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The loyalty of a henchman can be bought!

A few weeks ago a local newspaper reported that the henchman masquerading as the head of the national intelligence services had been licked by a python.

A ‘hushed promotion’ and a change in grade from F1 to F0 without the necessary evils to warrant such an upward movement slipped by outside public glare. The Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi hasn’t up to now issued a statement to inform the public of this move. That however, does not say it could not have happened.

Employees in the civil service are paid according to a job evaluation system. The grading of jobs involves describing a job in the smallest detail; grading that job in relation to other jobs and laying wages accordingly. The Paterson System is widely used in grading jobs according to the decisions an employee has to make, and how important these decisions are.

Paterson has decision making bands of A – F and these are linked to certain positions in the workplace. Bands E and F are of policy making and reserved for top management. Apart from this broad system, there is further grading within each band. Departmental Directors are on E1 and these report to Permanent Secretaries who are on F1. Chief Justice and the PSP are graded F0.

Reports suggest the henchman was the only beneficiary with his two deputies and entire agency neglected. All this happened allegedly outside a review of departmental salaries. Before this unprecedented move, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General was pegged at F1. Whilst the henchman assumes a title of director, the level of responsibility and decision making is graded equivalent to that of Permanent Secretaries. In Zambia, the job assumes the title of Permanent Secretary.

When Brigadier Peter Magosi first took office he promised to strengthen and promote the ethical competence and integrity of the beleaguered DIS. Magosi’s interviews at that early a stage showed total cluelessness bordering on waffling through multiple functions of Police Services, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Directotate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). That said, there was hope that maladministration and improper use of discretion would be curtailed as the DIS sought to rebuild its image.

A year on, the henchman has successfully factionalised the DIS in a political malpurposing that has seen the intelligence service abandon all its traditional roles except two functions plus one. When interpreting the Intelligence and Security Services Act, Magosi took to two descriptions in the literal sense and threw everything else outside the window. Since the turn of the year, the three way Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) factional wars have seen New Jerusalem faction tussle it out against CAVA and the DIS.

Section 5 (a) of the ISS Act lists one of the functions of the DIS as to ‘investigate, gather, coordinate, evaluate and store information, whether inside or outside Botswana, for the purposes of detecting and identifying any threat or potential threat to national security; advising the President and the government of such; and taking steps to protect the security interests of Botswana whether political, military or economic’. Magosi’s interest in the aforementioned is limited to political issues. The second clause that has guided how Magosi runs the affairs of the DIS is captured in Section 5 (g) which reads, ‘provide personal protection to the former President’.

Indications of political meddling emerged as early as November 2018 when Former president Ian Khama expressed gratitude at Magosi’s supposed intervention in the standoff between predecessor and successor President Mokgweetsi Masisi. About that time, fame and celebrity status had not yet rocked the henchman. The emergence of Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi as a BDP presidential challenger provided the first glimpse of Magosi’s antics in protecting his master’s political interest.


BDP gathering in Palapye offered an unfashionable manner in which Magosi would play his political fiddle. He also fulfilled his second expectation of his role. He led as a bodyguard. Magosi is not your disciplined, meticulously fair and discreet intelligence officer. Owing to his affection for media coverage, he has divulged most of what was discussed behind closed doors. At the beginning of April 2019 Magosi was quoted as saying that he asked Venson-Moitoi ‘to request the former to acknowledge that Masisi is the current Head of State and deserves the respect any president must be given’.

By end of March 2019 the henchman had taken to addressing district councils. His excuse was to allay fears of paranoia. The reality though of the sideshow was a move to discredit former spy chief Isaac Kgosi. Surprisingly only four district councils were addressed and the plan ditched immediately after the congress.

In a continuation of political interference the henchman was at hand to deliver Venson-Moitoi’s withdrawal letter at the BDP Congress. Post Kang, the henchman has played messenger between Slumber Tsogwane and Venson-Moitoi’s in the failed attempt to unite the BDP. The BDP affairs leading to the presidential congress highlighted the henchman’s limitations as a policy or decision maker.

The intelligence must not be misused for political purposes. Intelligence input should be professional, independent and apolitical. Magosi’s clumsiness in the interaction between the civic leadership and the intelligence community points to manipulation of intelligence to gain leverage in internal political disputes. There is hope that this outward manipulation will not extend to opposition parties as the henchman hasn’t laid into opposition activists as he did disclosing Guma Moyo’s confidential financials.

Batswana must expect and trust an intelligence service to operate in secret because they are not political tools of repression. The primary function of intelligence is serious crime and terrorism in an environment where legislation enables the service to operate. A country with huge diamond reserves and an expansive medical bill including free ARVs faces a multiplicity of threats. Spotlighting important trends in the region and the world, and preparing for dynamics that could affect Botswana’s interests is what is expected of the head of intelligence.

Magosi’s narrative has resonated significantly in the media. It is suggested that he took an organisation in crisis and turned it around. It is as if the DIS was an agency in decline until Magosi came and rescued it. Ours goes a step further, riding the presidential convoy shotgun like a cowboy and acting as a human shield. The intelligence should never be politicised if an administration is to make honest decisions.

A new security architecture is needed for Botswana where the intelligence will work in concert with other security agents and in a coordinated fashion rather than in the current anarchic and rivalrous manner. Kgosi was not this fond of spotlight nor was he brazen in political meddling.

Assuming the media reports are true, how did the henchman ‘progress’ with his job description staying the same? What has he done besides body guarding and riding like a cowboy? It is one thing to pay an exceptional individual more than designated amount but remaining within the existing limitations of grade and band. That is permissible. However, changing grades without a review and an alteration to the job description borders on anarchy. An eagle’s eye could perceive that as a purchase scheme designed solely to buy loyalty of a henchman who lacks independence from the President.

The intelligence community needs to stay independent no matter what political leaning of the incumbent leadership.

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