Monday, October 19, 2020

Presidential succession contest branches into spy wars

President Lt Gen Ian Khama finds himself straddling a volcanic -fissure as the Botswana Democratic Party presidential succession battle branches off into spy wars ÔÇô Sunday Standard investigations have revealed.

As the jockeying for the country’s top post gains pace, the President’s inner circle has split into two camps one led by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the other by Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama. The fault lines run right down to Botswana Defence Force commanders and intelligence personnel.

Masisi is reported to have the support of outgoing Botswana Defence Force Commander Lt Gen Galebotswe, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) and its Director General Isaac Kgosi.

The DISS Director General has over the years built the spy outfit into an influential juggernaut recruiting most of the BDF Commandos. The group’s political and intelligence supremacy is now being challenged by the ascendency of Tshekedi’s camp. The president’s brother has the support of former BDF generals Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo and Brigadier Peter Magosi who have been appointed director and deputy director of Wildlife and National Parks.

The pair is Kgosi’s senior in the military and unlike the DISS director General have undergone commando training. BDF insiders argue that combined with the lucrative salaries offered by the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism this makes the newly formed wildlife intelligence unit more attractive to BDF commandoes. “Commandoes regard other soldiers as lesser soldiers and would prefer to be headed by a soldier who has undergone commando training. Beside the attractive pay package, it is the professional pride that makes the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife more appealing.” Magosi has also headed the BDF intelligence unit and is believed to still enjoy the support and respect of most BDF intelligence officers. In fact, even after he was moved from the Military Intelligence, some BDF spies still reported to him.

The contest for the BDP top post is feeding on existing rivalries in the Botswana military and intelligence command. Both Kgosi and Magosi have been at it hammer and tongs since the DISS Director General allegedly reported Magosi to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) for alleged corruption while heading the Military Intelligence. At the time, Magosi was embroiled in another fight with outgoing BDF commander, Lt Gen Galebotswe. The relationship between the two BDP commanders turned waspish when it emerged that Magosi still had control over the Military Intelligence even after he was transferred from the spy unit. At some stage Brig Magosi refused to hand over some intelligence officers to his successor Col Cullen Nkete current head of the BDF Military Intelligence.

Sunday Standard has established that at a meeting of the BDF command in July 2014, Brig Magosi was grilled on why he had not handed over one of the MI agents to his successor, but Brig Magosi maintained that he could not do so because the new command was compromising MI agents.

In intelligence speak, compromising intelligence agents means breaking their cover and exposing them to being discovered by the agents. Brig Magosi allegedly charged that Lt Gen Gaolathe had allowed Col Nkete to compromise the security of MI agents initially deployed by Brig Magosi to infiltrate criminal syndicates.

The DCEC could not find any dirt on Brigadier Magosi who in turn pressured the graft busters in vain to disclose that Kgosi was their source. The animosity between Kgosi and Gaolathe against Magosi was never resolved and boiled over when the army chief launched an investigation against Magosi.

Brigadier Magosi and Sergeant Dzikamani Mothobi were investigated following the alleged disappearance of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) intelligence surveillance equipment.

Both Kgosi and Minister Molale were implicated in the missing GSM Jammers and Cellbrites after Brigadier Magosi allegedly disclosed that they were the last to handle them. Even before investigations could commence, Lt Gen Gaolathe wrote to President Khama recommending Magosi’s dismissal.

The investigation which was to justify a decision already taken was halted in court by Magosi’s lawyer Dick Bayford. It is understood that the president’s brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony also weighed in on him to stay Magosi’s expulsion.

The incident however escalated the animosity inside Khama’s circle. At the time, the Directorate of Intelligence and Economic Crime (DCEC) was investigating Kgosi for alleged corruption. Sources close to the DISS director say he was convinced that Brigadier Magosi was behind the investigations. This was not helped by a letter written by Brigadier Magosi’s lawyer, Dick Bayford to the BDF Command investigating Magosi. The letter suggested that some DCEC and Military agents were backing Brigadier Magosi.

In the letter addressed to the BDF commander, dated April 11th 2014, Bayford states that, “we will be interviewing several potential witnesses currently serving under the command of the BDF, DIS and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as well as retired officers and soldiers. This letter is copied to the Directors, DIS and DCEC for their information.”

It was not long before the BDF command initiated another investigation against Magosi for allegedly consorting with a junior officer’s wife. The investigation believed to be another plot to get rid of Brigadier Magosi was again foiled by Bayford.

Magosi who for a long time was part of President Khama’s inner circle has always had the backing of Tshekedi Khama and his twin brother Anthony.

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