The clash involving the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS) and Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism is far from over, as this week the intelligence chief Isaac Kgosi insisted before Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that it is the mandate of DIS to pursue anti-poaching mission.
Last week, Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary, Jimmy Opelo informed the committee 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 has eight aircrafts and eight special vehicles used in combating poaching in Botswana.
PAC member, Mephato Reatile had inquired as to whether Members of Parliament should support or ignore supplementary budgets that frequently come from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the DISS under the disguise of anti-poaching mission. This week the DISS boss differed significantly with the permanent secretary when legislator Reatile presented the issue before him. Kgosi said although the Wildlife anti-poaching unit has the aircrafts and specialised vehicles to combat poachers, they (Wildlife Unit) need the presence of the intelligence if they are to succeed.
“In Setswana were say: “moroto wa o esi ga o ele,” said the DIS boss. Kgosi contended that as a security organ, there is no way they are going to stay away from pursuing poachers because the task remains one of its major priorities. “We are not in competition with them [Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit]. The role of the DIS 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.
“Not long ago, we found a stash of elephant tusks from Botswana in one country. Ours is not about having specialised vehicles or aircrafts but gathering intelligence.” Kgosi said not only is the DIS role in the anti-poaching complementary, its anti-poaching missions are also sanctioned by the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC). “All operations of the DIS are sanctioned by the CIC, which the DIS report to,” he said. “Because anything can happen, people may lose lives during the operation.”
ON DIS/TSHEKEDI KHAMA TENSION
The DIS boss said as far as he is concerned there is no bad blood between the DIS and the Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit or the Minister of Tourism, Tshekedi Khama. Guma Moyo, Tati East Member of Parliament and also a PAC member had raised concern in relation to reports playing out in public with regard to the animosity between intelligence organs.
“Perception is stronger than reality. What is happening in the national security community is a cause for concern; because nobody is coming out publicly to state the record straight, citizens are worried; they are beginning to wonder if they are really safe,” said the Tati East lawmaker.
Reatile also raised the same concerns and asked whether the DIS boss could be hiding important information in regard to the current state of affairs. Reatile said the tendency to deny reality will end up landing the DIS boss in trouble as evidenced by incidents in other countries, giving example of disgraced former intelligence chief in Angola. Kgosi informed the committee that the DIS is scheduled to address its first press conference alongside the concerned parties to finally put the matter to bed.
The DISS’s first planned press conference was aborted at the last minute a month ago, with the DISS hierarchy resolute on refuting the damning story which appeared in the Sunday Standard newspaper about DISS’s illegal involvement in the smuggling of ivory out of the country.
The planned press conference was aborted after the intervention of President Lt Gen Ian Khama, to save face and prevent a situation where government departments could appear to be at war with each other’s throats. DISS has never held a press conference before and does not have public relations unit at the moment in its ranks. It is understood that Kgosi was prepared to name and shame at the said press conference.
While Kgosi continued to downplay the gravity of differences with the Wildlife Anti-Poaching unit, Tshekedi Khama has opted to make his position known about the DISS involvement in anti-poaching missions. Earlier this year he refused to support the 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 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 animal attacks is always lower than what they require and it has been so for many 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.
On other issues raised by the PAC, Kgosi revealed that the DIS operations are in line with world best practices. He noted that the intelligence community reports to oversight organs such as the National Intelligence Committee (NIC), Central Intelligence Committee (CIC), the Auditor General as well as the PAC. Ndaba Gaolathe had wanted to know if the DIS chief considers the organs’ operations to be in line with the world best practices.
Kgosi further confirmed to the committee that DIS is responsible for VISA and permits vetting and noted that the intelligence however takes only four days to process that. He noted that the vetting is based solely on security reasons and there are no other criterions used. Bogolo Kenewendo wanted to know if the assessment of VISA and permits was points based or solely on “Security threat /Not security threat.”
The committee was also informed that the drug dealings and smuggling were growing at an alarming rate, with new kinds of drugs entering Botswana on daily basis. Kgosi revealed that on average 10-15 people are found in possession of drugs on a daily basis. He said the culprits are not only the unemployed youth but even professionals. He shared with the committee that recently a practicing medical doctor was arrested after being found in possession of drugs.
BATSWANA ARE GOSSIPERS AND COWARDS
Kgosi could not spare the character of Batswana when appearing before the committee as he expressed that they are “cowards” and “gossipers.” He said a lot of negative talk said about the DIS is far from the truth. He said when some government department are unable to do their job, they shift the blame to the DIS, pointing to a case in particular involving the Department of Immigration who he said are fond of accusing DIS of delaying issuance of VISAs and permits when in fact DIS only takes four days to do the assessments. He said others who accuse him of wrong doings do not have the temerity to seek audience with him because they are cowards.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”