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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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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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