer because the Law Society of Botswana had struck him off its roll. Seloko was replaced by former High Court judge, David Newman, who is now Botswana’s Ambassador to the United States. Interestingly, Kebonang is acting as judge in Newman’s place.
The other members of the Tribunal are Edward Muyaluka and Tsetsele Fantan. Those whose memories fall within a certain time horizon will recall Muyaluka from his days as the bodyguard of then President Sir Ketumile Masire. Muyaluka literally stood his ground when the security detail of visiting US Vice President, Al Gore, tried to shoo him away from his protective position around Masire. Fantan is a former manager at Debswana Diamond Company and relative of President Khama. The latter fact makes some people uneasy about her membership of the Tribunal.
Kebonang’s appointment to the Tribunal comes a week after the government was caught off guard by one of its own. A fortnight ago, Boteti West MP, Sethomo Lelatisitwe, asked the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration “to apprise this Honourable House on the status of the Intelligence and Security Services Tribunal and the Parliamentary Committee on intelligence since the Act was enacted.” The MP precisely wanted to know “who are members of these committees and when were they elected.” When the Assistant Minister, Phillip Makgalemele, didn’t reveal the names of the Tribunal members, Lelatisitswe pointed out that information gap. Forced into a corner, Makgalemele said that “possibly there was an oversight” and promised to do needful the following week. At least at press time, the minister hadn’t done that and when he does, he is going to have to explain that Kebonang was appointed just last week after Lelatisitswe’s question. In his response, Makgalemele also revealed that both the Parliamentary Committee and the Tribunal have not been meeting and that the latter has no chairperson who is only elected when the Committee meets. It turns out that the Tribunal did also not have a chairperson.