The expression on Brigadier Thulaganyo Masisi's face changes to a more serious look, as he adjusts his posture to sit up straight when reminded that the former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) accused him of being bitter because he refused to employ him. “I could never work under Kgosi, ever! It is a total lie because he does not have good management skills,” he says, face contorted.
Brigadier Masisi said with the style of leadership of his younger brother President Masisi he knew very early on that Kgosi was not going to last long as the DISS Director General. He however vehemently denies contributing to the dismissal of Isaac Kgosi shortly after Masisi ascended the presidency. “The reason he thinks I am the one who was behind his dismissal is because he knows that I am an expert in the drill of disarming and containing a delinquent officer,” he revealed, adding that the firing of Kgosi was a welcome development.
Brigadier Masisi was fielding questions from The Patriot on Sunday in a no-holds-barred interview during the week at his home in Gaborone where he immediately dismissed reports that that he is employed at the Office of the President as head of Security. He, however, does not deny advising his younger brother when the need arises, because 'blood is thicker than water'.
Mokgweetsi Masisi’s road to the Presidency was not a smooth one. Yet even having landed the country’s biggest job, things have remained feisty and dicey for him.
At the height of doubts cast about his abilities by colleagues in Cabinet, his predecessor prevailed over them in a major endorsement to his chosen successor, though some had insisted that President Ian Khama then had encouraged the situation. The ultimate aim of encouraging doubts among his cabinet was to win complete loyalty of Masisi by defending him. Perhaps this than anything else is the basis of current fall-out; that Khama literally handed Masisi the presidency and hence needed a better treatment from the latter. But those closely following issues around the two men have disclosed that tensions started even before the April 1, 2018 transition.
Masisi had to look over his shoulders constantly as days for his take-over approached, it has emerged. Suspected food poisoning, near fatal crash with army aircraft and rising tensions around swirled increasingly making it difficult for him to pick real friends and supporters against those playing tricks around him. Yet more pronounced were the life threats that were real.
Masisi's critics could not believe that he was on the verge of being the fifth President of the Republic of Botswana, having been catapulted to the very top surpassing long-time established veterans of the party who had their sights on top leadership.
As his security situation worried those close to him, it was feared that he might not even land the Presidency unless they closed ranks around him. His brother, retired Brigadier Thulaganyo Masisi started dedicating more time to his safety.
Brigadier Masisi fielded questions from The Patriot on Sunday this week where he immediately dismissed insinuations that he is employed at the Office of the President. “You see I am just a pensioner, and therefore allegations that I am the head of President’s security are just a lie,” he jabbed, talking from his house in Gaborone.
When Masisi was suspected to have been poisoned and was airlifted to Morningside clinic in South Africa where he stayed for more than two weeks in hospital, his elder brother (Thulaganyo) knew that more needed to be done to safeguard him. Every measure was taken by his family and allies to scale up his security, deploying even private intelligence officers to monitor his situation. According to sources, Masisi ensured that he had a trusted relative among the security personnel provided by government.
Well-placed sources have revealed that Brigadier Masisi ensured that there were coteries of security intelligence personnel providing extra and more enhanced security in addition to personnel assigned by government to his younger brother.
Asked if he has ever advised his younger brother on security matters, Retired Brigadier Masisi, who led a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) contingent to Lesotho on a peace keeping mission known as “Operation Boleas” in 1998, answered in the affirmative. “It is my duty as his elder brother to help him avoid situations that can mislead him and/ or endanger his life,” he said.
In February 2017, a BDF aircraft CASA 21-300 (OJ2) that was supposed to transport the then Vice President Masisi crashed near Thebephatshwa Air Base shortly after take-off killing all three officers on board. Shortly before the time of the crash, Masisi had been using the aircraft frequently on official duties.
Before the crash, Brigadier (R) Masisi is said to have warned his younger brother that he should not use the aircraft because it was not safe. Asked if it is true that he advised his younger brother not to board the ill-fated aircraft, Brigadier Masisi chuckled at the suggestion, before asking a rhetorical question: “How can I warn him when the aircraft had already left Thebephatshwa Airbase to pick him up in Gaborone?”
