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Kgosi’s love/hate relationship with media

RYDER GABATHUSE
Journalists outside Kgosi's house in Phakalane PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
FRANCISTOWN: Sleep-deprived newshounds literally camped outside the former director general (DG) of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi at the leafy suburb of Phakalane last week.

Bloodshot eyes depicting fatigue that had caught up with the scribes could not discourage them from their target as the new DIS DG, Peter Magosi and his men, armed with a search warrant, invaded Kgosi’s mansion. 

Security agents ransacked Kgosi’s house for ‘evidence’ of tax evasion while Magosi kept on briefing newshounds that had patiently camped outside.

This was the development of a major breaking story that last week spread like veldt fire, catching international attention.

Locally, the Kgosi arrest story was given prominence as it adorned the prime pages of all the major local newspapers and online publications because of the man’s stature. 

It does not seem the Kgosi arrest story will die soon. A lot is expected to unfold.

The swiftness of Magosi and his team was accompanied by promises that in no time, Kgosi will be hauled before a court of law with the same level of swiftness. 

Alas, that is yet to happen. Kgosi remains a free man. His abrupt arrest elicited interest that the man, who assumed to be ‘above the law’, will finally be brought to book to account for his well documented alleged excesses.

During his tenure as the DIS DG, Kgosi had made a popular but arrogant statement to the Public Accounts Committee that he did not account to anybody including the sitting President, something that might have infuriated President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who would later fire him from the position.

Except for his firing from the DG position shortly after Masisi assumed office last April, it has been very quiet about Kgosi and he has been duly removed from the limelight.

His name became the talk of the town when Khama proposed that his acolyte Kgosi be appointed his private secretary, but the Masisi administration could not accede to the Khama demand.

It was Khama who moved to engage attorneys to represent him in a court case in which Khama wanted to compel the government to grant his wish.

Kgosi and Khama instantly became news, but Khama would later withdraw the case.

The Kgosi arrest and the house search that extended to his other properties, was like something out of a crime movie. It all happened in a flash with the arrest of Kgosi.  He was immediately taken from his family just as he arrived from his Asian trip in the full glare of the public at a perfectly lit and busy international airport that evening.

As security agencies, DIS, the police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), ransacked the Kgosi mansion, scribes pushed and shoved to get the best opportunity for their stories and pictures. 

Cameras, notebooks, recorders, mobile phones simplified the lives of journos who beamed the proceedings live first from the airport, then Kgosi’s house and other properties.

In that instant, the Matsiloje-born former spy chief became the newsmaker of the month, most particularly for his sensational threats to “topple this government”.  Now he has become the cynosure of all eyes.

Although under Kgosi the DIS operations were carried out stealthily, nothing like his successor Magosi’s style, who is seemingly living up to his promises to render the organisation accessible and user-friendly.

Kgosi like his former boss, Khama, didn’t have time for the private media in particular, hence the DIS was almost inaccessible.

Kgosi’s popularity rose to greater heights when he was appointed by

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the then vice president, Ian Khama’s senior private secretary from the army where he was a serviceman.

 

When Khama ascended to the State presidency in 2008, Kgosi pioneered at the DIS as the director general of a ruthless and feared security agency in the country notorious for its unforgettable extra-judicial killings.

The DIS was very secretive when Kgosi was the helmsman and it was usually accused of violating the rights of people arrested and questioned with impunity.

The former spy chief never bothered to respond to media enquiries on some accusations detailing their excesses.

For newshounds, there was no better time than last week Tuesday when on the chase of the news at the airport, a majority of members of the Fourth Estate ignored road traffic regulations as they drove through red lights.

Dikgang Publishing Company new media coordinator, Thalefang Charles, who has been pursuing the Kgosi arrest story told Mmegi this week why the Kgosi arrest story is important: “Kgosi is a former DIS DG labelled the most powerful man in the country because of what he did and whom he related with. That on itself makes his arrest the most high profile arrest in our lifetime at that level”.

Being formerly in charge of the DIS, Charles’ expectation was for Kgosi to know beforehand about an operation to arrest him. This was another interesting aspect about the feared former spy chief.

“We expected a lot from him. Please note that one of the reasons why there is a rift between sitting President Masisi and the last immediate president, Khama is because the former had rejected Khama to employ Kgosi as the latter’s senior private secretary, which infuriated the latter.”

In his view, Charles feels that the Kgosi arrest probably signifies the reasons for the rejection of the former spy chief.

“Some of us have been disappointed as we now see that the arrest was simply a smokescreen as we are told he was nabbed for tax evasion, which could have been pursued by other means other than the arrest,” he said.

He added: “If Kgosi was arrested for corruption, it will make big sense as that is what we have been pursuing from many years, as the media without progress”.

University of Botswana (UB) lecturer in Media Studies, Dr Seamogano Mosanako said this week that considering the news values, whatever happens to the prominent Kgosi obviously is going to make headlines.

The nature of Kgosi’s arrest and the way he has been portrayed as a powerful man elevated his story.

“His arrest was intriguing and that is, how he was arrested in the public space where newshounds also operate hence, his story was such a powerful one,” the former government scribe explained.

She added: “Batswana have been very apprehensive of Kgosi as a helmsman at the DIS. I think people were really thinking if he was really untouchable. The scribes knew that the Kgosi story was definitely going to sell to the public”.

With allegations of tax evasion levelled against Kgosi, his story was obviously going to sell given that the Botswana government has promised to combat all forms of crime.

“Kgosi has always been a newsmaker and whatever he does he will make news and it is the local press that has made Kgosi a newsmaker,” she emphasised.



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