My Friday with spies

SHARE   |   Sunday, 14 September 2014   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
My Friday with spies
When he woke up, last week Friday, our journalist, PHILLIMON MMESO, did not have an idea how busy or harrowing his day will end. He tells a personal experience of an encounter with men he thinks are agents of the intelligence security apparatus

Friday 5th of September was one of the most hectic ones for  me as I had to finish off my work before I would head for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) fundraising dinner which they were hosting one of Africa’s richest man  Patrice Motsepe.

In the afternoon, I was called by my editor who informed me that one of the organisers of the BDP dinner event had just phoned and told him that they have been told by the powers that be that I must not be allowed to cover their glittering dinner.

The question that bothered me most was the reasons for not allowing me to cover the event. I was trying to find out what sin I have committed against them.

I was really not bothered by not attending the BDP dinner but was worried why they had to say that am one of the most unwanted journalists within their party leadership.

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“Then we must not cover them if they are going to choose reporters for us!” I said to my editor, who calmed me down.

At around 1830 hours, I then decided to attend the Botswana National Youth Council awards at GICC. When I arrived at the convention centre, a tall middle aged man approached me at the parking lot and asked for a cigarette lighter which I gladly gave to him.

So ga wa tsamaya dinner ya BDP? (so you didn’t attend the BDP dinner),” he asked me as he lit his cigarrete and giving back the lighter.

As I was about to answer him, he continued, “O dirwa ke go kwala matakala HE and government (the reason is that you write rubbish about the President and government).”

The only word I managed to utter was just ‘uhuuu’ as he caught me off guard with his missiles of insults.

Maybe this guy is one of the guests at BNYC who have imbibed too much and has tongue had gotten a little loose, mouthing expletives, I thought as I looked at his face which was covered by plumes of cigarette smoke.

 At that moment, another male voice called from a white Honda Accord sedan. “Gogela selo seo kwano monna (drag him over here)!” shouted with a deep voice from the car and I shouted back at him that it is not possible and warned them to stop insulting me.

It then started to dawn on me that these guys might be security agents and I snow feared for my life. I was shivering and wondering they really wanted from me.

They asked me to join them in their car but I flatly refused and told them I did not know who they are and that I could not trust them since their car did not have registration numbers.

Realising that they were now drawing attention from people who were parking their cars and going to the BNYC event, they came closer to me and started asking about some stories I have written. They had resigned themselves to the fact that they could only to carry out their interrogation in the open as I was not willing to come to their car.

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As they kept shooting a barrage of questions at me, what cropping up in my mind was the story on the upgrading of the Boatle-Mankgodi road, which appeared in The Patriot on Sunday of 26 July 2014 titled ‘Khama’s bicycle route to be upgraded at P54 Million’.

However, they asked me about my sources on the BCL investigative story that I have been working on for some weeks, concerning the acquisition by the copper-nickel miner of other companies like the Nkomati Mine, which is incidentally owned by Motsepe. The acquisition will see BCL own about 50 percent of the shares of the Nkomati Mine, with the South African mining magnate, owning the other shares.

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After gaining some composure and confidence, I told them that I did not know what they were talking about and that they were wasting my time. I left them still standing next to a tree.

One of them shouted at me as I approached the doors of GICC, “we will come back for you later.”

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I then phoned my editor about the drama that I just experienced and he advised me to report the matter to the police.

The following day at the Dithubaruba Cultural Festival in Molepolole, I spotted one of the men who confronted. He passed by us and just smiled and went away.

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As he disappeared among the throngs of cultural enthusiasts, the words of Mahatma Ghandi hit me. Ghandi says; “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.”