Former President Ian Khama's trusted confidante, the once untouchable spy chief with eyes everywhere, was this week unceremoniously fired by the new President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, a bold and decisive move that is a big chapter in the new administration. Staff Writer THALEFANG CHARLES writes
President Mokgweetsi Masisi differed with Isaac Kgosi, the dethroned Director General of Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), on Day One of his presidency.
It was on Masisi’s inauguration, that memorable rain soaked day, when a few words by the new President directed at Kgosi set the tone of what the new administration was on about.
It was a remarkable moment; a historic photo opportunity in front of the main entrance of Parliament with all the three heads of the arms of government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Initially, only one photographer from the State media was exclusively assigned to take the picture while the real Fourth Estate was famously excluded as has been the norm during Ian Khama’s administration.
As private media photographers pushed in for a shot, Kgosi told them to back off and ordered the new presidential security detail to “push back” all other lensmen and block them from capturing the moment. It was then that President Masisi told Kgosi, publicly: “No. Let them in. Let them all take pictures”.
It was unheard of, that a president could publicly differ with the Spy Boss - his head of security. Under Khama administration, Kgosi’s word was an order that even the President followed. It appeared that Khama trusted Kgosi with his life. Kgosi strictly controlled access to the President and he therefore had unlimited access to Khama.
But it was April 2018 and Khama was gone. Kgosi’s military boss, who saw many things from a military perspective because the army was all he knew looking at his colourful stay at the barracks, was gone. The new boss was a grounded civilian who believed mostly in dialogue.
If Kgosi could have used his intelligence, he could have easily seen that he would not last a week as the spy boss. He could have applied his intelligence and emulated the US tradition where the chief officers appointed by president (mainly Cabinet) tender their resignations after new president is elected to allow for the new leader to flexibly change his administration without having to fire anyone. But Kgosi stayed on and throughout April he was an elephant in the room at Government enclave. Things went south when he appeared at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the inquiry into the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) loot. It was there where Kgosi really infuriated the Office of the President (OP).
It was the fired minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy, Sadique Kebonang who finally said it publicly, while appearing before the PAC, that Kgosi and his organisation were the most feared in Botswana.
PAC however believed it had the guts to face the dreaded spy chief and it subpoenaed him to answer for his role in the NPF P230 million saga.
It was then that Kgosi’s wrath finally came out. He appeared alone before the committee since he says the law prescribes that he was the face and the voice of the DIS. His tactics were boastful, contemptuous and bordering on arrogance towards the PAC.
He flatly refused to answer many questions thrown at him and when he did, he read out a prepared response that the issue was either classified or sub-judice. As the PAC disappointedly manoeuvred around the classified and sub-judice issues, Kgosi dropped the “I-am-the-only-king-here” bombshell that left the PAC with an egg on the face. When one of the PAC members, Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane asked Kgosi about DIS procurement procedures, he said, “The ball stops with me. I am the only Accounting Officer at DIS. I don’t need anyone to make decisions.”
He also added that the DIS Act did not give him a cap on the amount he could approve. So he could lawfully single-handedly spent billions
In 2014 Mmegi presented an unprecedented four-page in-depth pullout report detailing the complete investigation by DCEC on Kgosi. The Mmegi investigation followed the money trail of over a billion pula and presented various fraudulent transactions that was supposed to be in the DCEC docket that was passed to the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP). Once again Kgosi had the last laugh as he continued to be the untouchable boss. Meanwhile, the state media was abused and used as news bulletin after news bulletin denied the detailed reports of the private media. ‘Mmuso o tshwenyegile” became a new song of denial that was constantly played to deafen the nation over the private media’s constant whistle-blowing efforts on the DIS’s alleged shenanigans.
It was the toughest and most demolarising time to be an investigative journalist. The DIS targeted media houses with operations aimed at destabilising the press. Most critical newsrooms were successfully infiltrated. Phones were reportedly tapped, news website hacked and investigations reports deleted online. At the height of DCEC investigation on Kgosi, the stories from brave investigators sounded like a thriller film. DCEC investigators were targeted and feared for their lives.
In 2014 Mmegi reported, “Unknown assailants physically attacked several DCEC officers during the investigation. One DCEC officer was stabbed with a sharp instrument on the neck by persons suspected to be linked to the DIS. Memory sticks were stolen during the attack. Homes of investigators were broken into and laptops and other digital gadgets were stolen.” Ultimately, the then director general of the DCEC, Rose Seretse had to enlist the help of the police and the army to protect the investigators.
But as Maitreya The Friend of All Souls says in The Holy Book of Destiny, “And when they seek to oppress you. And when they try to destroy you. Rise and rise again and again. Like the Phoenix from the ashes. Until the lambs have become lions and the rule of Darkness is no more,” it looks like the private media has lived to see the mighty fall of the untouchable spy chief.
It took Masisi hardly a month to deliver the biggest chop of the thorn from his predecessor’s administration. It is a bold and decisive move by the new President, and looking at the wording of the widely circulated press statement, OP wanted all to know that Kgosi was indeed fired.
The President appointed Brigadier Peter Magosi as Kgosi’s successor. Incidentally, Magosi was fired by Khama during a top brass BDF feud that extended to DIS and he comes back in a classic karma move with the Kgosi biting the dust.
It now remains to be seen whether the previously scared DPP will dust off the Kgosi docket and give the once untouchable spy chief, now a private citizen at the mercy of a load of corruption allegations, a chance to finally have his day in court.