Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama last week broke rank with Cabinet and the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Parliamentary caucus and teamed up with the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to oppose supplementary funding for the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
Opposition Members of Parliament believe the P15,5 million supplementary funding for the DISS will be used to finance the BDP faction linked to Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The request for additional funding for the DISS by the Ministry of Finance is believed to have been discussed by Cabinet and the BDP Parliamentary Caucus before it was tabled in Parliament as is the norm, and the position by Tshekedi suggests deep divisions in the BDP and government – two supreme structures.
In an apparent move to create a facade of unity, the
request was tabled by Minister Nonofo Molefhi, who was standing in for Kenneth Matambo, the substantive Minister of Finance. Molefhi will be challenging Masisi for the BDP chairmanship in July and for the presidency of Botswana when the incumbent Ian Khama steps down in 12 months.
The opposition UDC played up the irony in Parliament with Leader of Oppossition, Duma Boko saying: “It is ironic that Molefhi is the one who presented this paper to Parliament, because I suspect you are one of the targets by DIS. For you to be motivating this funds on their behalf is an example of ‘singing in your chains’; you are chained, you are a prisoner, you are a hostage of the DIS and I don’t like it one bit. DIS follows people around who are harmless, people like you Molefhi.”
Selibe Phikwe Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse told Parliament that: “My suspicion is that the money that is being channelled towards DIS is used to bankroll the ruling party especially the faction linked to Mokgweetsi Masisi. We can never be sure that this P15 million requested is going to be used to service computer system, no one here is sure what the money is going to be used for but we are sitting here giving the DIS 15.5 million,” said Keorapetse.
Keorapetse said with DIS there was no transparency and there was no accountability. “Why is it that we are giving money to the DIS year in and year out? The money that is unaccounted for; that is why we are suspicious of a very rich faction of the ruling party led by the Vice President,” said Keorapetse.
The Ministry of Finance told Parliament that the DISS over expenditure was incurred during BOT50 activities. UDC Vice President, Ndaba Gaolatlhe opposed the request saying: “I am failing to understand how one can justify such a quantum, for something that has been planned for, everyone knew that there would be BOT 50. I do not understand how that could jack up DIS expenditure by P15 million,” said Gaolatlhe.
The opposition deputy president said: “This organisation is a ‘parasitic’ institution which continues to misuse millions of public funds without justification. We have already indicated on the National Development Plan 11 from their annual expenditure that the amounts of monies that are channelled into the DIS are very difficult to justify … I consider this to be a tragedy and a travesty in the affairs of our nation.”
Tshekedi, on the other hand, tried to rally Parliament against the DISS request saying the House would be sending the wrong message to the nation, that DISS computers are more important than Batswana’s lives.
“I have a problem because I once asked for money to compensate Batswana who had been attacked by wild animals and we were told our request was unsuccessful,” he said.
He added that: “In 2014/15 financial year we had to compensate about 4 500 claimants and we were given P14 million which was way short; in 2015/16 it was worse, we had 6 300 claimants and we were given only P4 400 000 and this was not enough to compensate claimants.”
“What message are we communicating to Batswana? Are we saying to Batswana that we do not have money to compensate claimants but we have money for DIS computers?” asked Khama.
He continued: “What are we saying about this issue? I face claimants who are affected by this issue everyday and I have to face them not the people in offices. What are we going to do about this matter? The lives of people should be valuable as compared to computers for DIS.”
The union of strange bedfellows in Tshekedi and the UDC legislators lost their bid to stop the DISS supplementary funding, suggesting that the President’s brother does not have the backing of most BDP back benchers.
The DISS which is understood to be backing Masisi’s bid for presidency is a major stumbling block in Tshekedi’s endeavour to succeed his brother as the third Khama in five presidents since the country’s independence.
The jostling to succeed Khama, which is the messiest in the history of Botswana, has now branched off into spy wars and arms races between the group led by the Vice President and that led by the President’s brother.
The succession battle has rattled President Khama’s inner circle, and the first battle lines inside his camp were drawn two years ago when Tshekedi openly took sides with former Botswana Defence Force Chief of Staff and Commander of Ground Forces Brigadier Peter Magosi.
President Khama’s small circle of close associates was shaken by his decision to force Magosi into early retirement. Magosi who for a long time was part of President Khama’s inner circle has the backing of Tshekedi and his twin brother Anthony.
On the opposite side of the battle line is Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services Director General Isaac Kgosi and Minister of Presidential Affairs Eric Molale who are believed to be backing Masisi.