Opposition stalwart Dumelang Saleshando has stated that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General, Isaac Kgosi is absolutely right in the stance he has adopted at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) interrogation.
The PAC which is tasked with examining government’s books is interrogating Kgosi’s DISS involvement in the ongoing P250 million pula National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga. The fund is also the subject of a current High Court case in which prominent figures and political kingpin Bakang Seretse and two other accused Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang are charged for money laundering.
In the PAC cross-examination, Kgosi’s subpoena follows the appearance of Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang as well as his Permanent Secretary Dr. Obolokile Obakeng. The spy chief has maintained his posture of out rightly declining to divulge vital information relating to his involvement in the NPF loot particularly issues surrounding the instruction from DIS and subsequent disbursement of the P230 million from the NPF to the DIS.
“I cannot discuss or comment on anything that is classified unless it is de-classified,” maintained the notorious Kgosi at the PAC committee. The chairperson of PAC who was caught between a rock and a hard place in dealing with Kgosi, Dithapelo Keorapetse summoned him (Kgosi) to give more evidence again this week with the possibility of compelling him to reveal the information he refused to divulge before the committee.
Keorapetse, who is also legislator for Selibe Phikwe West said the committee will also summon the Botswana National Archives and Records Services accounting officer to give evidence and advice on classified information, which Kgosi used as an excuse not to share information with the committee.â€¨â€¨Keorapetse further stated that the committee will invoke the Standing Order relating to the Powers and Privileges of the National Assembly to compel Kgosi to give information that he refused to give, failing which it will be contempt, which will attract the wrath of the law.
In light of the PAC matter, Saleshando told WeekendPost, this week in an interview while defending Kgosi’s refusal to divulge more information he deemed “classified” saying he is not really the one to blame. At the time when the Act was passed in 2008, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) two-time law maker said people did not really apply their minds and they deliberately chose to be stupid.
“So, I think Isaac Kgosi has a point, he has been correctly advised,” the BCP leader told WeekendPost adding that if anything “he is simply abusing the Act which does not conform to the modern standards of mere checks and balances.” Saleshando reiterated: “we can’t blame him for it, just like his mentor ex President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama when he looked at the loopholes in the Botswana constitution and used them to his advantage and benefit.”
He reminisced that when asked why he (Khama) was abusing the constitution, Khama insisted he did not write the constitution. This, he stressed, was Khama’s weapon from day 1 of his presidency. He said he then started applying the law willy-nilly by being the first to go on sabbatical leave. So in terms of utilizing the loopholes of the law, the former Gaborone Central legislator emphasised that Kgosi learnt from the best.
“So, Kgosi is just looking at the DISS Act. Anything he does not want to comment on, he “classifies” it. There is no provision if classifying was done in best interest of the organisation or country.” However Saleshando further observed that the problems this country has about corruption are bigger than the spy chief who he described as “just an individual”; adding that “he can either drop or die tomorrow”.
According to Saleshando, whoever assumes the position of DISS Director General after Kgosi under the current DISS Act and circumstances could also become a problem as allowed by the existing law. Saleshando therefore added that the real test for Masisi as the new president of the country is that: “he has a DISS Director General; and he walks in and there is a mess created by the DISS.”
“Does he have the courage to act by suspending Kgosi to allow for full investigations? Can he fire him? Is Masisi also afraid of Kgosi? If he doesn’t act I think it will also show that he (Masisi) is also afraid of him (Kgosi) as some Ministers have been purporting recently.” DIS Director General, Kgosi was appointed by President Khama on such terms and conditions as he, on the recommendation of the Council, determined. He is responsible for the direction, control, administration and expenditure of the Directorate.
Just last week, former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang revealed to PAC that members of the executive (Cabinet), the public and; corruption busting agency Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) “fear” the intelligence organ (DIS).
The organ was started through the unlawful assistance of the Disaster Funds which were diverted despite strong resistance from some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench like Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Botsalo Ntuane as well as opposition legislators like Saleshando. DIS was instigated following a strict instruction in 2008 upon ascension to the Presidency by President Khama.
Saleshando remembered this week that: “it was when their messiah, Khama was coming to the presidency so they wanted to pass the DISS Act come rain or sunshine as Khama wanted it so badly.” Saleshando said the problem with the said law, as its flaws started to play out in the public and lately at the PAC, is that there were no attempts to build on mechanism to provide checks and balances.
The BCP leader said the law does not force to reveal the classified information at PAC whereas the top leadership of the country supported the motion to review the NPF as moved by Mephato Reatile at the close of last year. Saleshando said it is a pity that Masisi, as Vice President supported the said motion together with Prince Maele, Guma Moyo, Botlogile Tshireletso and Polson Majaga for the parliamentary committee PAC to take up the matter “but PAC is now appearing helpless as we can all see”.
Intelligence and Security Services Act prohibits disclosure of information
In light of Saleshando’s sentiments of the law, WeekendPost perused through the controversial Act and has some few highlights of the monster law with regard to prohibiting disclosure of information. In terms of section 20, outlining the prohibition of unauthorized disclosure of information subsection (1) states that “without prejudice to any other written law, an officer or support staff shall not disclose or use any information gained by him or her by virtue of his or her employment otherwise than in the strict course of his or her official duties or with the authority of the Director General.”
It continues at subsection(2) that “no officer or support staff shall be required to produce, before any public body other than a Parliamentary Committee established under the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, any document or other evidence where – (a) it is certified by the Director General- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class of documents or evidence, the production of which is injurious to public interest, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be injurious to public interest.”
The contentious section further posits that; “or (b) the Central Intelligence Committee certifies- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class the production of which is prejudicial to national security, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be prejudicial to national security.”
According to subsection (3) of the said DISS Act: a person aggrieved by a decision of the Director General or the Central Intelligence Committee may apply to the High Court for determination whether the production, or the disclosure of the contents, of the document or other evidence would be injurious to the public interest or, as the case may be, prejudicial to national security.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.