About four months ago, Botswana’s intelligence community was embroiled in the biggest spy scandal in the nation’s history. The backbone of the Botswana Defence Force’s own Military Intelligence Unit and now Commanding officer of the BDF Ground Forces Brigadier Peter Magosi and a former Military Intelligence store man, best known for his involvement in the execution of John Kalafatis– Dzikimani Mothobi ÔÇô were being accused of involvement in the disappearance of some GSM jammers and Cellebrites telephone spying equipment. However, the case, which was before the republic’s High Court was withdrawn by the two parties on agreement that the matter will be settled out of court.
The decision to settle out of court left nation hanging, without any further information or answers. Details surrounding the ‘case’ were as tantalising as a plot of any James Bond movie infused with US President Nixon’s Water Gate scandal type manoeuvres. It is on public record that both the Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale and Head of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi and Colonel Bana Pilane were expected to testify against Brig. Magosi. Two sources (Conspiracy Theorist 1 -CT1 and Conspiracy Theorist -CT2), who happens to be high ranking officers from within the Botswana Defence insists that the case against Magosi long-time-coming, yet fundamentally flawed from the beginning.
Yes, he says the spying equipment may be “missing” but it wasn’t stolen, and yes Magosi may be giving the current MI unit boss some grief over the alleged refusal to hand over officers to Colonel Cullen Nkete; but that is not the meat of the matter. Apparently the ‘missing spy equipment” case is just a conspiracy to force Magosi to resign after a decades-old rivalry at the high ranks at the BDF, as well as the most chronic symptom of the leadership crisis at the force. More importantly, Magosi has been the fall-guy for Kgosi on at least two occasions. And Major General Mashinyana, who was used to act as the presiding officer on the aborted mission to institute a board of inquiry against Magosi was a pawn.
“Magosi is high up in the senior ranks of the army. There are only four guys ahead of him till he reaches the level of commander. This was the first difficulty regarding the case. If there has to be a board of inquiry such as the one they sought to institute against Magosi viz. the missing equipment, the commander of the Botswana Defence Force would have to instruct his deputy to initialise the process against Magosi; this is where Mashinyana came in. Now because there are two other major generals who would sit on the board, then Magosi’s options for appeal would be totally closed because if all his seniors are on the board, he would have nowhere else to turn to seek redress. Besides that, according to the BDF ACT, all BDP red collars cannot be tried by the army itself, they are tried by the state at the High Court.
So if this ill-fated board of inquiry had found fault with him, another difficult would have resulted,” said CT 2. This difficulty, he pointed out, would emanate from the fact that the equipment is not really missing. But to try to unravel the mystery, our man insists on highlighting the history of the military men who have now engulfed the country in this friendly-fire spectacle. The stories being told point to a twisted tale of the intelligence men clawing at each like crabs in a bucket. There are two scenarios being painted by the army sources, but both point to the spy equipment being loaned out to a very senior civilian officer at the office of the president. CT 1 says Dzikimani Mothobi is the store man who handed the equipment to a senior officer at the Office of the President, hence his inclusion in the defendant list. If this were the case, it would be clear that Mothobi, a much junior officer at the BDF could not have released equipment without instruction. The other narrative points to the possibility that Magosi may have acted alone, considering the sensitive nature of the equipment and the senior civilian close to presidency who borrowed it.
The two theories however, converge on the point that the spying equipment was given to the office of the president during the BDP split that led to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy. In mapping out the relationships of the army officers who were supposed to have been witnesses against Magosi, CT-2 intimates that Kgosi and Magosi used to be friends and must have fallen out during the Kalafatis murder. “Magosi bit the bullet for Kgosi and it is actually a full blown betrayal that Kgosi would now turn around to bear false witness against Magosi while he probably has the equipment in his possession. But Pilane is a totally different story. He has also been at logger-horns with Magosi since he joined the intelligence service,” he said. “You see, the MI is small in terms of personnel, but because they have been around for longer, they were well resourced and had more equipment than the DIS.
Remember that when the Air Arm relocated to Thebephatshwa, Pilane was a pilot and he was also in former commander Carter Masire’s close circleÔÇöthey’re both from Mochudi. Once in Thebephatshwa, Pilane pushed for the airbase to have its own intelligence unit; so he was both an F5 pilot and head of MI whilst in Thebephatshwa. When Masire became commander, he made Pilane a colonel and transferred him closer to him in Mogoditshane. At the time, Magosi was part of the intelligence arm with the Commando Unit. The two were then brought together in that way. Magosi had been part of the intelligence cadre at the Commando Unit that included the disgraced Major General Tiroyamodimo and the current Lieutenant General Gaolatlhe Galebotswe and together are highly praised for their accomplishments.
“Remember that the Commando Unit was first headed by Kgokgothwane who is now an opposition BMD parliamentary candidate. After him came Masisi, then Tiroyamodimo. After that, it was headed by GG(Current BDF Commander), then Magosi. Magosi made way for the current guy, Nkete. They’re now saying his American wife is a CIA agent,’ he said. “Pilane and Magosi’s skirmishes started this way; MI unit is headed by a colonel but the brigadier is stationed at headquarters to advice, the colonel doesn’t have the direct access or control over money for operations, as Pilane realised. He told Masire that Magosi was misusing the money meant for operations. It was said that Magosi carries large sums of money in his car boot and that he spends monies meant for the sources recklessly. Apparently Magosi caused a storm. Magosi then took disciplinary action against Pilane and in the end Masire transferred Pilane to the Military Police Unit to quell the noise. Magosi was made Provost Marshall with the MP. There was once an incident which Pilane refused to wear uniform, Magosi forced him to go back home to wear MP uniform! It remained quiet until Masire left BDF and Galebotswe took over as commander.
His restructuring saw Magosi being transferred to the first brigade, where he currently serves,” he said. Back to the missing spy equipment: It is for the above mentioned reasons why CT-2 thinks Pilane was going to be a witness against Magosi. “Remember that the Intelligence wing is an independent structure. MI is used to detect and eliminate either military or civilian threat. It gives leaders intelligence on where to concentrate. BDF is there to protect the nation and its assets from threat within or without. Probably, few people knew about the equipment, but the problem is that it was borrowed to someone outside the intelligence community. You see in the military go berekwa ka go lomanwa (collecting and obtaining and delivering information about others and passing it to the superiors),” he said. CT-1 thinks that the civilian at OP may well have given the equipment back to Kgosi who instead of returning it, may have decided to cause trouble for Magosi instead.
It also leaves unanswered, how the senior civilian at Office of the president had known about the existence of the equipment. How did he even know how to use it? And most importantly, for what reason in his civilian job, did the need to listen to other civilians arise? “It is very likely that Kgosi asked the new commander to inquire from Magosi the whereabouts of the equipment knowing well he had it. It would sound so bad if anybody approached the commander asking why a civilian has been loaned military intelligence equipment. I believe this is the real reason why they didn’t want it to continue at the High Court. They thought that Magosi would panic and leave; but he was confident because he knows as well as they do that someone at DIS or OP has it. He wasn’t fazed at all and he was going to embarrass them,” he said.