DIS, BDF clash over OK1

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 07 August 2019   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
President Masisi being escorted by the DIS Director Peter Magosi President Masisi being escorted by the DIS Director Peter Magosi

The Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) is headed for a showdown with other state security organs, especially Botswana Defence Force (BDF) following escalating incidents that raise questions about the safety and security of President Mokgweetsi Masisi. Highly placed sources within the state security cluster have revealed that DIS Director General Brigadier (R) Peter Magosi is in disagreement with army commanders at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Commissioner of Botswana Police Services (BPS) regarding Masisi’s security. The unfolding fallout is a sequel to deep seated divisions of the past within the security cluster when other state security organs accused the DIS -then led by deposed Director General Isaac Kgosi- of encroaching into their territory and usurping their mandates and powers. They complained about being bullied by DIS, but Kgosi brushed such complaints aside insisting that the spy agency is responsible for every aspect of national security. 

After the recent security threats against Masisi, Magosi is said to have proposed that DIS take total control of all Presidential security needs including the operation and safety of the Presidential Jet OK1, which is currently under the BDF Air arm unit. Such proposition is said to have infuriated BDF Commanders who feel undermined by the relatively new spy agency after being responsible for the air travel of the President from time immemorial as it is the norm across most countries. 

The DIS is said to have expressed concern about the safety of the President especially when using BDF aircrafts, particularly after a recent incident when a helicopter carrying President Masisi was forced to make an emergency landing while taxiing at Francistown airport upon arrival from Mathangwane. 


Pilots of the Super Puma EC225 helicopter -procured in 2016, reported an engine fire indication while taxing for landing at Francistown airport and promptly executed an engine shut down and landing on runway 13. The BDF leadership is said to have blamed the helicopter, which was banned from flying by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2016 after a series of accidents linked to its gearbox. The manufacturer was ordered to make some additional design changes and modifications. The ban was later lifted in 2017. “You cannot gauge the performance of BDF pilots through that incident in Francistown. In actual fact our guys did a sterling job by ensuring the safe landing of HE,” revealed a senior army officer. 

The recent accident is the second one that President Masisi escaped with a whisker as in February 2017 whilst still Vice President, a BDF aircraft designated to transport him to Tsabong crashed soon after take-off at Thebephatshwa airbase, killing all three army officers on board. 


DIS Communications Manager Edward Robert played down the issue stating that the spy agency in relation to the President’s security is doing everything it is mandated by the law to do to guarantee the President’s safety at all times and in all considered scenarios. He said that DIS is mandated by law to provide personal protection to the President. “That is to say, it is the primary mandate of the Directorate to see to the President’s personal protection. However, as Director General Brigadier (Rtd.) Peter F. Magosi has stated before, issues of national security will always present an opportunity for state organs with related responsibilities to collaborate and share resources where their respective mandates allow. This is the case with security details as well as transport for the President,” he responded. 

On their relations with other state organs with related mandate, Edward highlighted that it is guided by the laws of Botswana and relevant professional expertise to provide answers to all concerns related to issues of national security under which the President’s personal security also falls. 


Tight Security 

The security of President Masisi has been beefed up following allegations that some people could be planning to assassinate him. Currently the security cluster is said to have established a command centre which is made up of BDF, DIS and Botswana Police officers. DIS DG Magosi recently informed the media that they have established that there is a similar pattern of people they suspect to be behind the attempt assassination of President Masisi. 


In June President Masisi made a mid-air u return en route to Mozambique after his crew received a security alert that his plane might be crushed by would be assassins. This was later dismissed by former President Ian Khama and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Duma Boko saying Masisi is just seeking public sympathy. 

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