Botswana’s most serious internal threat

SHARE   |   Monday, 08 August 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
WARNING; Mokgware warns against intelligence wars WARNING; Mokgware warns against intelligence wars

The proliferation of government security and intelligence services in Botswana is emerging as one of the most serious internal security threats facing the country, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.
Sources within the state security apparatus have revealed that there is growing tension and mistrust among them which could threaten the country’s peace and tranquillity. The tension is said to have been exacerbated by the recent establishment of Tourism Intelligence Unit, which is said to be arming itself to the teeth. Information gathered by this publication have revealed that TIU, which is under the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP), is currently arming itself with weapons of war even before it could be recognised as a disciplined force.

In an interview recently Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama confirmed that they have an intelligence unit which deals with poaching and its related crimes. “Ours is highly specialised as it deals with wildlife while others deals with multiples issues,” he said adding that theirs is the best. The recruitment of highly trained deputy commander of BDF Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo and BDF Special Forces personnel by DWNP is said to not settling well with the BDF anti-poaching Unit. Recently DWNP acquired a helicopter which will be used for patrolling the parks.

Other Intelligence Units
Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS)
Following the passing of the Intelligence and Security Services Act, 2007 by Parliament the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS) was formed and headed by a former Private Secretary to President Ian Khama and his close ally, Isaac Kgosi. Its mandate is to “investigate, gather, co-ordinate, evaluate, correlate, interpret, disseminate and store information” on national security. The mandate is wide ranging, including such roles as security vetting, support to other Government departments on security related matters and protective security for the President, Vice President, their immediate families and visiting foreign VIPs. In addition to the ‘traditional’ intelligence mandates of gathering, evaluation and dissemination, the DISS is also empowered with executive powers of arrest and searches.

Military Intelligence
Military Intelligence unit is for intelligence related to defence matters but is often used to help in anti-poaching missions. According to former DISS Head of Operations Lesego Tsholofelo section 175 of the BDF Act provides for “the use of the Defence Force in aid of civil power.” Pursuant to this section, the BDF is often deployed in policing roles jointly with the police. Additionally, since 1987, the Defence Force has been charged with anti-poaching missions throughout Botswana’s wildlife areas. “It follows then that as these areas have become an almost permanent feature of some of the BDF’s duties, the Defence Force inevitably devotes some of the MI’s capability to the fulfilment of these missions,” he observed. He reasoned that this calls for the robust oversight mechanisms specifically related to intelligence are extend to the Defence Force.

Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Intelligence and Technical Support Group (ITSG) whose function is to “produce, analyse, and synthesise, from a range of sources both overt and covert, information about suspect activities, persons, agencies, branches or even departments of state.” Though it also deals in covert operations ITSG is not subjected to any oversight mechanisms.

Financial Intelligence Agency 
FIA, which is under the Directorship of Dr. Abraham Sethibe, is under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The FIA will be a central agency responsible for requesting, receiving, analysing and disseminating financial information to investigatory authorities. Its core functions include eradicating financial crime such as money laundering, corruption and tax evasion, while equally stamping out financing of terrorism, human trafficking and illegal drug smuggling Botswana Police’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau (commonly known as CRIB). The unit was formed after the dismantlement of Special Intelligence Services (SIS) with the coming of DISS and is currently under the leadership of David Mosetse. The CRIB is responsible for collection and analysis of intelligence in support of the police in combating sophisticated crime. In 2010 the BPS was involved in a legal wrangle with a local businessman over some electronic interception equipment that had reportedly become obsolete shortly after its purchase. Tsholofelo has noted in his paper that CRIB is not subjected to the checks and balances codified in the ISS Act. Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) Risk and intelligence Its duties are to risk analyse cases for audit, collect data for intelligence information and man intelligence database. It also reviews intelligence information from other law instruments agencies and determines its usefulness for in-depth investigations or audit.

Mistrust and tension among intelligence units
A highly placed source in the intelligence services has revealed that there is mistrust among the units and they all snoop into each other’s operations. “The other problem is that these guys recruit from each other thus compromising each other’s operations,” he said. Another challenge observed is that the multiplicity of security outfit breeds inefficiency with the overlapping functions of security agencies, observed a senior security officer who did not want to be named. Former BDF Commander of Ground Forces Major General Pius Mokgware said that he is worried at the proliferation of security agents which are armed to the teeth. “The worrying thing is that most of them don’t need some of the weapons of war they are currently possessing and now it is creating unnecessary tension,” he said. Mokgware said he wonders if the country will in future be able to control the proliferations of arms within the security units. Failure to define the role of the agencies has led to some of them doing the same job leading to some clashes, observed Mokgware. The entire security unit operates in a vacuum due to lack of National Security Strategy (NSS) or National Security Policy (NSP), observed Mokgware who is now a Member of Parliament for Gabane/Mmankgodi.

In 2012 DISS threatened, spied and intimidated DCEC officer Eugene Wasetso who was investigating corruption allegations against DISS Director Isaac Kgosi. The Director of DCEC in a savingram to Kgosi raised a concern at how DISS is spying on her officer.  In his thesis titled   ‘A Critical Evaluation of the Intelligence Oversight Regime in Botswana’ former DISS Head of Operations Lesego Tsholofelo indicated that lack of legal oversight structures over the intelligence units was creating challenges for the country. “The exclusion of other intelligence gathering agencies from intelligence oversight presents a gaping hole and challenge to the current system. The stakes are high for this kind of reflection, for it is democracy and political stability amongst others that the country has consistently conjured up as the trump card for its international voice and attraction of the much needed Foreign Direct Investment,” he noted in his paper. These agencies’ activities are rarely, if ever, viewed with the same suspicion extended to the DISS and its operations, he observed.

Tsholofelo in his paper reasoned that NSS or NSP will reduce any uncertainty with regard to the relationship between intelligence and policymaking. “Ambiguities on such terms as subversion and terrorism could also be minimised. The Botswana Parliamentary oversight is allowed nowhere near operations of the DIS, therefore an opportunity exists for possible manipulation by the executive on DIS’s tasking and direction,” he said.

Known clashes within the intelligence Units
DISS versus DCEC
This is a well-known clash that started when DCEC started investigating DISS Director Isaac Kgosi over corruption allegations. These led to DISS spying on DCEC Deputy Director Wasetso and intimidating him leading to DCEC Director Rose Seretse writing to Kgosi to register her concern over the activities of his agency. “I am advised that on Thursday 8th March 2012 you threatened this Directorate’s Senior Assistant Director Mr Wasetso,” stated the letter from the DCEC director to Kgosi. The letter further states, “known DISS officers have been observed conducting surveillance of DCEC headquarters. I am also advised by my staff that DISS officers have been seen shrivelling DCEC staff performing duties away from DCEC headquarters in the course of this investigation.” It is alleged that DISS engaged a well-known businessman to install surveillance equipment at DCEC offices.

TIU versus MI, DISS and BDF anti-poaching unit
Another tension is between the newly formed Tourism Intelligence Unit under the leadership of the former BDF deputy commander also former head of Military Intelligence Major General Tiroyamodimo and Military Intelligence led by Brigadier Cullen Nkele and DISS Director General Kgosi. At the centre of the brewing storm is DWNP TIU disregard for the two units when it comes to intelligence on poaching. Sources within the intelligence unit have revealed that Nkele and Kgosi have to sit in meetings chaired by Tiroyamodimo, something that they allegedly don’t settle well with. Recently Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama said that they want to reduce reliance on other security agencies especially in anti-poaching.