Pressed further about suggestions doing rounds that indeed he warned his younger brother about the flight using intelligence information he had gathered, Brigadier Masisi ducked the question, choosing a Tswana proverb to respond: “Sephiri sa bana ba motho se boteng go gaisa sa motse.” The literal translation of the proverb is that "a secret between siblings is deeper than the one held by the whole village”.
'I can never work under Kgosi, ever!'
Just a month after ascending to the presidency, President Masisi shocked many by firing the Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) Isaac Seabelo Kgosi in an operation that caught the spy chief unaware. Later on, Kgosi was quoted saying he knew that one of the people who were behind his sacking was Brigadier Masisi as he was bitter because he refused to employ him at DISS. The expression of his face changing to a more serious look, and changing posture to sit up straight he declared: “I could never work under Kgosi! It is a total lie because he does not have good management skills,” he said, face contorted.
Brigadier Masisi said with the style of leadership of President Masisi he knew that Kgosi was not going to last long as the DISS Director General. “The reason he thinks I am the one who was behind his dismissal is because he knows that I am an expert in the drill of disarming and containing a delinquent officer,” he revealed, adding that the firing of Kgosi was a welcome development.
Masisi, Khama standoff
Without a doubt Retired Brigadier Masisi knows both former President Ian Khama and his younger brother very well. While the current President is his sibling (a younger brother he raised), he has worked with former President Lieutenant General Ian Khama for over 20 years in the army. “I knew from the onset that President Masisi‘s style of leadership was going to be totally opposite that of Khama because the two are very different,” he said.
Put to him that President Masisi was Khama’s confidante and right hand man for four years, endorsing the policies of the former president, the Brigadier bursts into a hearty laughter and offers a whispered response: “Masisi had to dance to the tune and play along because Khama does not like people who challenge his authority”.
It emerges during the interview that Khama had fallen victim to deception by the Masisi brothers more than once.
In one incident, Brigadier Masisi revealed that he had to lead BDF troops to Somalia on a peace keeping mission. Out of good will, he included some packets of cigarettes in the luggage when packing for soldiers, but these were removed from the military truck by Khama after he discovered them.
“My wife later took the cigarettes and packaged them in a biscuits canteen and gave it to Khama to pass to me. He was very happy when he delivered the biscuits container to me, but little did he know that he had just delivered the same cigarettes for the soldiers,” said Brigadier Masisi, exploding into another fit of laughter. He refused to dwell on the relationship between the two, saying they must find a common ground to reconcile.
The ‘honey trap’
Early this year, newspapers were splashed with headlines that Brigadier Masisi’s had been accused of rape. Those within the intelligence community revealed that this smells like a honey trap due to his closeness to the President, and having been helping him in his security details.
Honey trapping is a practice where one’s rivals use romantic and/or sexual relationships for an interpersonal, political or monetary purpose to the detriment of one party involved in this romantic or sexual affair. A honey trap is used primarily to collect evidence on the subject of the honey trap or to incriminate such person.
Although he does not want to speak about the issue, Brigadier Masisi reveals that he was warned about the trap five days before it happened but just dismissed the tipoff only to fall into the trap. He said the lady who accused him of rape used to work for him as a helper (maid) but has since disappeared and he does not know her current whereabouts. “The police came to interview me and disappeared. It has been months now since they told me that they will come back but they never did,” he said.
Brigadier Masisi (retired)
Brigadier Masisi is the squadron to the Director of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Retired Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo. They both joined the army in 1979.
He was regarded as one the crème de la crème of the BDF having in 1993 been deployed to joint African Union peace keeping mission in South Africa.
In 1998, he led the BDF troops to Lesotho on a peace keeping mission known as Operation Boales with the main aim to disarm and contain the Lesotho Defence Force.
Lesotho Peace Keeping Operation turned messy as 70 people, among them 10 South African Defence Force solders, were killed in skirmishes with the Lesotho Defence Force rebels and 4,000 civilians displaced from their homes. While the capital was being looted, SADF army troops joined in, filling their vehicles with various goods to take back to South Africa.
Military strategists blamed the mess on the blunder made by SADC to allow SANDF to lead the peace keeping mission though they were inexperienced in the peace keeping missions. Retired Masisi also led the Somali Peace Keeping Operation in 2002-2003 which they did not suffer a single casualty.