Spy wars: Khama’s headache

SHARE   |   Monday, 24 April 2017   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Spy wars: Khama’s headache

Khama’s blue-eyed boy – Isaac Kgosi – has since rising to be the country’s spy chief not faced the kind of pressure he is reeling under at the moment where dirty deals of his agency are being spilled at will. It is clear that the country’s security is compromised as spy wars rage on, yet Government was warned.  PHILLIMON MMESO reports.
The tension that has been building between the state security agencies has now exploded into an open scuffle with moles and their tendencies being uncovered as rival agencies fight to discredit each other. Set protocol of what would otherwise qualify as classified information is no more being respected. In the process national security has been relegated to an afterthought as agencies go at each other, with Government having ignored earlier warnings about the dangers of the proliferation of intelligence agencies which are even armed with weapons of war. At the centre of the spy war are the Tourism Intelligence Services (TIS), the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) and the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Military Intelligence. Tension has been brewing between the three spy agencies with the cause being the involvement of DISS and MI in anti-poaching activities and trying to settle personal scores between the bosses at the helm of the organisations. Both spy chiefs have worked together at BDF and a crossed sword, adding to the mix is Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama whose relationship with DISS boss Isaac Kgosi has never been a rosy one.

Rise of TIS 
Minister Tshekedi Khama started building his intelligence unit in 2015 when he recruited former deputy commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo and former Chief of Staff and Commander of Ground Forces Brigadier Peter Magosi as Director and deputy Director of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) respectively. Red flags were raised by other security organs that the two were not only former senior army officers but members of the Special Forces who have headed the military intelligence. TIS started massive recruitment of officers from BDF and DISS, mostly targeting members of Special Forces and pilots. TIS started buying both military and intelligence equipment though the law didn’t cover them as they were not cleared to carry weapons of war. Early last year, it is alleged that the then BDF Commander Lieutenant General Gaolathe Galebotswe, MI Director Colonel Cullen Nkete, Botswana Police Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe and DISS Director Kgosi met with President Ian Khama and raised a concern that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks was pushing them out of anti-poaching activities. They accused TIS of spying on them, warning that they were compromising not only the security of their agents but that of the country.

BDF’s role
In the past, BDF spearheaded anti-poaching programme with its officers seconded to the wildlife unit in accordance with section 175 of the BDF Act which 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,” revealed a former senior army officer. Minister Tshekedi Khama has gone on record stating that, “Ours is highly specialised as it deals with wildlife while others deals with multiple issues,” he said, adding that theirs is the best. He said in an interview last year that one of the reasons that they established intelligence unit was to reduce reliance on other security agencies. Another concern that was raised was the infiltration of TIS operatives into other security agencies, having overnight emerged as a powerful unit due to the sensitive information they have been able to access barely a year in operation. What previously amounted to secrets at the Office of the President are no more as operatives are sharing such sensitive information, meaning that even President Khama should be getting alarmed at how far the open season will go. That is – how safe are issues that directly affect him that he wants kept away from the public? The information with operatives and their seniors could have become their bargaining chip, making it difficult for leadership to restore order. Realising that things were turning for the worst, President Khama is alleged to have called both Kgosi and his younger brother – Tshekedi Khama – to try and reconcile them but that didn’t bear any fruit.

 TK, Kgosi defy Khama
Not once but twice President Khama is said to have threatened to fire both Minister Tshekedi Khama and Kgosi from their respective positions. “He has been advised by his close associates to fire one or both as they are compromising not only his security but that of the country,” revealed a source. President Khama is said to have on several occasions reneged on his decision to fire the two as he realised that they know more than what he thinks. President Khama is said to be finding himself between a rock and a hard place in his efforts to try and fire one of the two. Through his ministry’s intelligence unit, Tshekedi Khama is said to be in possession of some the country’s top classified information. “President Khama ignored intelligence information that warned him that should he not halt the continued beefing up of TIS he will find himself in a compromised position as the unit has recruited some of the agents who were part of the BDF security organ code-named Cobra,” said a source within the intelligence community. Ironically Cobra is the brainchild of Magosi after he was roped in by Kgosi who by then was Director of Military Intelligence in 1996.

Mokgware’s fears confirmed
Former commander of the Ground Forces Major General Pius Mokgware warned in an interview last year that the proliferation of security agencies posed a serious danger. “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, warning about the difficulty that will arise of controlling 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 an MP for Gabane/Mmankgodi. His worry has now become reality as the security agencies are now fighting amongst each other.

Where it all started
The relationship between the two spy organisations started to show some cracks in December 2015 when the Minister of Environment, Conservation, Natural Resources and Tourism Tshekedi Khama appointed Major General Tiroyamodimo as Director of Wildlife and National Parks doubling also as head of their anti-poaching intelligence unit. Tiroyamodimo served in the BDF for over 30 years and his appointment did not sit well with leadership at DISS who felt that he was recruited to bring down his nemesis Kgosi. Upon his arrival at DWNP, Tiroyamodimo – a former commando and head of Military Intelligence – started recruiting members of BDF Special Forces and some DISS agents to his department, something that did not sit well with his counter parts at BDF and DISS. In February 2016, President Khama fired Brigadier Peter Magosi who was Chief of Staff and Commander of Ground Forces and for a long time part of the President’s inner circle. He is also the former Head of Military Intelligence who when deployed refused to hand over spy equipment to his successor Colonel Cullen Nkete. He maintained that Colonel Nkete was compromising them. DISS Director General Kgosi reported Magosi to Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), saying that he and one of his agents Sergeant Dzikamani Mothobi had stolen the intelligence surveillance equipment being Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) Jammers and Cellbrites. DCEC didn’t find any information that implicated them and this is said to have soured relations between Magosi and Kgosi while it was music to Tshekedi Khama’s ears. Three months after President Khama fired Magosi, his younger brother Tshekedi appointed him second in command at DWNP. It has since emerged that Magosi is now no longer with the department but sources within the intelligence community have revealed that it is just a covert operation.

Tshekedi’s appearance at PCSB
Last year, Minister Tshekedi Khama’s political career was put to the test when he appeared before the Parliamentary Committe on State Enterprises and Statutory Bodies (PCSB), a committee chaired by his political nemesis MP for Tati West Samson Moyo Guma. Guma through the hearing exposed the rot at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) even summoning Tshekedi Khama to the hearing. Put on the tight corner by Guma, on why he took some of the decisions and disregarded the BTO board, Tshekedi pulled a killer punch on Guma telling him it was like during the time when he (Guma) was part of Khama’s inner circle and mentioned the name of a certain man who was advising them. Guma was shocked, almost humbled. “TK wanted to give them a glimpse of what he knows about them if they try to destroy him as he was briefed by TIS agents,” revealed the source. Tshekedi Khama dismissed the whole hearing as a political ploy to try and destroy him, vowing to fight back. He has been adamant that DISS and some within cabinet colluded to try and bring him down by exposing the rot at his ministry. He argued that what was happening at his ministry was not different from what is happening in other ministries and that his was much better. “There is governance rot at Botswana Power Corporation due to the waste of billions of pula on Morupule A and B project, Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) failed Fengyue glass Project in Palapye just to name a few,” he said. The current fiasco is said to be a retaliation by Tshekedi on the embarrassment he suffered during the PCSB.