Spooks haunt BDF

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 20 July 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Tiroyamodimo Tiroyamodimo

Tension is brewing between intelligence security agents especially Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT) Anti-Poaching Unit, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt. Sources within the intelligence community allege that the tension is compounded by the ongoing recruitment of army officers to join the newly formed intelligence division in the Anti-Poaching Unit of MEWT, which is headed by former  BDF deputy Commander Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo and Brigadier Peter Magosi as Director and deputy Director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) respectively. There is growing talk within the security intelligence community that since the recruitment of two to set up the unit they have been poaching members of the specialised forces from the army. The Anti-Poaching unit led by Major General Tiroyamodimo is said to be planning to break away from using BDF’s Force Training Establishment to establish their own training unit. Tiroyamodimo and Magosi were both fired from the army by President Ian Khama under controversial circumstances, which sparked wide speculation of a fallout in the intelligence community with pockets of influence from the political leadership. Soon after their expulsion from the army Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama recruited them, further fuelling speculation over relations between the leadership at  Mogoditshane barracks and government enclave. The duo are trained special forces and were head of Commando and Military Intelligence Units. They are alleged to be using their connections at the army barracks to recruit soldiers loyal to them.

Defending the decision to recruit them, Khama said they are well rounded army officers who will add value to his department and that he consulted his brother President Khama about his decision. “All the resigned SS members have been recruited to join the DWNP anti-poaching unit,” said a source, declining to reveal the number of soldiers who have defected "for security reasons". In January 2016, when receiving anti-poaching equipment from the Chinese government, Minister Tshekedi Khama said to ensure that they fulfil their mandate with less dependence on other law enforcement agencies; the ministry in 2014 increased the anti-poaching unit strength by 100 officers and by 75 in 2015. DWNP is said to have also built their own intelligence unit, which feed both the BDF anti-poaching unit and theirs with intelligence information. Sources within the security forces have raised fears that DWNP are building a paramilitary unit. The Director of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi and Head of Military Intelligence Cullen Nkele are alleged to be sitting in intelligence briefings chaired by both Tiroyamodimo and Magosi.

In the past DWNP used to rely on BDF Intelligence Unit for intelligence information when carrying out operations. Although the DWNP is reported to have a well-equipped anti-poaching unit, it is alleged to have been undermined by the BDF but things have turned around lately as they now call the shots. In response to the allegations BDF Director of Protocol and Public Affairs Colonel Tebo Dikole denied that some of their officers have been defecting to the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. “It is imperative to note that any member who has separated with the BDF like any Motswana is at liberty to join any organisation including the Department of Wildlife and National Parks for that matter,” said Colonel Dikobe. Minister Khama told The Patriot on Sunday that he employs any Motswana who wants employment at his ministry. On allegations that his ministry is recruiting members of the BDF Special Forces, Khama refused to comment on the issue choosing to be diplomatic. “If an officer is capable and is not treated well where he is working I will recruit him to join my ministry,” said Khama. On enhancing their Anti-Poaching unit and reducing being dependent on other security agents, Khama said that it is work in progress as they are currently hampered by lack of resources and funds.