Sunday, October 17, 2021

Khama, Kgosi and Intelligence Committee to answer for complicity over controversial Tholwana Borethe report

The Editor of the Mmegi Newspaper, Oarabile Mosikare this week became the latest casualty in the continuing fall out over the Botswana Congress Party’s (BCP) complaint against the media to the Botswana Police Service.

Mosikare was called in for questioning by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in his capacity as Editor of the Mmegi, following his newspaper’s publication of two articles on the alleged Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services DIS operation, “Tholwana Borethe” in July, 2017. The BPS advised the Editor that he was not being interrogated as a suspect but was instead being sought after as a witness, intended to be called by the State, to assist the police in their investigations into a criminal offence under Section 59 of the Penal code; “Alarming Publications.”

Information gathered by this publication reveals that the BPS sought to obtain the names of sources and informants from The Mmegi Editor that had provided the publication with a key document on the alleged DIS operation, Tholwana Borethe. In addition the BPS sought information on the experts that had examined the documentation. Mosikare advised the BPS that he would not be in a position to assist them in their investigation as his publication had merely published an article that raised concerns over the authenticity of the now questioned document.  Mosikare advised the BPS that he was not in a position to assist the investigations in that to do so would compromise core media values which would undermine the media’s fundamental mandate to provide public with information, as protected by the Constitution.

All persons questioned to date by the BPS, over the BCP’s complaint have been advised that they are being questioned in their capacities as Editors of their various publications. To date no reporter has been called in to answer to the allegations on “alarming publications”. The media houses that reported on the DIS operations, The Sunday Standard, The Mmegi, The Business Weekly and Review, The Guardian and The Gazette, have more than one Editor and sub-editors all involved in the journalistic processes of vetting articles. In light of the manner in which the police have conducted investigations so far, all editors and sub-editors involved in the publication of the DIS operations are expected to be joined to any criminal proceedings, in the event of a prosecution. The ultimate determination of who, if anyone will be charged will be determined by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), revealed a source within the BPS. An estimated 10 editors and sub-editors are likely to be affected.

The high ranking source within the Botswana Police Service has revealed to this publication that they (BPS) believe that the organisation is being “weaponised” against the media in a much broader political battle. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the high ranking member of the BPS advised this publication that the police were compelled to investigate the complaint as part of their obligations, and would do so thoroughly and impartially, but that they believed that they were being used as a attack dogs by politicians who had grievances with the media. The senior officer indicated that their investigations reveal that certain advisors to the BCP had made numerous social media posts and public utterances, in late July calling for the prosecution of The Sunday Standard under the offence of “alarming publications”. The BPS were concerned that the labelling of the media as “fake news” by such advisors and the subsequent complaint by the BCP, indicated a much greater and general attack on the media, “what we have not yet established is why revelations on DIS operations against the Opposition generally would be understood to be an attack on the BCP by the BCP, when the Opposition and the BCP itself, have long made public their concerns that the DIS was interfering in politics.” 

Clarifying the BPS investigations, and possible witnesses needed to ascertain whether the exposure of DIS operations caused “public alarm” and whether the authors of such revelations had taken reasonable steps to satisfy themselves as to the exposes, the Botswana Police Service informant advised that they were concerned that they ought to investigate and call for answers from the intelligence community infrastructure, but that those actually conducting the investigations would be prohibited from doing so.

Asked to clarify what would legally be expected of police investigations into such allegations, attorney for the Editors currently under investigation, Dick Bayford confirmed the sources position. Bayford noted that while there has not been calls for a commission of inquiry into the numerous allegations of wrong doing by the spy agency and its Director General, in this instance the pattern of interference, publically confirmed by political parties called for the Intelligence Agency and its oversight bodies, together with the ultimate reporting authority, the Executive, to be called in by the Police as part of their investigations to answer to the media reports.

According to the police source, legally investigations into the media revelations of the DIS operations would call for the investigations into the very centre of political power in government. From the President of Botswana, Ian Khama to the Attorney General. Such investigations would be required to determine the falsity of the media reports. “Falsity of the allegations against the DIS and not the leaked document, are at the centre of the allegations and investigations against the media.”

Such investigations would require that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service and its Director General, both established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act (DIS Act) to answer questions and produce documentation to ascertain whether or not they had been involved in covert operations in violation of its statutory mandate.

In determining whether the DIS had violated its mandate and acted as a rogue unit to protect its own interests, the Central Intelligence Committee, sitting at the pinnacle of the intelligence agency as a regulatory, oversight and advisory body would have to be investigated on the allegations made by the media and produce such minutes of their meetings to establish whether they authorised or not, the political intrusion by the intelligence unit.

The intelligence body comprises of, Khama as chairperson, The Vice President: Mokgweetsi Masisi as a member of the Committee; The Minister responsible for intelligence and security, Shaw Kgathi; The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation: Pelonomi Venson Moitoi; The Permanent Secretary to the President: Carter Morupisi; The Attorney General; The Commander of the Botswana Defence Force: Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo, the DIS Deputy Director General; The Commissioner of Police; The Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Force; The Assistant Chief of Staff of Military Intelligence; The Deputy Commissioner of Police .

The National Intelligence Community established under Section 27 and 28 of the DIS Act headed by Kgosi and including other members such as The Chief Immigration Officer and The Commissioner General of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service would also be required to answer police questions on the “falsity” of the media reports, as claimed by the BCP. 

At the base of the intelligence community infrastructure is the Intelligence and Security Council. This body comprises of the Permanent Secretary to the President, The Attorney General, The Director General; and The Deputy Director General who shall be the secretary to the Council.

In the event the BPS are allowed to conduct their investigations to the full extent of their public mandate, their queries into the role of the DIS will call for self-investigations and questioning of senior members within their own organisation. The source reveals this will not be allowed, indicating however that any persons who are interviewed by the police will be revealed to the defence team as part of the pre-trial discovery.

A Sunday Standard investigation of the money trail in the ongoing money laundering case against a number of leading investment executives has revealed that all opposition political parties except for the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) have been funded through money that can be traced back to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) (See front page)

The absence of regulatory and legislative control over funding of political parties and politicians personally has allowed lack of transparency as to the money behind politics.  The Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that the BDP and opposition parties are feeding from the same trough and the money trail leads to the DISS

On Wednesday December 6, the Botswana Editors Forum agreed to issue a joint statement, from all media houses condemning the use by any political party, of criminal sanction against journalists for fulfilling their constitutional mandate.

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