Thursday, February 25, 2021

Khama validates claims made against Matsheka

Former president Ian Khama has validated allegations that have been made against the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, by a Botswana Democratic Party activist called Tumisang Setumbeko.

Setumbeko is peddling a conspiracy theory that Matsheka, who is Lobatse MP, hatched a plot to “destroy and finish” Khama and some other people. In service of his campaign, he recorded two video clips and posted them to Facebook. Khama has now reacted to these allegations by stating that he finds the claim credible because they confirm what he has himself been alleging for all of last year: that there is a plot by the Directorate of the Intelligence and Security Services, which has been authorised by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, to assassinate him.

“I have carried out preliminary investigations into this claim,” Khama said on Thursday. “They suggest it needs to be followed up. I have instructed my lawyers to pursue this with the police as I believe it warrants investigation. I hear since he put out the video, the police have been told to take him in.”

Initially, Setumbeko accused Matsheka of reneging on a deal they made during the 2019 campaign season. In terms of the alleged deal, Matsheka was to pay him P50 000 to help his campaign. The assassination charges represent an escalation.

In the video message, which is directed at “Batswana”, Setumbeko says the following: “I will die very soon but want to tell you the truth. Please ask Mr. Matsheka and his team to explain to Batswana his agenda to destroy and finish Ian Khama by the day he attended Kamal Jacobs’ launch. There was a plan to destroy and finish Ian Khama – he is the who can explain to you. I have rejected to join all this: I am out of dirty and unclean things, I am a normal person.”

Jacobs contested against Matsheka in the Botswana Democratic Party primary elections, lost, appealed the outcome at the High Court, lost again, quit the party to contest as an independent candidate and lost to Matsheka for the second time in the general election. In November last year, Jacobs joined the Botswana National Front.

In another, much longer (2:49) clip, Setumbeko alleges that he was “ordered” to poison some people”, whom he later identifies as Jacobs and Jomo Dithebe, a specially elected BDP councilor in the Lobatse Town Council. He refused, he says, finding true north courtesy of the deep Christian faith he professes.

All things being equal, Khama’s status and background should lend a lot of weight to Setumbeko’s story but that story is itself riddled with plot holes.

“I have full evidence concerning everything that I say, I can be able to sit before courts of law,” Setumbeko claims in the first audio clip and adds in the second: “Mo ke dinyana, mo ke maoko.” [This is a mere tip of the iceberg.]

However, the problem with that assertion is that while he has been making allegation after allegation, Setumbeko has not provided one shred of the full evidence he claims to have. He has obviously decided that he is ready to go public with his allegations but what he tells the public has information gaps that he can easily fill up by providing evidence. As helpful would have been a full timeline of when what happened but there is none.

Given how BDP’s jobs-for-the-boys scheme works, Dithebe certainly needed Matsheka’s blessing to be made specially-elected councilor. To get such blessing, he had to be in Matsheka’s good books. If Matsheka wanted to kill Dithebe, why would he then make him a specially-elected councilor?

In the story that Setumbeko tells, precise details of how Dithebe was supposed to die remain murky. Allegation 1 is that he (Setumbeko) was ordered to poison him. Allegation 2 oscillates between a staged road accident involving Dithebe’s car and bad old-fashioned murder. The murkiness and apparent contradiction are a direct result of Setumbeko skimping on vital details.

Setumbeko clearly accuses Matsheka of criminal wrongdoing and claims to not have done anything wrong himself. In the same clip however, he says that he “worked together” with Matsheka – which boggles the mind because working together means striving to achieve the same goal.

Setumbeko’s loose plot could prove problematic for Khama because if it turns out that he can’t prove what he alleges. To the question of whether he finds Setumbeko’s allegations credible, Khama’s response was that “based on what has been happening, anything is possible.” What has been happening is that for much of 2020, Khama has been getting what he believes to be credible intelligence about a DISS plot to assassinate him. In December last year, Edward Robert, who is DISS’ Public Relations Director, told Sunday Standard that Khama had been making these allegations in the media “throughout the year and the Directorate finds it highly regrettable.”  While the length of time that has elapsed with nothing happening to Khama seems to be evidence that there is no plot to assassinate him, he views the matter differently.

“Not all plots succeed,” he said last week. “Also if they have heard about such allegations, why have they never informed me about it? Makes you think. They also over-estimate themselves.”

The former president has also referenced the case of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was poisoned some four months ago and had to be airlifted to a German hospital for special medical treatment. He (Khama) quoted a CNN report that says that Russian secret service followed Navalny for four years before they did anything to him.

“You don’t get followed around for fun,” says Khama, a former Botswana Defence Force commander under whom DISS was established. “Obviously they do so to do something. It costs money and time and manpower. This expense is for a purpose. If they wanted information about where I am going they could just ask my DISS security to do so for them. The fact that they don’t speaks for itself.”

It turns out that while the former president and now opposition politician has reason to believe that Setumbeko’s claims are credible, he has also not seen any evidence that establishes such credibility. There is a qualification to that statement though: while Setumbeko, whom Khama says he doesn’t know, hasn’t shared any evidence with him personally, he has shared such evidence with some of Khama’s acquaintances.

“They tell me it is credible,” says Khama about what his sources told him about the quality of Setumbeko’s evidence.

On the strength of his convictions, Khama has instructed his lawyers to report Setumbeko’s allegations to the police “whatever that is worth while I pursue my own investigations which, if anything comes of it, I will make public.”

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