The Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Dikgang Makgalemele was caught in a difficult position on Friday when answering questions on the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). When asked about the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence Makgalemele named MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Shaun Nthaile as some members of the committee. Before he could sit down, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) chief whip Wynter Mmolotsi stood on a point of correction and pointed to the minister that Gaolathe and Nthaile have declined to sit in the committee.
In response Makgalemele said that he was not aware that the two declined to sit in the committee. He was also at pains to explain who the chairman of the committee was and whether it has met since it was elected in 2014. “Mr Speaker what I know is that the last chairperson of the committee is the Member of Parliament for Gaborone South Kagiso Molatlhegi and since he was appointed deputy speaker no one has replaced him,” said Makgalemele, adding that this has led to the failure of the committee to meet.
Asked the number of reports that the committee has tabled before Parliament as required by the Act, Makgalemele said only two were tabled – one in 2009 and another in 2010. The committee is decreed to table annual reports before Parliament. “The other three reports for 2010/11, 2012/13 and 2013/14 are ready for tabling before Parliament,” he responded to the question from the MP for Boteti East Lelatisitswe Sethomo. On how many people have brought grievances against the security agents before the Tribunal, Makgalemele revealed that only two cases were attended to but failed to give the outcome of the cases and their nature. When Lelatisitswe asked if the non-functionality of the two committees will not have effect on the national security, the assistant minister conceded to adverse effects. “Yes, there is because they are oversight bodies which ensure overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Directorate,” he said.
The answer did not please MPs who wanted to know how the oversight bodies will ensure the effectiveness of DISS when they are not operational. In his response Makgalemele said members of the tribunal are just waiting to be sworn in and given orientation but couldn’t give timelines. The Intelligence and Security Services Tribunal was dealt a blow in 2013 when its chairperson Isaac Seloko was forced to relinquish his position by the High Court after being struck from the roll by Law Society of Botswana. This came after Sunday Standard newspaper took the matter to court seeking his removal from the tribunal because he has being stripped of his law practice. This came after the Sunday Standard publishers registered a complaint with the Tribunal about the Director General of the DIS Isaac Kgosi's handling of their request relating to a report on an alleged cartel controlling the country's construction industry.
Before the case could be heard they asked for the removal of Seloko as he was no longer a practising lawyer contrary to Section 31 (2) of the Act establishing the intelligence agency, can only be occupied by a practising lawyer. Since his removal in 2013 the Tribunal is said to have never met and this has also led to the collapse of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence. In 2013 members of the committee Bagalatia Aarone and Moeng Pheto resigned citing failure by the then chairperson Kagiso Molatlhegi to convene a meeting to discuss the alleged corruption case by the DISS Director Isaac Kgosi by Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). In their resignations letters the two stated that, “the continued occupation of public office by the Director General seriously erodes confidence in our public institutions and the government policy and commitment to deal decisively with corruption by public officers.
As a committee and indeed a government, we are obliged to allow the steady grind of the due process of the law to run its full course with hindrance, respecting and uniting our democratic and constitutional ethos and values.” They noted that the committee was failing to play its oversight role as it was toothless with the executive failing to take it seriously. In 2009 four members of the security forces, two police officers and two members of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) reported DISS for torturing them over allegations that they stole AK-47 rifle at Gaborone West Police Station armoury.