Monday, June 1, 2020

Spy chickens come home to roost

The case in which the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) officer Opelonomi Matlhagela is challenging his redeployment from being a pilot to being an Air Liaison Officer is expected to lay bare the goings on at the spy agency.

It may very well open a can of worms as the new administration led by Brigadier Peter Magosi has decided to defend the lawsuit before the High Court ÔÇô a departure from the norm under the former spy boss Isaac Kgosi.

The decision to defend the lawsuit is seen as a bold departure from the agency’s long-held tradition because the agency at the time when it was led by the former Director General Isaac Kgosi was in the habit of settling cases out of court to avoid public scrutiny.

Deputy Director of the DIS Modiri Kooagile has set the tone for the legal battle between Matlhagela and DIS lawyers by replying to Matlhagela’s founding affidavit which alleges that he was redeployed from being a pilot to do clerical work for having flown former President Ian Khama to Mosu.

In papers filed before Justice Modiri Letsididi of the High Court, Matlhagela brings fresh accusations against his employer insisting that a note detailing his new post and duties as a liaison officer amounts to perjury.

Kooagile had stated in his answering affidavit that the unsigned note detailing the duties of a liaison officer was as a result of discussions between senior management and Matlhagela.

Kooagile holds that Matlhagela had indicated during discussions when he was redeployed that it was his view, “although he has been given the mandate to set up the Air Liaison Office, he proposed that he be allowed to continue to fly.”

This is however disputed by Matlhagela when replying to Kooagile’s answering affidavit. He said Kooagile’s statement is “misleading and it amounts to perjury, which is a criminal offence.”

“The unsigned note was provided to me as a final draft, without my input, on the 14th August 2018 (after the redeployment) by Director of Corporate Services Tshegofatso (surname withheld) in the presence of her deputy, Meshack (surname withheld) at DIS headquarters, Gaborone upon resumption of duty after I was barred from work on the 31st July 2018 by the same.”

He added that “an instruction was given to generate a list of requirements (for the new office for an  Air Liaison Officer) by Tshegofatso on or around the week of 20th August 2018 which I submitted by email on 23rd August 2018,” said Matlhagela.

Another fresh allegation against the DIS by Matlhogela in his replying affidavit to Kooagile’s answering affidavit is that “As a matter of fact I was told by Mr Phuthego (Matlhagela’s supervisor) that a panel of board of investigations or inquiry (comprised of Kenamile, Gopolang, Tendani, (surnames withheld) was assigned by management which convened at the Air Wing on 5th July 2018 to investigate me.”

He added that “Phuthego informed me this was to facilitate my removal from the Air Wing by any means possible as an Isaac Kgosi associate by way of recommending a dismissal, redeployment or demotion.”

He also stated that he was not aware of a policy decision that informed his redeployment adding that it was merely for personal reasons that had nothing to do with the needs of the DIS.

“That is why I still do not have resources availed to my new office as there is nothing to do there. The needs of the organisation are not known to me because there is no policy document with regard to the setting up of an Air Liason Office but aid in the operational decision making thereof,” he said.

Matlhagela who was hired by Kgosi as a pilot in 2012 added that “my primary duties are that of a pilot as a support function. O have not received training skills or competency of an intelligence officer, I have not been informed that such training shall be provided in the future.”

But Kooagile insists that Matlhagela was recruited as an intelligence officer. “…All I know is that the Applicant was recruited primarily as an intelligence officer and that depending on the needs of the Organisation the Director General may exercise powers vested in him to redeploy the Applicant.”

He added that although Matlhagela served as a pilot officer in the Air Wing Unit, he “carried out other duties and these other duties include the duties that he is now performing as an Air Liaison Officer.”

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.