President Mokgweetsi Masisi has become the target of a smear campaign as his efforts to clean up the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) runs into a vicious counter-offensive.
Masisi has moved to diffuse a complot by the DCEC command to protect former DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi and his associates. The president three weeks ago summoned the DCEC Director General Bruno Paledi and the new DIS Director General Peter Magosi to the State House for a briefing on the clean up against corruption. It is understood that Magosi complained during the briefing that Paledi was standing in the way of the operation.
Paledi was appointed to head the DCEC by former President Lt Gen Ian Khama shortly before he retired allegedly on the advice of Kgosi.
In another move to dissipate Kgosi’s influence in the DCEC, Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi who is now fully behind Masisi has transferred DCEC Senior Assistant Director (Investigations) Itumeleng Phuthego to the Ministry of Finance.
In a game of musical chairs that reflects the shifting of alliances, Phuthego’s transfer marked a major move in Morupisi’s change of loyalty. Shortly before Khama stepped down as President, Morupisi who was part of the Isaac Kgosi and Ian Khama axis touched off a row at the DCEC when he reinstated Phuthego who had been suspended by former DCEC Director General Rose Seretse following allegations that he was leaking crucial information to outsiders.
Morupisi and Phuthego have a long standing relationship dating back close to two decades.
The pair was seven years ago part of a DCEC bribery investigation involving two Chinese nationals who were caught in a sting operation trying to bribe Morupisi, then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure Science, and Technology and Phuthego then Project Manager in the Department of Buildings and Engineering.
The corruption case was expected to open a can of worms and expose the murky relationships between government officials and Chinese criminals. The case, however, collapsed after the two Chinese nationals skipped bail under curious circumstances.
Among bits of information that worried state prosecutors was the alleged P20 000 gift that Phuthego had previously accepted from one of the Chinese corruption accused and passed it on to Morupisi.
While Phuthego omitted to mention the P20 000 gift in his sworn statement, Morupisi stated that “sometime around March 2011 Mr Phuthego approached me with a gift alleged to have been obtained from” the Chinese crime accused.
“The gift was P20 000 00 cash (twenty Thousand Pula). As a result of this declaration I then asked Mr Phuthego to have an affidavit administered by the Commissioner of Police where after I took the money and attached the affidavit for safe keeping.” Morupisi kept the money “safe” for three months.
Some insiders pushed that both Phuthego and Morupisi be charged alongside the Chinese nationals, but the DPP, however, drafted a charge sheet with two counts citing Phuthego and Morupisi as state witnesses.
Curiously, five months later DPP amended the charge sheet, dropping the count in which the Chinese investor was accused of trying to bribe Phuthego with the “P20 000 gift”.
Morupisi was later promoted to Permanent Secretary to the President while Phuthego surfaced as a senior manager at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
Also targeted for redeployment is head of the DCEC task team that was set up to investigate corruption allegations against Morupisi. The DCEC investigator is believed to be the Trojan horse for a network of powerful renegade spies who are scuttling investigations against some powerful civil servants and Cabinet ministers with links to the former administration.
Morupisi is understood to have decided to throw the erstwhile ally under the bus.
There is however a vicious push-back against Masisi and Morupisi. Besides the mysterious disappearance of dockets and the dismantling of the DCEC Special task team, there are also moves to discredit Masisi and his close associates. Top on the hit list is reported to be Daphney Briscoe of Briscoe Attorneys who hosted the trust fund used by Masisi during his campaign for the BDP Chairmanship.
Sources inside the DCEC say a junior officer has been tasked to investigate Briscoe Attorneys to pursue the trail of a P2 million donation made to Masisi’s campaign by businessman Farouk Ismail.
Ismail is one of the leading directors and shareholders at Choppies Superstores, a Botswana Stock Exchange listed company. He added that they are also looking at a donation made by Bakang Seretse and the troubled Asset Management firm CMB.
Seretse is said to have donated P2 million to Masisi while CMB donated P250 000. Seretse is currently fighting criminal charges in court.
CMB has been accused of taking flight with millions in pensioners money.
“It is clear that the intention is to get to Masisi through the law firm [Briscoe attorneys]” said the DCEC investigator.
Also indentified for possible investigation is a potential role that they might have had in holding Masisi’s campaign finances is businessman and BDP Chairman Satar Dada and also attorney Rizwan Desai.
Another lawyer said there was nothing illegal about keeping campaign money in a Trust account.
“In fact the BDP has been doing it all along with their lawyers,” he said.
The drag net strategy however is aimed at linking Masisi with money siphoned from the National Petroleum Fund.
Presidential Affairs, Governance, and Public Administration Nonofho Molefhi has in the past indicated that while Masisi has denied involvement or deriving any benefits from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) embezzlement he could have, unbeknownst to him, benefited from the fund.
This was implied by Molefhi when responding to Leader of Opposition (LOO) Duma Boko’s ‘Motion of No Confidence’ a few weeks ago.
While he insisted Masisi did not have anything to do with the money, Molefhi admitted to the possibility that the President may have benefited indirectly from the Fund. “The President had nothing to do with the NPF embezzlement,” Molefhi said, “If there was anyone who could have presented the President with some kind of a gift , that person would not have divulged that the source of such a gesture was the National Petroleum Fund.” Molefhi said whoever gave Masisi a gift would have done that of their own volition, from their own sources through which they gathered the “funds” and as such there is nothing that says the President cannot be seen to be fighting corruption.
“He has already made a pronouncement, that whoever is found to be involved in corrupt practices, be it a minister or permanent secretary, they are not under his protection.”
Masisi was quoted in the media recently as having distanced himself from the NPF saga. “People are talking of money being stolen. If the money was taken, it will be found and we should not make it an issue. I did not benefit any P3 million as it has been claimed. They can do their investigations and my name will come out clean,” he said.