The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has expressed disdain for the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS), mocking it for its recent involvement in the recent P250 million money laundering scandal.
Khama, who was appearing before Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises could not resist from ensnaring DISS in his deliberation to the committee until he was warned by the committee chairperson Samson Guma. Khama had told the committee that, he has normalised operation at Botswana Tourism Board (BTO) following months of operation with a properly constituted Board of Directors. Ordinarily the Board of Directors is responsible for running the BTO, but its lack of quorum saw Minister Khama assuming the roles of the board, something which infuriated Guma.
“I want things done correctly. We are correcting everything we did wrong. As we speak we now have a Board. Ga re batle go tshwana le bo-DISS ba gotweng batsere P250 million bare ba aga fuel storages, whatever it is,” Khama told the committee. Guma however, forced Khama to withdraw the statement because the matter is before the courts, which legally prevents the committee, which is an extension of parliament, from discussing the matter.
Later at the end of the proceedings, Khama shared with the media that, while he had been subjected to scrutiny by the committee over the operation of the BTO and over a ‘mere’ appointment of a UK company to provide services to BTO, the likes of DISS who are involved with millions of pula always go untouched, both by the committee and by the law. “We need that money [DISS money] for anti-poaching missions. Poachers are having a field day and we are not able to combat their actions.”
The fallout between Tshekedi and DISS first came into play a earlier this year when the former, in an unexpected turn of events refused to support DISS supplementary funding, insisting that it was a misplaced request. He pointed out that for the good of the country, the government should get its priorities right.
Tshekedi’s reasons for rejecting the DISS request for additional funding was that the money that his ministry always requests to compensate Batswana who lose lives and livestock due to wild animals attacks is always lower than what they require and it has been so for the past few years.
“I become surprised that for the DISS, P15 million can be passed to fix the computers. What are we saying to Batswana? Are we telling them that we cannot compensate them for the damages caused by wildlife or when they have lost a family member yet we can afford to fix computers?” he told parliament then.
There has been a battle between Tshekedi Khama and DISS over its involvement in anti-poaching missions, something which Khama and his lieutenants at the ministry believe is the preserve of the Wildlife Anti-Poaching Intelligence Unit, and none of the DISS business.
Earlier this year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Jimmy Opelo told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Wildlife anti-poaching unit was capable of pursuing its mission given the resources at its disposal. He informed PAC that the wildlife department had eight aircraft and eight special vehicles used in combating poaching in Botswana.
The Wildlife anti-poaching intelligence is the brainchild of Tshekedi himself. In a clear sign that he would do everything to get what he wanted, Tshekedi went on to appoint Brigadier Peter Magosi to head the wildlife intelligence unit. Brigadier Magosi had just been fired by President Khama from the army at the time of his appointment, following a perceived battle between him, Kgosi and others close to President Khama. His expulsion came on the back of the recommendation of the then commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe.
Meanwhile the Director General of DISS, Isaac Kgosi has a different view over DISS involvement in the anti-poaching mission. He also told PAC during the same sitting that the DISS role in the anti-poaching mission was complementary. “We are not in competition with them [Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit]. The role of the DISS is to gather intelligence for its consumers. We are not only limited to our country as we even go international to gather intelligence,” he said.
He further told the PAC that the DISS anti-poaching missions are also sanctioned by the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC). It is believed that the P250 million which is subject of a money laundering court case was meant for the purchase of DISS equipment that would have helped in anti-poaching missions.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.