Business transactions entered into by the former head of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) has come back to haunt the new leadership, who find it difficult to cancel some of the procurements.
The latest controversy is around the procurement of a new spy plane Pilatus PC-24 twin jet engine aircraft which is currently parked in a hanger at Vonderboom national airport in Pretoria, South Africa since February this year. Swiss media outlets have recently been carrying stories bearing pictures of the new DISS airplane, the airplane bears Botswana flag colours and carries registration mark DS-1 and is assigned manufacturer serial number (114). The over P90 million 10 seater high-altitude spy aircraft is said to be affixed with the latest surveillance cameras with high-resolution and thermal-imaging capabilities and downlink that enables the plane’s crew to send real-time surveillance images anywhere in the country.
The DISS already own two Pilatus PC-12NG aircrafts. The opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has therefore called on the DISS to sell the new airplane, which is yet to be delivered in Botswana, arguing that it is not different from the current PC12-NG. "This raises the question, does the DISS need the PC-24 twin jet aircraft?” asks BCP Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse.
A PC24 jet airplane has some advantages over the PC-12NG in that it carries more weight, is quicker and offers a more comfortable flying experience because of its twin jet engines. However, Keorapetse argues that these advantages are not enough to justify the acquisition of the PC24 if DISS already own two PC12-NG aircrafts. “This is especially so in a country that is grappling with so many socio-economic problems, the over P90 million could have been better utilized,” reiterates Keorapetse.
Seleka Springs, a company owned by the Khama brothers, have been the local agent for Pilatus. This was confirmed by Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi in Parliament in 2015 when answering a question about connections between Seleka Springs and Botswana Defence Force (BDF) tenders. It was not possible to verify if the DISS used Seleka Springs to purchase the PC-24 spy aircraft as officials at both organisations were not available for comment.
At the time, Kgathi said that the company had raked in over P100 million from 1989 to 2012 acting as agents for companies doing business with BDF. “We expect prudent management of resources under the leadership of Brigadier General Peter Magosi, different from Colonel Isaac Kgosi. This procurement is an unnecessary luxury and therefore unjustified. The DISS has been a very corrupt, unethical and wasteful organization and Batswana expected an improvement under the new leadership. If the jet was procured prior to the arrival of Magosi, he should cancel the sale or resell it on its arrival. We don’t want to think that Magosi has a blank cheque like Kgosi,” fumed Keorapetse, who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West.
Should Magosi cancel the deal, it will be the second such transaction since his arrival at DISS. He recently wrote to Israeli arms company, Dignia Systems telling them that he was suspending the US$22.6 million (P241 million) contract for the acquisition of security equipment and surveillance platform with associated training that was signed by his predecessor, Isaac Kgosi.
Dignia Systems lawyer Unoda Mack responded to Magosi telling him that there is no clause in their contract that allows for the cancellation of the deal as such cancellation will be unlawful. "Accordingly, your purported suspension of its execution is invalid, unlawful and without basis in law. It was the responsibility of the Government of Botswana represented by the Office of the President (OP) to acquire all necessary procurement approvals prior to the signing of the agreement,” as provided under clause 9.1.2 of the agreement,” Mack wrote.