The Leader of the Opposition, Otweletse Moupo, has called on his colleagues in parliament to go beyond the obvious when debating the Security and Intelligence Bill.
He said he is not impressed that, instead of interrogating the motives and origins of the Bill, some MPs have chosen to engage in “unrestrained ululation of the BDP government.”
Moupo said history is awash with examples where intelligence has been awfully abused to support the ruling party while harassing legitimate political opponents.
“That we agree with the Bill does not mean we should accept willy-nilly what is put before us,” he said.
Moupo said it is important to ensure that collection, analysis and interpretation of data by the Directorate is timely, accurate, objective and value-laden.
As such, he said, no efforts should be spared in ensuring that potential abuse is minimized.
He cited examples in which ruling parties like to mix their own interests with those of the nation.
He said there are many examples in which the parties use state intelligence services to undermine opponents, while also defending their interests.
“For intelligence to be effective it has to be professional.”
He said that is not always easy because the services themselves always want to endear themselves to the politicians they serve.
As a result they end up falsifying reports.
“There is a litany of examples of abuse,” said Moupo who was in top gear on the day.
As he spoke, half a zone MPs, including the Minister of Presidential Affairs, made a number of interventions, but they failed to derail him.
He called for oversight, saying if there is no instrument of oversight, abuse is likely to be rife especially against opposition parties, trade unionists, and other such institutions the agency may think subversive.
“There are murmurs of apprehension and they have to be taken seriously,” he said.
He said over the years, members of the Special Branch have always intruded on the activities of the Botswana National Front, citing the BNF Congress of 1977 in Tlokweng.
He also said BNF youth members at one point had their passports confiscated when they were on their way to Cuba simply because intelligence services had passed wrong information to government that they were going to undergo guerilla warfare training.
We have every reason to suspect that the President was acting on false intelligence information,” he said.
He said to counter such abuses there should be sanctions, some forms of punishment that would be taken if it were found that the law had been broken.
He also said he was worried at the extent at which the State President will be involved in the Intelligence Directorate.
“The involvement of the President blurs professionalism,” said Moupo.
He said for the service to enjoy public confidence, which he said is crucial, the politicians should not be involved.
He also called for the removal of the Attorney General, saying the AG is the government’s principal legal advisor and should not be taking part in intelligence committees.
He said he would not support the Bill in its present format.
“It needs further panel beating,” he said.