The Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi told the Public Accounts Committee this week that a dysfunctional Parliamentary Tribunal that oversees the operations of the intelligence organisation is to blame for lack of oversight on his organisation.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Tati East Member of Parliament Guma Moyo, Kgosi avoided most questions which he deemed infringed on security matters, stated that he could not respond due to ‘security reasons’. The spy boss could not even divulge to PAC the success of the DIS, reiterating that it was for security reasons.
Procurement and general operations of the security organ as well as its spending were part of the details which Kgosi could not share with the PAC. In less than 30 minutes, the DIS boss walked out having told the leading parliamentary oversight committee only what he wanted them to hear.
Kgosi told the committee that the perception that DIS does not account to anyone has nothing to do with him but the oversight bodies 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,” he said.
The paralysis of Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee has left the country’s secret service organ with only the president to account to. Opposition MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Shaun Nthaile have declined to sit in the committee. The committee has been dysfunctional since the 10th parliament.
In 2014, members of the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee, Bagalatia Arone, and former MP for Mmopane-Lentsweletau Major General Moeng Pheto resigned from the committee amid reports that its chairperson Kagiso Molatlhegi refused to convene a sitting to summon the DIS director to appear before the committee over corruption allegations that were doing rounds in the media at that time.
In this week’s sitting, PAC had wanted Kgosi to justify the P500 million budget allocated to the eight year old organisation. Guma was of the view that perhaps disclosure of the success of the intelligence organ will help erase the negative perception about the DIS.
In the current financial year, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security was allocated the biggest share of the development budget. Of the P14 billion budget for development, P3.59 billion or 24.2 percent was allocated to Ministry of Defence Justice and Security with justification that the money will mainly cater for provision of defence equipment, communication equipment, and infrastructure, in order to improve BDF’s defence capabilities. While sharing that most of their criticism on defence spending is influenced by ignorance, Kgosi said Botswana must actually spend more.
When quizzed on whether the country needs to spend more on defence, Kgosi stated that the national budget on security organs, including Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police and Botswana Prisons is very low and could not sufficiently protect the country and its citizens.
“We are spending peanuts on the defence organs, looking at the fact that military and intelligence equipment is very expensive to buy,” he said.
“They say pay peanuts and attract monkeys, and that is what we are getting. We need more spending on defence and security.”
Kgosi also said defence spending is not helped by the fact that the equipment which the security entities buy is procured in foreign currencies and this makes it even more expensive.
The DIS boss was also asked if Botswana is facing immediate threat to justify high military spending, and he answered in the affirmative. “Our friends could be our enemies tomorrow, and we need to be prepared militarily,” he said.
Guma had put it to Kgosi that the DIS’s procurement is too secretive to an extent that it raises eye brows given the amount which is allocated to the organ.
“When we are dealing with procurement with regard to the budget which is allocated to the DIS, it is natural that people will question the use of such money if there is no transparency,’ said Guma.
Furthermore, Kgosi said it is important that information regarding procurement of military equipment is kept secret to avoid a situation where ‘enemies’ are privy to the strength or weakness of the country’s security.
“What I have learnt about Batswana is that; they will only speak well about you at your funeral. Batswana are never satisfied and they will never appreciate even when good things are being done. Batswana are liars,” he said, prompting PAC members to force him to retract the words ‘Batswana are liars.’
It was not for the first time he appeared before the same committee as last year when he appeared before it.
The outspoken spy boss went on to quash allegations of DIS being implicated in a number of killings of ordinary citizens. MP for Franscistown West, who is a member of PAC, Ignatious Moswaane had wanted to know the authenticity of allegations doing rounds pertaining to the orchestration the death of some citizens.
Guma also seized the moment and asked the DIS Director if Gaolathe’s life was under threat especially in the wake of reports that the leader of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was a target of assassins.
“Gaolathe’s life is not under threat, but if it is, I will make sure that he gets the protection that he needs,” he said.
The intelligence chief also told PAC that among the biggest challenges faced by the country is drug dealing, human trafficking, smuggling of diamonds and money laundering.
Kgosi stated that because Botswana has an environment which is not well known for those kinds of criminal activities, it is becoming an easy target for criminals.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.