The newly appointed Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Brigadier Peter Magosi will support investigations into the perceived illegal activities of the intelligence organ if the oversight institutions call for it, Weekend Post has established.
Brigadier Magosi revealed this yesterday [Friday] on the sidelines of the organisation’s first press conference under his leadership. The DISS was formed 10 years ago. Coaxed by this publication to give his view on the perceived need to investigate the activities of DIS during the tutelage of his predecessor Colonel Isaac Kgosi, Magosi gave a hint of his support if authorities call for it.
“Look, I am the driver of the vehicle. There is somebody who decides the destination of the vehicle. If those who decide the destination believe that there should be a commission of an inquiry, I will support it,” he said. “I will do everything to ensure that DIS is a professional institution and gains trust from the public.”
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is empowered by the law to set-up a commission of an inquiry and set its terms of references. Masisi dismissed Colonel Kgosi from office last month in an unexpected turn of events and replaced him with Brigadier Magosi. Magosi stated that his duty as the new spy chief is to set new high standards and ensure that the activities of the organisation are carried out in a professional manner and purely in the interest of the nation.
There has been litany of complaints against the DIS, with some within and outside the political sphere believing that the spy agency has been encroaching on their private life unnecessarily. Under the leadership of Colonel Kgosi, who is the organisation’s founding Director General; the organisation gained a bad reputation leading to a rejection by the public. Its formation was without controversy, with many ruling party Members of Parliament famously opposing the legislation which created the organisation.
Established in 2008, its core mandate, according to the Intelligence and Security Service Act, is to investigate, gather, coordinate, evaluate, correlate, interpret, disseminate and store information, whether inside or outside Botswana, for the purpose of; detecting and identifying any threat or potential threat to national security. Another mandate of the DIS is advising the President and the Government of any threat or potential threat to national security as well as taking steps to protect the security interests of Botswana, whether political, military and economic.
There is a believe that the phone taping as done by the DIS under Kgosi’s regime, bordered on illegality and does not fall within proper activities of the intelligence organ. Magosi however said though he believes that the activities of the DIS should not unfairly bother ordinary citizens, he said in the event that there is a need, the organisation will go overboard to get the information that it requires.
“Intelligence activities are covert, just like in investigative journalism. Sometimes we use extreme means to gather information if there is a need to do that. We do this in the interest of the public,” he hinted. The DIS, as per the legislation that established it, has various bodies that it should keep it in check. Its activities should be authorised by the Defence Council, Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence Security as well as the DIS Tribunal.
CRITICISM OF DIS OPERATION AND INTERFERENCE
Last year, the leader of Alliance for Progressives (DIS) Ndaba Gaolathe, did not have so much good words for the intelligence organ, blaming if for the problems that besiege government and accusing it of interference. “The Intelligence Services is more powerful than the rest of the Government decision making machinery,” said Gaolathe. “It is them that decide who gets awarded the multi-million Government procurement assignments, it is them that decide whose expatriate VISA gets approved.”
Gaolathe contended that DIS has an influential role in deciding appointments to key positions in both government and quasi-government institutions. “It is them that re-allocate willy-nilly Government reserves as we they did with the National Petrol Fund,” he said. “They are above the law, and no one is able to find a way for them to face the wrath of the law.”
Gaolathe said even though some people maybe in denial or believe it to be false, many people leave in fear of retribution of government for their conversation. “Even those who are in denial are afraid to speak freely on their phones and will refuse to be drawn into conversations that involve the Government, because they feel that this may be used against them somehow,” he said.
Gaolathe’s criticism for DIS has been consistent, taking a shot at it at every opportunity. In his response to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s valedictory State of Nation Address (SONA), Gaolathe criticised the process which led to the formation of the DIS. “As long as we are here, we will not relent from pouring cold water on the legislation that brought the DIS to life, which monster has injected a rapacious poison into our life-blood as a people,” he said.
“Whether it is real or perceived the DIS is at the heart of everything that is wrong about our Governance system – it is an institution that has been associated with extrajudicial killings, the nepotistic award or non-award of mega-lucrative tenders, immigration decisions for expatriates and investors as well as non-merit appointments to key Government roles in the Executive and Judiciary.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).