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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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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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