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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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Fighting vulture poisoning in KAZA region.

3rd February 2023
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.

The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.

He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison.  In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned.  Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated

He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated

He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted

Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.

‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it.  ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated

He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added

He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.

Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’

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Giant in the making: Everton Mlalazi

3rd February 2023

The music industry is at a point where artists are jostling for space because there are so many aspirants trying to get their big break, thus creating stiff competition.

In the music business it’s about talent and positioning. You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people around you to propel you forward.
Against all odds, Everton Mlalazi has managed to takeover the gospel scene effortlessly.
To him, it’s more than just a breakthrough to stardom, but a passion as well as mission directly appointed by the Lord.

Within a short space of 2 years after having decided to persue a solo career, Mlalazi has already made it into international music scene, with his music receiving considerable play on several gospel television and radio stations in Botswana including other regional stations like Trace Africa, One Gospel, Metro FM in South Africa, Hope FM in Kenya and literally all broadcast stations in Zimbabwe.

It doesn’t only stop there, as the musician has already been nominated 2 times and 2 awards which are Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAA) best Male artists 2022, StarFM listerners Choice Award, Best Newcomer 2021 and ZIMA Best Contemporary Gospel 2022, MLA awards Best Male artist & Best Gospel Artist 2022.

Everton’s inspiration stems from his ultimate passion and desire to lead people into Godly ways and it seems it’s only getting started.
The man is a gospel artist to put on your radar.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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