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Kgosi’s firing shows Masisi is in charge

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Some have claimed that the reason former President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama picked Mokgweetsi Masisi to succeed him is that he thought that he will control him to protect his legacy.

According to them, Masisi would effectively be a regent for former president Khama’s brother, Tshekedi Khama, and remain in Khama’s shadow and Khama’s associates would continue to be protected even under Masisi’s reign. In other words, Khama would continue being in charge and rule from the grave as it were, something which he would not do if somebody else other than Masisi, for instance Nonofo Molefhi, were President.

According to this school of thought, such people as the former Director General for the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Isaac Kgosi, a long time Khama ally, would be untouched and they would in turn protect Khama.  Therefore, nobody thought that Masisi would, less than a month after assuming the presidency, dismiss Kgosi, with immediate effect, with four years before the end of his contract, especially after it seemed he would retain him after he did not dismiss him when he reshuffled his cabinet immediately after assuming office.

Judging from the arrogance with which Kgosi recently answered questions before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it is safe to conclude that not even Kgosi himself thought that he would, today, not be the head of the DISS. Recently, Kgosi shocked many when appearing before the PAC when he stated that he does not take instructions from anyone, and he, alone, runs the DISS as he deems fit and without deference to anyone else.

This surprised many for no person who is appointed by an authority can claim not to be accountable to anyone. Even the state President is accountable to Parliament, the Constitution and the people. Right from his appointment when the DISS was established there were concerns that his appointment was not based on merit, but rather on his friendship with former President Khama which friendship started from their time together at the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).

Kgosi’s reign at the DISS has been characterized by allegations of brutality, maladministration and corruption yet he seemed to be untouchable. He was indeed an integral part of former President Khama’s inner circle. Not even his alleged involvement in the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga was enough to induce former President Khama to at least suspend him from the DISS pending his absolution from the matter. Khama disregarded calls for a Commission of Inquiry, presumably because he did not want his ally to be involved in investigations.

I will, however, avoid further commentary on the NPF matter since the case is still pending before the courts, save to state that Kgosi could have answered most of the questions arising from the PAC instead of hiding behind the sub judicae rule and national security. In fact, I am convinced that it is the manner in which Kgosi evaded the PAC’s questions and his assertions that, as DISS head, he is not accountable to anyone, including the President, that put the final nail on his coffin.

This, in my view, irked H.E Masisi since it was, in a way, challenging his authority. That the PAC, following Kgosi’s failure and/or refusal to answer many of its questions citing national security and the sub judicae rule, referred him to the Speaker of the National Assembly, may have contributed to his sacking.   

Hitherto to his sacking, many had resigned themselves to the fact that Kgosi would remain the head of the DISS until the end of his contract, and even have his contract extended, but that was not to be. His fate was, on 2nd May 2018, sealed in what was diplomatically referred to as a ‘release from his duties.’

The truth is that Kgosi was not released from his duties. He was dismissed, with immediate effect, from his position much to the delight of many Batswana. If it were not dismissal he would have been allowed to serve the normal three months’ notice for people of his position. It is clear that H.E Masisi has been listening to Batswana’s concerns and he, like many Batswana, had had enough of Kgosi’s infamous and tumultuous reign. He was obviously aware of the damage that the Kgosi era had caused to our country’s image.

H.E Masisi should have been aware that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s decline in electoral fortunes in 2014, which saw it attaining less than 50 % of the popular vote for the first time since independence, was partly because of the bad publicity caused by Kgosi’s woes. No doubt, H.E Masisi, knowing how significant the 2019 general elections will be for his presidency and his party, the BDP, could not risk going to the 2019 general elections with the Kgosi cloud hanging over his head.

H.E Masisi dropped former cabinet ministers Sadique Kebonang and Prince Maele despite the fact that they have not been convicted by any court, but simply because they faced allegations of corruption and/or maladministration which were damaging the image of not only the BDP but also the country. Granted, they, like everyone else, are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law, but because they are public figures, the perception that they were corrupt had, in the world of politics, become more of a reality though it may not have been.

H.E Masisi demoted Honourable Erick Molale from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration and Ruth Maphorisa from the Directorate on Public Service Management presumably because of their failure to maintain good relations with trade unions and labour, something which nearly cost the BDP power in 2014. Granted, the breakdown in relations between government and labour cannot have been caused by Molale and Maphorisa alone, but the perception was that they are at the centre of such breach and, in the world of politics, such perception became more of a reality.

Granted, Kgosi has not been convicted by any court of law for the allegations levelled against him, but his baggage, at least from a perception point of view, had become too much for the nation to bear. He had simply become a liability which had the effect of, inter alia, scaring potential investors. It is unlikely that H.E Masisi made his decision to terminate Kgosi’s contract on 2nd May 2018. He likely made it even before assuming the presidency, but did not implement it immediately for purposes of getting to grips with the country’s intelligence apparatus before dismissing Kgosi.

Granted, Kgosi’s successor, Peter Magosi, has had his controversies in the past, but I believe Batswana are willing to settle for any person, but Kgosi. They are willing to give him a chance and the benefit of doubt. There is one other person that H.E Masisi has to release from his duties though if he is to detach his government from the past and mend relations with the media and trade unions. That person is Carter Morupisi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to Cabinet.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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