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The critical role of Intelligence services in a vibrant democracy


The 2014 general elections have come and gone.  Thanks to all stakeholders – the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the security wings, the media and the general public – the elections closed in a dignified manner, vindicating Botswana’s international ranking as a thriving democracy and oasis of peace.


The public was polarized on various pre-election issues. There was a stark apprehension, fed by frenzied media reports that, perhaps, the elections might be manipulated by the security agencies.  Despite the polar views, Batswana voted in peace – their wishes clearly expressed through the ballot,the results unanimously endorsed by leading local and international analysts as free and fair.


Generally, many analysts agree that the 2014 results reflected the country’s pre-election mood. The lack of evidence to remotely suggest that the security organs meddled with the election outcome, contrary to pre-election fears, shows how speculative media reporting that the security apparatus is there to just keep tabs on citizens can cause unnecessary alarm.


Sensational reporting by the media on intelligence security services can stigmatize the work of a country’s intelligence services, leading to dire consequences for the country’s competitiveness and overall security.


This article strives to create awareness about the essential functions of intelligence services in protecting a democratically elected government and a commercially competitive state.


The nation needs to appreciate and render support to the positive aspects of intelligence services and the challenges intelligence personnel face on the frontline when fighting various forms of threats to national security.


The importance of an intelligence system in a democracy cannot be over emphasized.There is more to intelligence services than simply keeping a political party in power. Like the 2014 elections have now shown, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is in power today courtesy of a split of the opposition vote. Batswana demonstrated they have a voice in the affairs of the country through the ballot without any interference from any security organs contrary to public perceptions.


While the public easily accepts the police, soldiers and other security operatives, there is always a measure of mistrust and phobia when it comes to living side by side with the intelligence services, fueling a rocky relationship with debates that sometimes seem to tear the country apart.


The stigma towards security intelligence services, fueled by the media’s disdain, combines to isolate intelligence services from main stream governance functions. These factors ultimately have the potential to weaken and demoralize the fight against organized crime in the country, let alone to attract talent in this vital national undertaking.


As an integral part of governance in a modern state, Intelligence services do not necessary exist exclusively for a sitting President. Among other things, they support the policy positions of a democratically elected government. Any citizen who ascends to the highest office of the land would need efficient security wings, not only to shield the state from all forms of sophisticated crime, but also to protect an elected government to complete its mandated constitutional term of office and deliver on its policy priorities without any forms of sabotage.


In other words all state security organs, including the intelligence wings, exist together to protect the choices of the society through an elected government in power,regardless of which party that wins an election.


All democratic states worldwide, from super powers such as the United States of America to impoverished countries of the third world, retain security intelligence services to defend them against various threats to national security. Democracy as amodel of governance in itself needs to be defended and protected, not only through the ballot and the media, but by state intelligence agencies too.


The mandate of a security intelligence service therefore has a more complex and broader function of defining and developing adequate intelligence on present and future threats to national security. In any democracy such as Botswana’s, this task is carried out with due care to ensure respect for human rights and protect fundamental freedoms of nationals. Law abiding citizens should therefore never live in uncalled for fear or phobia of the intelligence wings.


In the United States of America, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is directed or authorised by Presidential statements and directives to obtain information about activities threatening American security from time to time. America has seen it all in the world of threats. Intelligence agencies in the United States require to be very vigilant, well financed and always on their toes in order to be a step ahead of a complex web of different manifestations of criminals that could bring the world’s top economy to its knees if the intelligence organs fail to function efficiently.  September 11 is a case in point.


Botswana has its own unique challenges in terms of national threats. Glaring high profile project failures in the economy give the impetus to increase the surveillance capacity of the local intelligence community in order to provide the executive timely and vital information for decision making on key national projects.


The country has lost millions of Pula in failed mega projects.The Hyundai plant, the collapse of the Fengyue glass project in Palapye and the struggling Mmamabula power project are cases which if stakeholders (executives) had engaged and fully collaborated with the intelligence community in screening partnering companies perhaps it would have yielded a different story.


Organized crime syndicates are always calibrating their schemes and it calls for a well resourced and passionate intelligence service to counter these emerging threats in the national interest.


