Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Spy wars rock Botswana’s security

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Cobra special unit was this week dismantled in what is feared to be part of a systematic plan to whittle down capabilities of the country’s security agencies while propping the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

The destruction of the BDF Cobra unit is understood to have cropped up at the National Security Meeting chaired by DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi at the DISS head office on Wednesday 26th November. A total of 30 members of the 34 person strong elite force were this week redeployed with the BDF ground forces paralyzing the army unit which is charged with escorting visiting dignitaries, bank of Botswana money and the country’s diamonds. The Cobra unit was also part of the team that was assigned to hunt John Kalafatis who was killed by BDF officers in an extra-judicial execution.

BDF had not responded to a Sunday Standard questionnaire at the time of going to press. Sunday Standard has also established that Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General Isaac Kgosi lobbied President Lt Gen Ian Khama to dismantle the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) intelligence unit headed by Anele Ncube.

The DCEC intelligence unit established in 2010 has strength of about 30 operatives drawn from the DISS, BDF and Botswana Police. Six of the agents were recruited from the Military Intelligence to join DISS, before defecting to DCEC after falling out with the DISS Director General. In March 2014, the DISS Director General wrote to President Khama complaining that the DCEC intelligence unit was a national security threat and that it was harboring criminals. The letter lists four DCEC intelligence unit operatives by name and claimed that they were discharged dishonorably from DISS. Kgosi blames the quartet for the leak of his docket to the Sunday Standard.

Following Kgosi’s complaint to President Khama, in June 2014, Head of Crime Intelligence Bureau (CRIB) David Mosetse and Director of CID Mathews Maduane were assigned to investigate the leak. The raid of Sunday Standard offices by the CID under the pretext of investigating sedition charges against newspaper editor Outsa Mokone is believed to be part of the investigations. The computer and discs impounded from theSunday Standard offices during the raid have been handed over to CRIB. The investigation in to the docket leak is still ongoing. Still in June 2014, in what was codenamed Operation Safe Kgosi, a young lawyer linked to a group of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big shots tried to bribe the DCEC Public Relations officer, Lentswe Motshoganetsi into stealing Kgosi’s docket from the DCEC.

While the DCEC intelligence unit was still investigating the attempted theft of the docket, the DCEC command launched an investigation against its intelligence unit for allegedly leaking information of the attempted theft to Botswana movement for Democracy (BDM) Member of Parliament Pius Mokgware. Sources close to the DCEC told the Sunday Standard that members of the unit fear that they may be eliminated.

Moves to dismantle the BDF Cobra unit and the DCEC Intelligence Unit come after the DISS paralysed the army commando unit by poaching most of its members. The Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Botswana Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) are also said to be fighting to fend off the DISS from dominating them. Although the BDF, DCEC and Botswana police and BURS have their remit intelligence units, “DISS remains the sole national security intelligence organization in Botswana. The National Intelligence Community established through section 27 of the ISS Act provides for a coordinating platform for all national entities dealing with intelligence and security related matters.

Once intelligence has been shared and exchanged at this forum, it is ultimately the DISS that delivers the final product to Government pursuant to section 7 (a), which designates the agency as the principal advisor on intelligence and national security matters. No other department does the same”, wrote DISS Chief of Operations Lesego Tsholofelo in his academic paper, A Critical Evaluation of the Intelligence Oversight Regime in Botswana.

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