Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Kalafatis killers divide the DISS

Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services Director General Brig Peter Magosi faces a double whammy: a mutiny within his ranks and a public relations nightmare following his decision to recruit from three Botswana Defence Force three officers convicted of killing John Kalafatis.

The trio; Lance Corporal Otshosamang Sechele, Lance Corporal Ronny Motako and Corporal Boitshoko Maifala were pardoned by the then president Ian Khama who also reinstated them into BDF.

The presidential pardon had the effect of obliterating their guilty sentences earlier meted against them by Lobatse High Court.

The fourth officer Zikamani Mothobi was discharged and \acquitted. He has also been recruited by Brigadier Magosi into the DIS (Directorate of Intelligence Services.)

Brigadier Magosi’s decision has enraged some serving DIS officers who have not been promoted for six years now on allegations that there were no posts. The decision is also expected to give credence to claims by former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi that Magosi should be called to account for the extra judicial execution of John Kalafatis.

Magosi was head of the Botswana Defence Force Military Intelligence unit and the four men were working under him at a time that Kalafatis was killed.

The growing ground swell of dissent against Brig Magosi’s decision is providing a happy hunting ground for his predecessor Isaac Kgosi. A number of disgruntled DIS officers are reported to be reaching out to Kgosi, deepening the schisms in the already fractured intelligence agency.

The killing of Kalafatis caused public furore and introduced the phrase ‘extra-judicial killing’ as part of new lexicon into the national psyche.

When contacted to confirm the new recruitment of the now infamous Kalafatis killers into the DIS, the head of communications Edward Robert was non-committal: “The DIS does from time to time, when vacancies are available, recruit to enhance its effectiveness. The recruitment process could be by way of advertisement or head hunting, the latter being the most preferred. This is because the operations of the agency are mostly covert,” he said.

The justification of recruitment of the four however flies in the wind when looked against what the DIS leadership has been telling operatives that there are no vacancies, that the DIS was over-staffed and also that there was no money when the operatives, who have been growing restive were asking to be promoted or have their salaries increased.

Robert added that the DIS is constrained by law to disclose the identity of its operatives, unless if they are going to be working overtly.

Detractors of Magosi are however adamant that things at DIS will not change until there are strong oversight structures in place as envisaged by the same law that Robert is referring to.

“It has been over five months since Brigadier Magosi arrived at DIS. And there are no changes he has implemented save for cosmetic ones. He needs to subject himself to oversight structures that as he would know, were either absent or dysfunctional when he arrived,” said another source in government.

He said all the euphoria of a clean slate that Magosi has been talking about should be received with scepticism.

More worrying also is the fact that other than the soldiers that killed Kalafatis, the DIS has recruited a large team of anti-poaching personnel from the Department of Wildlife.

This is part of the Unit that was recently rendered redundant when their arms were seized by the order of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who said he had been advised that the Anti-poaching Unit was carrying those arms illegally.

The arrival of this batch is feared will adversely affect moral at DIS, as again the impression always hitherto created was that there were no vacancies.

The most senior officer to be recruited by the DIS from the Department of Wildlife is Churchill Collyer who is deputy director, Sunday Standard can confirm.

When asked if the recruitment of such people formed part of the clean slate that Magosi has perennially referred to, Robert said the Director General remains committed to the pronouncements he made when he assumed office.

“These include being open to public scrutiny as well as being accountable to members of the public who remain legitimate owners of the DIS,” said Robert.

A lawyer who Sunday Standard talked to on condition of anonymity is however not persuaded.

“In a few months time the DIS budget will be presented to Parliament for approval. Ideally before being approved by parliament, that budget should be interrogated and scrutinized internally by the oversight structures who will then cross over to be the DIS representatives in Parliament. In the absence of oversight structures, I do not know what exactly has changed at DIS. I hope our parliament can be strong enough to refuse approving the DIS budget until DIS follows the law. Masisi says his government is addicted to the rule of law. He should show his seriousness of that by instructing DIS to implement all clauses of its Act,” said the lawyer.

On why the DIS is not promoting its operatives internally, a thing the organization has not done for almost six years, the communications officer said while DIS, like all government ministries is faced with the challenge of unavailability of positions in which to promote its staff, “the organization will from time to time be under obligation to recruit given emerging threats.”

“DIS will from time to time, given emerging threats to national security, prioritise recruitment. And when this happens, we will look for talent where we can find it, it be in the public sector or private sector sphere. Staff welfare remains a priority to DIS. Stagnation of officers, as head of the organization has said in other forums is a challenge is addressing. We are engaging with stakeholders to see how we can best address the challenge and we are hopeful this is a challenge will overcome.”

He added that upon assuming office the Director General toured the organization offices to appreciate the staff concerns. 

“And lack of promotion was part of the concerns, among many that staff raised. Other challenges include shortage of staff. “

What Robert however did not say was that the new recruits will likely affect DIS staff moral adversely.

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