• Fears that govt bosses leak confidential info
• Some officers convinced their phones are tapped by security agents as hostilities boil over
• PSP fumes: Who is your source? And drops phone
President Ian Khama has placed a ban on the carrying and use of cellular phones during his meetings with senior government officials, in what has been viewed in some quarters as a move to prevent leaks from the highest office in the land.
The president, through the Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi, last week expressed concern about the practice of cell phones ringing during his briefing meetings. These cellular phones disturb both the flow of information and concentration during the meetings, he said. Morupisi on Friday (January 23) issued a directive to all arms of government ordering the senior civil servants never to bring their cellular phones to meetings with Khama. "Regrettably, the enormity and frequency of the disturbance generated by ringing cellular phones is such that this conduct cannot be ignored anymore. I have decided that no cellular phones should be carried and\or brought into his Excellency the president's briefing meetings. You are, therefore, directed to cease bringing cellular phones to these meetings," said Morupisi.
Morupisi refused to field questions on the directive on Friday insisting that The Patriot on Sunday reveal where they obtained it from before he could give any answer. "Where do you get the Savingram from since you are not a government official? I will not answer any question until you tell me where you got it from," he said before hanging up. The Patriot on Sunday had sought to establish the veracity of the directive, if it applies only to senior government officials or all meetings with Khama, and how the Office of the President plans to enforce the ban on cellular phones at such meetings. We had also wanted to allegations of paranoia by the state president to PSP to respond.
Technology geeks dismiss arguments over disruptions caused by ringing cellular phones as reason enough to directing that people not carry/ and or bring cellular phones to meetings. They said the innovation of cellular phones has accommodated its use without any disruptions, hence the silent mode. "Such order is rather too extreme and heavy handed," said Musa, an IT technician at a local university.
But the major concern may be that a cellular phone device on silent can still perform all the functions, save for the volume/ sound. It can, albeit silently, make and receive calls, send and receive messages (SMS), it can also record, edit, post, send and receive photographs, video and audio recordings.
Observers contend that Khama's concerns go beyond just disturbance of the flow of information and concentration. They claim that, being overly security conscious, Khama is more worried about information from private meetings finding its way into public space than anything else. They further claim that being a former army commander with a passion for military discipline, Khama does not trust civilians from the public service to keep what transpires in the meetings confidential.
And there have been numerous leaks at government enclave. Recently confidential cabinet memos, video and audio recordings from private meetings held by senior government officals and ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership have been leaked to the press and on social media. Information from government security agents like the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police Service (BPS) and the notorious Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS) has also been leaked to the media. It is on the basis of this that it is alleged Khama is concerned about the main sources of information in his administration.
Government has in the past, at the height of the DIS Director General-Isaac Kgosi/Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) expose threatened to investigate the sources leaking information to the media at government enclave and punish them. Could the ban be the beginning of a crackdown on senior civil servants? Some senior public servants have also told The Patriot on Sunday that they are almost certain that their cellular phones could be tapped and their private conversations monitored by security agents. This, they said, emanates from the mistrust that the current political leadership harbours against them suspecting that they are in cahoots with trade unions.