The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard that the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS)’s meddling could have cost the country P4 billion worth of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
The revelations surfaced this week when PAC Member, Tati East member of Parliament, Guma Moyo said the organisation was said to be directly involved in rejecting work permits and VISAs for foreign nationals who wanted to set-up various businesses in Botswana.
DIS became the centre of debate at the PAC sitting this week when the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs appeared before the committee to account for the for use of public money for the financial year ending 31st March 2015.
It is the second time a finger is being pointed at the notorious security institution. Last week, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism blamed the DISS for the declining numbers of tourists’ visits to Botswana in recent years.
PAC member, Guma Moyo who is also Member of Parliament for Tati East expressed concern at the unprecedented number of foreign nationals who are denied opportunity to set up businesses in Botswana without clear reasons. Moyo told the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs accounting officer that the ministry is failing the nation due to misguided immigration practices such as rejection of working permits under the guise of security threats.
Moyo revealed that he has received complaints from various stakeholders among them, Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) and Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HAATAB) over unexplained rejection of foreign entrepreneurs and tourist VISAs and work permits.
Moyo told PAC that, reports indicate that an estimated P4 billion was lost by the country on FDI in the past year alone, and said the practice could hurt the country’s economy and reverse its gains going forward.
The Tati East MP said Botswana is quickly earning a bad name for its self as its image as a friendly and welcoming nation has started to fade away. Moyo also highlighted that countries like India, and China, who are one of the biggest investors in Botswana’s economy have been rejected in recent years, compelling them to look elsewhere.
Ndaba Gaolathe stated that there is no way a country could have promising prospects in the economy when it does not get its immigration policy right. The Gaborone Bonnington South MP noted that countries like United States, New Zealand and Australia are home to nationals from various countries and they have excelled economically.
Gaolathe said what is happening currently threatens the future of Botswana’s economy. Gaolathe had wanted to establish from the accounting officer whether the Office of the President and DIS interferes or has undue influence on the matters relating to issuing of VISAs and work permits.
Although the PS Pearl Matome could not directly answer the question, she conceded that as the accounting officer for the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs she was not aware of the reasons why some foreign nationals were placed on VISA restriction contrary to the agreement between their countries and Botswana.
Countries like South Africa, United States, and United Kingdom have a diplomatic agreement with Botswana that their nationals do not require VISAs to visit Botswana. Notwithstanding that, the department of Immigration has placed some citizens from these countries on VISA restrictions and those nationals have on several occasions been denied visiting Botswana. The PAC members have pointed out that this has created tensions between the countries implicated and therefore detrimental to the country’s foreign policy.
Evidence presented before the PAC is to the effect that DIS has been involved in all processes regarding vetting of foreign nationals who want to visit Botswana. However, Matome further revealed that of all foreigners who had been required to for VISAs before, none were in the end granted the VISAs after applying. Among those on the list of VISAs include foreign journalist, political activist and other nationals who have had views divergent from those of government.
“There is chaos at immigration regarding work permits and VISAs,” said Moyo. “It is creating a negative impact and countries like India are beginning to think Botswana is a no go area for business.”
Guma who is a former Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning said there is a serious problem to an extent that even two year-old kids are being denied VISAs. PAC also heard this week that Botswana only awards 200 foreign nationals citizenship every year. Moyo said the threshold is ridiculous and needs to be reviewed, since the accounting officer could not state with certainty whether the practice was policy or not.
But the DISS Director General, Isaac Kgosi has defended his organisation against the accusations. He clearly stated that officials who blame his organisation are told telling the truth, pointing out that they are not involved in the process of work permits applications.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.