The Rise and fall of 'Our man in Maboane': A chronology of graft: same story, different cast

1990 was a peaceful year. Germany reunited after 45 years of separation. Nelson Mandela was freed. Football fraternised at Italia ’90.

In faraway Peru, the Inca looked to neighbours Colombia for some World Cup joy as little known Alberto Fujimori’s reform agenda ushered power on a wave of public enthusiasm. Fujimori claimed two major early successes: ending terrorist insurrection and sparking economic growth. The international community rejoiced. By Fujimori’s side stood a shadowy figure, Vladimiro Montesinos.

As head of the intelligence service, Montesinos exercised unique influence. Fujimori ruled in name, Montesinos behind-the-scenes. Peru’s government became ever more authoritarian extending executive influence over the judiciary, the military and the legislature.

When Operation Desert Storm marched into Kuwait, some 6, 000 nautical miles away from Peru a desolate Botswana reeling from a manual labour strike of 12, 000 workers, took its position as the second largest producer of diamond. A landlocked Zambia went to the polls.

In a Fujimori carbon-copy charge, Frederick Chiluba riding on championing democracy defeated Kenneth Kaunda. In no time, principles of good governance were abandoned to self-serving missions in amassing wealth. A pivotal figure in the mass misappropriation was head of the intelligence service Xavier Chungu – an avid student of Montesinos.

At the centre of the looting was the Zambia Trans Overseas for the Office of the President (ZAMTROP) account held by the Zambian National Commercial (ZANACO) Bank in London. Leaked statements found their way to Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) Member of Parliament Dipak Patel. The conspiracy now laid bare on the tables of Parliament. Of interest were payments attributed to former President Chiluba’s children and associates.

ZAMTROP provided a quick fix for Chiluba’s troubled and unpopular handpicked successor Levy Mwanawasa. The case revealed a six-year plot beginning in 1995 and hatched to defraud the Republic of Zambia.

Funding was sought from the Minister of Finance, Ronald Penza, under the facade of settling debts from the previous regime. Chungu was the second defendant in the litigation after Chiluba. Charges related to the transfer of US$52 million from Zambia to an account operated outside government processes. The Court found defendants Frederick Chiluba and Xavier Chungu amongst others conspired to eat millions.

ZAMTROP symbolises the worst corruption scandal in Zambia. Chiluba was convicted and sentenced to jail. Chungu fled for some time and one day got tired of running, boarded a flight to Lusaka, and was arrested on arrival. Penza was murdered in 1998. It remains unknown as to why and by whom he was murdered.

Unlike Chiluba, Fujimori succeeded in persuading the Peruvian Congress to override the constitutional term limit and secured a third term, which he won in May 2000. The election was widely regarded as rigged. Four months later, the government fell courtesy of Montesinos’s videotape bribing opposition congressman. Other videotapes subsequently were broadcast.

As Fujimori collapsed, it became evident that Montesinos was the mastermind of a sophisticated network of corruption with far reaching tentacles extending into the legislature, judiciary, media, and military. Montesinos’ case paints a 10 year picture of corruption where the main actor showcases a rags to riches rise to power, the mechanics and protocols of bribery and fraud, and the fall from grace.

Montesinos is serving multiple sentences for human rights crimes, corruption and arms and drugs trafficking alongside his erstwhile president Fujimori, also banished for 25 years for corruption and authorising death squad killing.

The intelligence sector is a special apparatus with a vital role of safeguarding national security. Intelligence agencies perform efficient and necessary function, accountable for their actions. Lapses within the intelligence circles are consequential.

Al Qaeda’s surprise attack on the United States jolted Americans out of complacency about national security. When this shock was followed by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, recriminations over intelligence failure provoked the most radical reorganisation of the intelligence system.

The pitfalls in Peru and Zambia point to autonomous intelligence units gone rogue. Hidden from our eyes must exist a university of state intelligence with a multiplicity of modules. Montesinos attended to the sole objective of strengthening a dysfunctional agency in an authoritarian state specialising in preservation of the regime and suppression of opposition. Chungu certainly attended to looting.

Almost simultaneously, and a few years into the new millennia, Montesinos and Chungu began feeling the heat. Changes in leadership saw them roasted for their sins. Far away in Gaborone, incoming President Ian Khama buoyed by goodwill never before experienced, pulled a masterstroke and played on the naivety of the nation. Khama took to the Peru/Zambia script with an exuberant starring in mind! The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) was born.

The fundamental defects consistent in Peru, Zambia and Botswana point to the erosion and subversion of oversight mechanisms by cult like self-propelling spy chiefs turned thieves backed by hard-handed rule. For a democracy like ours, so ineffective is the intelligence it appears our agents only attended Fear Mongering 101, Phone Tapping 201 and Siphoning State Coffers 401 modules. In May 2018, Alliance of Progressives (AP) leader Ndaba Gaolathe called on the need for the DISS to ‘redeem itself.’

Citizens expect effectiveness, sound management and good value for money from the state’s intelligence sector. Khama had a celebrity Kgosi as his eminence grise. The head honcho of British Military Intelligence, Section 6 (MI6) is unknown. Even neighbours South Africa and Namibia have unknown intelligence heads who deal with policy behind scenes.

Brigadier Peter Magosi’s appointment is but a cosmetic facial change and atonement of past wrongs. Settling scores and humiliating arrests while the critical mass stays the same cannot constitute an overhaul. The re-configuration of the DISS should address fundamental weaknesses bedevilling the institution. Usurping the Special Branch function for a unit veiled in so much secrecy and little accountability was erroneous.

The media has obsessed over smaller aspects of the sacking and arrest of Isaac Kgosi to the detriment of much more critical issue. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) have condemned the “Hollywood style arrest”. Kgosi’s sacking and arrest should be Exhibits A & B for why Parliament, particularly the ruling party, should unmask the servile rubber stamp of past years and dissolve the DISS.

Information is power; secret information is power squared.

That Kgosi did not foresee his sacking provides a lapse that we need to take account of. This has to go in the annals of history as epitomising gross incompetence and government inefficiency. And if that’s not enough, the man failed to decipher a plot in which he and master would be out-dribbled by a bunch of civilians. In somewhat contrast to the famed Choppies tagline: there was never value for our money here!

What intelligence does Kgosi have?

Long live the man who farms in Maboane!

Editor's Comment
Escalating fuel prices cause panic

Nowadays it is not uncommon to purchase an item for a certain commodity and return to the shops in a week, to find the same item has gone up by a significant amount of money.Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) last week announced yet another fuel price increase, which follows yet another increase that came into effect on March 29. Hardly two months later on May 12 boom, BERA announced yet another increase, which came into effect at a...

Have a Story? Send Us a tip
arrow up