Khama in denial

SHARE   |   Sunday, 06 July 2014   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Khama in denial

If wishes were horses, fact would easily count as fiction. Unfortunately there is no easy conversion and for President Ian Khama, it could not have been a worst reality. His most trusted ally appears to have crossed the path of trust and become highly compromised and yet the president appears – at least publicly – reluctant to come to terms with it and cut the losses. With records of interviews in which he confirms receiving huge amounts of money from different sources for no services or services he could not disclose and being too close to big business, Isaac Kgosi – the Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS), comes out more as a deal cutting businessman than a man who could be trusted with the levers of state security.

Coincidentally, Kgosi’s massive wealth accumulation appears to have accelerated in recent years and as the docket that is now public shows, it begs more questions than answers. Among the critical questions as the president appears to be in denial is the extent of his knowledge on the goings-on around his chief spy. It is expected that even as he had seemed to trust him completely to do all, including the dirty work for him, the president would have devised a system by which he provides an oversight on his chief spy – have someone detailed to provide surveillance over Kgosi for him to get what the chief spy never discloses.

Perhaps this explains the recent fallout at the army barracks over the missing spying equipment that had been acquired for the army’s military intelligence, a unit that Kgosi worked under and shaped him to become the country’s first intelligence boss. At the height of this, a military court and a High Court bid were halted at the last minute to bar what was bound to be explosive public revelation of the internal workings of the country’s military intelligence system. The army commander, Lt General Gaolathe Galebotse, was drawn up against some of his subordinates and seemingly the hand of the commander-in-chief (Khama) came to bear as the matter has now been settled out of court.

Despite all these, the Kgosi saga and the military intelligence fall-out calls for decisive leadership from Khama – it is clear there has been dithering that usually never shows from the leadership in less significant matters than these. With Kgosi’s deputy Kgotlane having thrown the towel – and no one having been named to replace him – it appears there is much more to do at the agency than just replace one man but to reconstruct the public trust in an organisation that has never been fully embraced by the public. It has been seen mostly as Khama’s unit and personal fiefdom run by his right-hand man to serve his insatiable requirement of intelligence information about political rivals.

Khama’s hesitation and indecisiveness essentially could be premised on the fact that Kgosi knows too much, having exceeded the provisions of doing normal official work for the president to handling some of his most secretive personal businesses. This is the ticket that has bought Kgosi a little more freedom, almost like he is holding the president at ransom; a case of ‘you push me out I tell all’. While this tussle plays out, the country’s need for leadership is being fully exposed, forcing others to stand up and not be accomplices in what stands seemingly massive corruption at the highest office in the land. This explains the reason behind a weekend broadsheet’s decision to publish contents of investigating docket and interviews undertaken with Kgosi freely confirming how he amassed his wealth. The paper had no alternative but to protect public interest against the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime provisions that bar any reportage on subjects on investigations.

An attempt by DCEC to gag the paper and have it hand over the recordings and files it has, has been temporarily denied and for now more disclosures are in line. While DCEC has seemingly been procrastinating about taking steps to prosecute Kgosi, the Manual Workers Union has taken concrete steps to have Kgosi prosecuted.

Public anger
The public’s call for Kgosi’s prosecution have accelerated with a facebook page opened in which users are openly calling for action against the country’s chief spy. “One day, this man will answer for his many sins. Governments come and go. Even the current government will one day be gone,” one user wrote. Another warns, “Kgosi will drag a lot other people with him to jail, including the president.”

Security threat
While public anger mounts, including from sections of the leadership of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), it is most likely that this could compromise the country’s security. This is because instead of focusing on his primary job of detecting and providing intelligence against threats to the country, Kgosi has now been forced to fight this biggest battle of his professional life. Though his subordinates may be looking up for his leadership, some among them would rightly now be questioning his integrity on the basis of the ongoing disclosures of his other life. A temptation to resist taking instruction from their compromised leader could be in the offing, ultimately pointing to the complete collapse of the department.

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Those investigating Kgosi would of necessity also be worried about their safety and what would arise as backlash for daring to expose the other life of chief spy. This points to the most sensitive internal security threat the country has ever faced and with no immediate solution at hand since it is the intelligence agencies and personnel who are clearly going for each other. Khama is challenged to rise to the occasion, restore order and win over public confidence and show that he is able to steer clear of his operatives and take even hard decisions against them.