Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe has been assigned an armed detail of half a dozen bodyguards following a security threat assessment by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
Kokorwe has trained security officers watching over her round the clock, only President Ian Khama has more muscle protecting him.
Kokorwe’s heavy security was put together behind closed doors and was kept a secret even from the Parliamentary Committee for Members Rights, Interests and Priviledges which is responsible for the conditions and service of Members of Parliament and the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Chairperson of the committee, Haskins Nkaigwa, told Sunday Standard last week that “permission should have been sought from the committee before assigning the security detail to the Speaker, but the decision was taken behind our back”.
The Botswana Police Service this week would not answer questions about Kokorwe’s armed security. Sunday Standard sought to establish what informed the decision to strengthen the Speaker’s security. Senior Superintendent Near Bagali from the Botswana Police Service said “… Regrettably, I’m unable to assist you because we don’t discuss security matters with the media.”
Kokorwe would also not discuss the issue and instead referred Sunday Standard to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.
Answering questions from Nkaigwa in Parliament recently, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Eric Molale said: “No bodyguards were employed for the Speaker. Instead state protection officers were deployed from existing security agencies at the request of Parliament leadership.”
He said the need to enhance the Speaker’s protection was established after careful assessment of a series of incidents which threatened the security of the Speaker and indeed that of Parliament during the 2016 Winter Meeting of Parliament.
“As indicated, security enhancement was not budgeted for, as it is already provided for in the existing security agencies budget. The same priviledge has been extended to the Deputy Speaker, and no funds were raised as the services are provided within the existing mechanisms of state security,” said Molale.Answering another question from Gabane-Mankgodi, MP Pius Mokgware, who wanted to know if it was necessary for Kokorwe to have armed security and if she needed it Molale said: “An assessment was carried out as per the advice of the security agencies. The deployment of the security services was in response to that assessment.”
Nkaigwa also asked Molale how many bodyguards had been assigned to the Speaker. Molale said “… once security assessment has been done and the security apparatus deploys, that is what is pertinent. As to how many they are that is not what I can tell you.”
In an interview with Sunday Standard, Nkaigwa said initially he had asked about only two bodyguards but was later informed by a whistleblower that there were at least six bodyguards employed for Kokorwe.
“I’m reliably informed that whenever she travels even outside the country the bodyguards accompany her and even provided security at her home,” he said.
Kokorwe, who handling of Parliament has become the lightning rod of controversy is something of a hate figure especially among opposition followers who believe she is biased towards the ruling Botswana Democratic party.