Sunday, September 20, 2020

Khama won’t reveal whether his private bodyguards carry guns

For “security reasons” former president Ian Khama is not in a position to give a precise answer to the simple question of whether his private bodyguards carry guns.

The context is as follows: as part of his ongoing feud with President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Khama has had issues with official protection afforded him by the state. He has complained about the numerical strength of official bodyguards from the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security either being pared down or reduced without being consulted. He has also engaged private bodyguards to fill security gaps that result from these developments. Official bodyguards have adequate firepower because they carry real guns; on the other hand, private security will need to be licensed by Masisi’s government to carry guns with the same fire power. What seems to be the most obvious response to Khama applying for guns for the latter is, “But we are already providing you with armed security.”

On the basis of the latter, it appears unlikely that the government would licence Khama’s private bodyguards to carry real guns that bodyguards from the VIP protection unit carry. There is a context for “real guns.” Last year, during the Botswana Democratic Party national meeting in Palapye, a gun was found in a car driven by men who would later turn out to be Khama’s private bodyguards. This happened at a time that the DISS Director General, Peter Magosi had publicly spoken about a plot to assassinate President Mokgweetsi Masisi. The Palapye meeting happened in the last days of Khama’s association with the BDP, a party his father, founding president Sir Seretse Khama, co-founded. Khama himself attended the meeting and upon arrival at the Majestic Five Hotel was welcomed by Magosi, who escorted him to the conference room where the meeting was being held.

Following the incident with the gun, one of Khama’s bodyguards was charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition but was later acquitted. It turned out that the firearm in question was a BB gun that can be legally bought over the counter at outfitters in Tlokweng or Gaborone pawn shops. The Palapye incident may have had the effect of revealing something about the sort of guns that Khama’s private bodyguards have to make do with. Then again, “make do with” may be misleading because a man who has been selling BB guns for the past several decades says that at fired at close range, the projectiles that these guns fire can be lethal.

“A person died in Tlokweng from the shot off a BB gun,” he adds.

In Khama’s case, the fact that a BB gun would be handled by highly trained soldiers counts for a lot.

It is more likely that the four commandoes that protected the president of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, Duma Boko, on election day last year and six days thereafter, were also carrying BB guns.As the Gaborone Bonnington North parliamentary candidate left his palatial house in Tlokweng for Masa Primary School polling station, his black, vanity-number-plated Mercedes-Benz SUV was sandwiched between two canopied, white Toyota Hilux trucks. In security language, this is called a “two-car drill.” At the wheel of Boko’s own car, was a former commando in the Botswana Defence Force with extensive training in both defensive and offensive driving. Likewise, both the lead and back-up cars were in hands as capable. All told, Boko was under the protection of four former BDF commandoes and two were on stand-by. It remains unclear what the men were packing but their swagger around the polling station suggested that they were more than ready to handle whatever security threat popped up.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

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