Saturday, October 31, 2020

PSP intervenes in Khama-DIS stand-off over number plate-changing exercise

The Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Magosi, has intervened in a situation over which the spectre of physical confrontation at the Office of the Former President II conceivably loomed large.

Last Wednesday, it emerged that the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) planned to change the special number plates of the official cars that former president, Lieutenant General Ian Khama, has been using for the past two and half years: BX 18 0001 and BX 18 0002. Khama’s use of these numbers has become an issue because the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane, is apparently supposed to be using them instead. The “18” in the number denotes the year 2018, when the cars were first registered at the Central Transport Organisation.

The plate replacement comes two and a half years after Khama stepped down on April 1, 2018. He says that what he was told was that the government is introducing a system whereby numbers are issued according to status. In terms of the National Order of Precedence, former presidents are fifth on the list after the sitting president, Vice President, Chief Justice and Speaker of the National Assembly. Khama’s own conviction is that the plate change is “obviously being done to take away those I have been using for two and a half years.”

The replacement was to be done at the DIS workshop and, according to Khama, this information was communicated by “some DIS agent” (whom he also describes as “some assistant agent at DIS.” The agent called Khama’s office on Wednesday afternoon to say that “my vehicles should be taken immediately to DIS workshops to replace the existing plates without any consultation with me or my private secretary as to whether it is convenient for me not to have use of the vehicles for that period or to arrange a suitable time.”

Smelling a rat, General Khama immediately went on the attack, stating that “the vehicles are not going anywhere”, that “they can bring the plates to us.” He also wondered out loud: “What else will they do to the cars?” While he wouldn’t share his suspicions in a precise manner, the former president had evidently reached a firm conclusion that the proposed change of the number plates was a ploy do something sinister.

“This regime is unpredictable,” he told Sunday Standard when it sought clarification on what he suspected DIS might do. “There is no knowing what their intentions are. I have had these registration plates for two and a half years. You can now expect them to come up with some excuse as to why they want to replace them in order to justify their withdrawal.”

It would seem that the issue was resolved on Thursday because on Friday morning, Khama stated that Magosi had intervened in the matter “to address and correct the process that the DIS wrongly, as usual, tried to impose. Due to his intervention, the appropriate procedure to effect the change will be carried out.” In elaboration of the latter, he stated that he awaited feedback from his private secretary on how the exercise will be carried out.

He added: “What I expect is for him to examine the registration book to see if it reflects the change and if the change is in compliance with the law that allocates a number permanently to any vehicle. If that is sorted out, then the change of plates will take place in situ.”

Khama’s earlier refusal to hand over the vehicles portended physical confrontation of some sort: agents given instructions to collect the cars would have been determined to not go back empty-handed. Not wishing to indulge our speculation, the former president sidestepped the question that Sunday Standard raised with him with regard to whether there was possibility of such confrontation occurring. His own speculation that there may be a dark motive behind the plate replacement is also interesting in one very important respect. The routine maintenance of the cars is done at DIS workshops – which gives DIS an upper hand in case it wants to engage in anything untoward.

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