DIS more powerful than Executive – Gaolathe
The Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS)’s participation in the recent money laundering scandal involving the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) shows the extent of which the intelligence organs runs affairs of the government.
This has been observed by the Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader Ndaba Gaolathe at the party’s 1st Annual Policy Statement last week. Gaolathe is of the view that, DIS has amassed power to the extent that it is literally runs the government of Botswana.
There have been pleas, including from defence lawyer Kgosi Ngakayagae for the prosecuting authority to also charge intelligence chief Isaac Kgosi in connection with the money laundering activities that have ensnared former Kgori Capital managing director Bakang Seretse . “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.”
He said the current Government does not have the interest to bring the DIS to the book, and even if they were willing to do so, the current governance mechanism would allow them to effective deal with the ‘rogue’ institution. “Our Government system is centralised, and Parliament lacks the institutional capacity to fulfill its constitutional mandate, consequently our system is not one of checks-and-balances; it is a legitimised authoritarian rule,” he opined.
“Our Government is configured in a way that not only legitimizes authoritarianism by the central Government or Presidency in particular, it promotes it. We cannot, with our system, expect to successfully combat corruption when we know the system is configured in a way that inherently feeds corruption, not combat it.”
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.
DIS was established amid controversy shortly after President Lt Gen Ian Khama assumed office in 2008. The Disaster Fund was diverted to help establish the organisation amid strong resistance from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers as well as opposition legislators.
“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,” Gaolathe said
Gaolathe is of the view that, although there is room for an intelligence agency in any democracy, including that of Botswana, there should be legislative safeguards against abuse of such powers. “Botswana is ripe for such safeguards including ones that set up technical/specialized panels with rights and powers to audit the uses of funds by the DIS, and independent panel with full oversight functions including treatment of abuse cases,” Gaolathe.
The intelligence chief, Kgosi has however on numerous occasions defended the DIS from the perception that it does not account to anyone. He blames the responsible bodies, among them the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee which have for years failed to convene a meeting that would summon the DIS boss. “It is a matter which is beyond me. I cannot account to myself or I cannot cause the meeting to take place because there is oversight body mandated to do that,” Kgosi told Public Accounts Committee in 2016.
You may like
Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month. Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
This content is locked
Login To Unlock The Content!
ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”