A clearly defined mandate helps a security intelligence service to function efficiently. What must be avoided though is when the rhetoric of “national security” is used to justify clamping down on dissent and civil liberties. At the same time, the relevant legislation defining the threats to national security should be flexible and broad enough to allow a security intelligence service to scan the horizons and prepare for looming threats in the ever changing complex world of criminals. These threats may well be terrorism arising from new conflicts, or serious crime and financial fraud undermining the economy of a democratic state, or people attacking communications and computer systems.


In defining the roles of Intelligence services in a democratic state, this article deals with two forms of threats that a state intelligence system needs to define and develop strategies against. Later articles will investigate other forms of threats to national security that the intelligence services have to contend with, concluding with the relationship between the public, the media and the intelligence services.


Espionage and sabotage
With a view to protecting national security, sensitive information concerning political, economic, scientific or military affairs of the state must be kept secret. All countries have secrets that other states seek to acquire in order to advance their objectives. Any unauthorised attempt to obtain such information for a foreign power is an indication of possible espionage. Sabotage is considered as activities conducted for the purpose of endangering the safety, security or defense of vital public or private property, such as installations, structures, equipment or systems.


In countering espionage, a security intelligence service catches spies, thereby disrupting activities of hostile intelligence services.


Countering espionage is the “oldest” task of most of the world’s security intelligence services. For example, the British Security Service was set up in 1909 (it was then known as the “Secret Service Bureau”) specifically to counter the espionage threat. The FBI was founded in 1908 (it was then known as the “Special Agent Force”) to investigate particular federal crimes, but during World War I was given responsibility for espionage and sabotage.


Most intelligence experts today agree that a state can do away way with countering espionage since the majority of information can come from analyzing open sources of information such as foreign publications, broadcasts, routine diplomatic reporting and newspaper reports.


However, one category of espionage that has not declined but rather expanded is economic espionage. In the competitive global economy, acquiring scientific and technological information for the purpose of gaining an economic advantage has become increasingly important for many countries. Economic espionage is defined as the use of, or facilitation of, illegal, clandestine, coercive or deceptive means by a foreign government or its surrogates to acquire economic intelligence.
Economic espionage can expose the targeted state’s companies to unfair disadvantages, jeopardizing the jobs, competitiveness of the state, and hampering its research and development investment.


Business and governmental representatives generally agree that the cost of economic espionage activities to individual firms and the economies that host them is very expensive. Among the most sought-after information include research and development strategies, manufacturing and marketing plans, and customer lists. Information and technology that has been the target of economic espionage includes trade and pricing information, investment strategy, contract details, supplier lists, planning documents, research and development data, technical drawings and computer data-bases.


Some analysts suggest considering an international effort to ban active economic espionage by way of an international treaty that does for economic spying like what the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade aims to do for protectionism. The treaty might even actively encourage openness and the sharing of information, the better to promote scientific research, technological breakthroughs, and economic development.


However, in the light of the rise in economic-related crimes, Botswana has to transform its national requirements for security intelligence to reflect this modified threat environment. Economic security is now one of the main priorities of a security intelligence service.
While it’s easy to vilify the government for not allowing certain individuals access to the country, many countries in the world prevent certain foreign visitors, students and delegates suspected of intelligence activities from gaining access to the country. We may not know everything behind immigration choices on certain individuals.


Therefore, notwithstanding the decline in espionage and related activities after the end of the Cold War, countering espionage and sabotage must remain one of the principal tasks in the mandate of a security intelligence service. The service could also keep a careful watch on economic and industrial espionage conducted by other countries and their companies within the state and warn the domestic firms that have been targeted. Defending the state’s economic secrets can reveal interesting facts itself; if a particular country is targeting a specific industry that may indicate something about that country’s economic priorities.


The public, the media and academics need to support Botswana’s intelligence community in the fight against organized crime. There is need to call on government to increase the capacity of the intelligence system to support the development of the state. The intelligence community may fail to attract talent if it is viewed negatively. Botswana should guard against tainting its intelligence and security organ.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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