Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Masisi on security alert following death threats

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s security detail was on high alert yesterday (Saturday) following intelligence about a possible attempt on his life and that of the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Peter Magosi.

After uncovering a threat to assassinate President Masisi and Magosi, the DIS command was yesterday forced to alter the President’s motorcade in Palapye where he was attending a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) strategic meeting.

Instead of the customary presidential motorcade where the stagecoach (the car carrying the president) usually a black Range Rover SUV is sandwiched between the “secure package” ÔÇô the protective layer around the President comprising vehicles of a different make, this time the Presidential motorcade was a roving shell-game of identical cars with the secure package not only serving as a protective buffer but also as a decoy so that the would be assassin have a difficult time picking the car ferrying the President.

To beef up the President’s security detail, this time the bubble included secret agents, body guards and special force soldiers (commandoes). About 30 commando officers were imbedded in Masisi’s security detail, 13 of which arrived in Palapye Monday morning while 17 were part of an advance party which had been dispatched days before to scout the city.

The DIS command decided to beef up President Masisi’s security after intercepting a suicide massage in which the alleged would be assassin (known to this paper) threatened to take his life and that of the president and head of DIS.

The DIS Director General, Peter Magosi would not discuss reports that the President’s security detail was on high alert saying, they never discuss alert levels unless it is in the public interest.

A source close to the President’s security told Sunday Standard that internal alerts of this sort are never made public. The source further revealed that the DIS was treating the threat seriously and was worried that the alleged would be assassin would seize the opportunity in Palapye to carry out his threat because the President and the DIS boss would be together in public.

President Masisi was however not informed about the assassination threat until after the Palapye strategic meeting. It has also emerged that President Masisi’s detail is on constant security alert and that the state of alert was activated early in his presidency after the intelligence service uncovered “possible conspiracy to assassinate” him. The situation was not helped by audit findings that revealed that Masisi’s security detail were young, inexperienced and generally not sufficiently trained for the task. In a bid to enhance the president’s security, the DIS and Office of the President recruited retired members of the Special Forces that used to serve at the Botswana Defence Force. A senior official who talked to Sunday Standard on condition of anonymity said the old members of the Special Forces were chosen for their intense experience and also proven loyalty not to an individual but to the State.

The DIS on Friday activated a higher level of alert after intercepting the death threat from the alleged would be assassin. A team of reconnaissance agents was dispatched to keep the alleged would be assassin under constant surveillance and report his every move to the President’s security detail.

The intelligence agency was on Saturday also bracing for a rowdy session at the BDP strategic meeting where the party met to try and resolve the emotionally charged conflict between President Masisi and his predecessor former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

The BDP goes to the strategic meeting divided between two hostile camps, one backing President Masisi and the other supporting former President Khama. The meeting is believed to be a last ditch effort by the fractured party to heal the rift that has been festering for months and has generated so much bad blood that for the first time in the history of Botswana, a sitting president is feared to be in mortal danger.

The meeting is also expected to try and dissuade former minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi to withdraw her challenge against Masisi’s presidency.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.