What does the president know and when did he know it?
This famous question which brought down the Richard Nixon administration may come to haunt President Ian Khama and his inner circle following revelations of a Directorate of Intelligence and Intelligence Services (DIS) secret plot to disrupt the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) from toppling the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the 2019 General Elections.
A 21-page report by DIS Director of Special Task Team (STT), Tsosoloso Mosinki, presented to the spy agency Director General Isaac Kgosi on June 28, 2016, a copy of which has been passed to the Sunday Standard, details the special access black programme, code named “Operation Tholwana-Borethe”, which harks back to the infamous Watergate Scandal.
The report confirms for the first time the close alliance between the DIS and the ruling BDP. The STT Director does not hide his support for the BDP stating: “The results of the 2014 General Election came as a surprise to many, including our Analysis Desk. The performance of the UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) that saw it win 17 parliamentary seats sent shockwaves throughout Botswana political landscape, inversely presenting a credible political threat to the political order under which the Botswana Democratic Party has been dominant.
“Looking at this political threat retrospectively, BDP is likely to be deposed from power come 2019 General Elections. This will have serious political implications that threaten our peace and stability. The UDC is also a serious existential threat to the DISS. There is likelihood that the UDC government will dismantle the service and possibly pursue prosecution against officers. This threat cannot be taken for granted and needs to be given due attention.”
In the report, Mosinki gives Kgosi an update on the progress of the deep black operation whose objectives are: “to neutralise Ndaba Gaolathe as centreÔÇôof-power in both BMD and UDC; To neutralise Ndaba Gaolathe’s political credentials; To fragment the BMD into warring factions and to neutralise the UDC which is an existential threat to prevailing political order and the DISS.”
It is not clear if the operation has been sanctioned by the highest office in the country. Sources close to the operation, however, told Sunday Standard that the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC) which provides executive oversight for the spy agency is privy to the clandestine operation.
The CIC comprises Khama, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Minister of Defence Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi.
All members of the CIC are linked to the so-called Masisi faction of the BDP which enjoys support and protection of Kgosi.
Morupisi and Kgosi two months ago masterminded the plan to conceal the alleged involvement of the DISS Special Task Team (STT)’s involvement in diamond and ivory smuggling. The STT is also behind Operation Tholwana-Borethe.
The programme is an elaborate scheme involving paid opposition politicians, senior journalists, state-of-the-art technology and expensive black sites believed to be funded through a black budget approved by the CIC.
The DIS report states that “the 2014 Elections showed that unlike in previous elections, the alliance had sufficient financial support for their campaigns. This is a new and a serious political development that needs to be given due attention and neutralised. Our assessment of the profiles of the UDC leaders is that BMD’s Ndaba Gaolathe is the “ace” of the alliance.
“Gaolathe is the think-tank and strategist of the UDC and enjoys overwhelming public support and respect. Gaolathe enjoys good regional and international reputation. Having previously worked for South African and Namibian governments, Gaolathe has proven to be popular with ANC and SWAPO. Information reaching us is that Gaolathe is also popular with the US government and is often invited to meet US Embassy staff.
“Therefore, Gaolathe is the backbone of the UDC. Our assessment therefore is that, if the UDC is to be neutralised, the focus must be on Gaolathe. Our assessment is further that, frustrating and ultimately deposing Gaolathe from politics is plausible strategy to counter the political threat posed by the UDC. Although Gaolathe is strong as an individual, our assessment is that the BMD as a party is very weak and therefore presents a window of opportunity. As such we propose to exploit these vulnerabilities to undermine his leadership and eventually push him off the helm, in order to intensify factions and internal strife within the BMD.”