President Lt Gen Ian Khama on Friday forced Botswana Defence Force Chief of Staff and Commander of Ground Forces Brigadier Peter Magosi into early retirement.
Magosi’s expulsion from the army was hatched two years ago but had to be put on hold when Khama and BDF commander Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe secret plan bombed.
A letter by Lt Gen Galebotswe to President Khama recommending Brigadier Magosi’s expulsion in April 2014 has been passed to the Sunday Standard. The letter suggests that the 2014 investigations against Brigadier Magosi were to be used to justify a decision that had already been made.
Brigadier Magosi’s forced retirement last week is the highest watermark in the long running battle inside President Khama’s inner circle with includes DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi, Minister of Presidential Affairs Eric Molale, BDF Commander Lt Gen Galebotswe and the president’s twin brothers Tshekedi and Anthony Khama.
Magosi who for a long time was part of President Khama’s inner circle has the backing of Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and his twin brother Anthony. On the opposite side of the battle line is Kgosi, Molale and Lt Gen Galebotswe.
Cracks inside Khama’s camp first appeared when Kgosi allegedly reported Brigadier Magosi to the Directorate on Corruption and economic Crime (DCEC). At the time, Magosi was embroiled in another fight in another fight with BDF commander, Lt Gen Galebotswe. The relationship between the two BDP commanders turned waspish after Brig Magosi refused to hand over some intelligence officers to his successor Col Cullen Nkete current head of the BDF Military Intelligence. Sunday Standard has established that at a meeting of the BDF command July 2014 Brig Magosi was grilled on why he had not handed over one of the MI agents to his successor, but Brig Magosi maintained that he could not do so because the new command was compromising MI agents.
In intelligence speak, compromising intelligence agents means breaking their cover and exposing them to being discovered by the agents. Brig Magosi allegedly charged that Lt Gen Gaolathe had allowed Col Nkete to compromise the security of MI agents initially deployed by Brig Magosi to infiltrate criminal syndicates.
The DCEC could not find any dirt on Brigadier Magosi who in turned pressured the graft busters in vain to disclose that Kgosi was their source. The animosity between Kgosi and Gaolathe against Magosi was never resolved and boiled over when the army chief launched an investigation against Magosi.
Brigadier Magosi and Sergeant Dzikamani Mothobi were investigated following the alleged disappearance of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) intelligence surveillance equipment.
Both Kgosi and Minister Molale were implicated in the missing GSM Jammers and Cellbrites after Brigadier Magosi allegedly disclosed that they were the last to handle them. Even before investigations could commence, Lt Gen Gaolathe wrote to President Khama recommending Magosi’s dismissal.
The investigation which was to justify a decision already taken was halted in court by Magosi’s lawyer Dick Bayford. It is understood that the president’s brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony also weighed in on him to stay Magosi’s expulsion.
The incident however escalated the animosity inside Khama’s circle. At the time, the Directorate if Intelligence and economic Crime (DCEC) was investigating Kgosi for alleged corruption. Sources close to the DISS director say he was convinced that Brigadier Magosi was behind the investigations. This was not helped by a letter written by Brigadier Magosi’s lawyer, Dick Bayford to the BDF Command investigating Magosi. The letter suggested that some DCEC and Military agents were backing Brigadier Magosi.
In the letter addressed to the BDF commander, dated April 11th 2014, Bayford states that, “we will be interviewing several potential witnesses currently serving under the command of the BDF, DIS and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as well as retired officers and soldiers. This letter is copied to the Directors, DIS and DCEC for their information.”
Around the same time, information started emerging suggesting that Kgosi was at the crime scene during the controversial extra-judicial execution of John Kalafatis.
Both Brigadier Magosi and Sergeant Mothobi who were investigated for the missing spy equipment were also named in the Kalafatis execution.
Although the investigations against him were halted and Brigadier Magosi was spared the guillotine, he had committed a mortal sin by engaging Bayford. Brigadier Magosi became a marked man.
It was not long before the BDF command initiated another investigation against him for allegedly consorting with a junior officer’s wife. The investigation believed to be another plot to get rid of Brigadier Magosi was again foiled by Bayford.
Curiously, Brigadier Magosi’s forced retirement comes at a time when President Khama seems to be consolidating his control on the army.
Sunday Standard investigations have turned up information that the BDF Commandos Unit has been relocated from Thebephatswa Air Base to Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) at the instance of the President.
This has stoked speculation that the next Commander of the BDF could be appointed from the same unit. This has added to speculations that Khama is surrounding himself with soldiers to protect him in the event he refuses to step down from the presidency in 2018, a claim the president has repeatedly dismissed.
Unconfirmed reports also indicate that President Khama could appoint The National Coordinator of the Anti Poaching UnitBrigadier General Terry Macheng as the next BDF Commander.
Brigadier General Macheng trained in the Special Forces. Brigadier General Galebotswe is nearing his retirement age and the President is reported to have turned down his request that his term be extended.
Brigadier Gaolathe is believed to have lost favour with the President after introducing reforms to the BDF procurement system, cutting out the middle men. President Khama’s family company, Seleka Springs is among companies that are making millions of pula in commissions from the current BDF procurement system.
Gaolathe’s second in command Major General Placid Segokgo has indicated that he is not interested in taking up the army top post. Also in the running is Commander General Support Service Major General Morake.
BDF spokesperson Colonel Tebo Dikole confirmed that “the president as the appointing authority has retired Brigadier Magosi. Colonel Dikole however would not discuss the relocation of the BDF commando unit to Sir Seretse Khama barracks.
Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries, Colonel Dikole said “As previously communicated to the media, issues related to Special Forces location, training and or operations continue to remain internal and classified.”
Dikole, however, dismissed as false reports that Brigadier Galebotswe has reformed the BDF procurement system. “As the BDF we wish to state that there are no procurement reforms that have been made by the Commander as you aver. For the record BDF follows the normal government financial regulations and procurement procedures as stipulated by Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB),” said Dikole.
He further stated that “It is key to note that BDF procures its equipment from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and does not appoint or contract ‘middlemen.’ Furthermore, the BDF does not prescribe to the OEM who it elects as its ‘middlemen’.”