On Tuesday night at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, journalists witnessed The Arrest and later The Breakpoint of the former spy chief Isaac Kgosi, once powerful and feared man in Botswana. Staff Writer THALEFANG CHARLES gives an account of the night of the country’s historic arrest
The arrivals gate at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport slid open. Former director general (DG) of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi, walked out with his family; the wife and their small boy. The big man was pushing a trolley load of luggage and souvenirs.
They were returning from a posh wedding of Choppies CEO, Ramachandran (Ram) Ottapathu’s daughter in Thrissur, India. As Kgosi passed the ivory elephant sculpture, four men, DIS plainclothes agents, encircled him. Journalists who were tipped off about a “possible high profile incident happening at airport tonight” were already capturing it.
An order, “You are under arrest!” from one of the agents was barely audible but Kgosi grasped the situation. He was shown the arrest warrant that was kept neatly in a purple diary by one of the agents. (We later learnt that the arrest warrant was covertly signed by a magistrate from Mahalapye). Kgosi briefly read the piece of paper before saying, “Okay, I will call my lawyer. Let’s go”.
An agent wearing a floral shirt, and a sporty hat (looking like Trompies crew member) produced the handcuffs and moved in to cuff him. Kgosi protested and pleading that he is cooperating so there is no need for handcuffs. “You want to embarrass me? E bile o biditse batho ba press!” he wondered.
Kgosi also complained that handcuffs do not fit saying, “O bona gore mabogo aka a matona!” But as the old famous ‘One size fits all…’ campaign by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) said in the 90s, the ‘Trompies’ agent finally cuffed his big hands despite protests of saying they cannot fit. But they actually fitted, just as the DCEC campaign rightly said about the handcuffs, “…even the fat cats!” Initially the whole thing appeared to Kgosi like it was just a prank. The severity of the situation only dawned on him when the DIS DG, Peter Magosi calmly walked on to the scene. As the ex-spy chief faced the incumbent, Kgosi realised then that, ‘it is what it is’.
He was ordered for a walk of shame to a holding room for searching, with tight handcuffs and press photographers flashing. Walking alongside, Magosi, Kgosi was still in shock and disbelief. He called out Magosi with his pet-name, “O biditsa batho ba press! Fana! Fana! Fana!” But the new DIS boss just gave him a silent treatment.
After the arresting party vanished inside the room, the press fired the first images on to social media. As the news broke out more press crews arrived while Kgosi was still being held at the airport.
When he finally emerged out of the search room, Kgosi was no longer handcuffed. But he was still surrounded by the agents and one of them was even pushing the trolley carrying his luggage. Before exiting the terminal building, criminal lawyer, Unoda Mack met the arresting party and Kgosi tried to rope him in saying, “This is my lawyer. Where is that warrant?”
Magosi, however objected to having a discussions with the lawyer in front of the press
Magosi told Kgosi that he [Kgosi] knows the procedure and nonetheless, “it is a short distance,” so he cannot ride in the front seat. As the seat argument was ongoing, Kgosi’s distraught daughter appeared and rubbed his arrested father’s back. The emotions were getting the better of him. So before settling in the backseat that he so despised, Kgosi asked to be allowed to at least hug his daughter.
The request was permitted and they both hugged, eyes closed in a firm emotive embrace. The daughter broke out in shrieks at the end of the hug and it must have deeply touched Kgosi as he too broke out in palpable anger.
“I am going to topple the government, I’m telling you,” he chillingly hissed.
Magosi tried to calm him down with a brotherly pat and back rub, but that did not stop the man who has been described as the most powerful person in Botswana to send warning signals to the whole administration.
“I worked for this f*k*ng government for so long. But o tla o dira mas*p*. For so long! I have never been a criminal,” he said in furious anger before being whisked away to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) barracks in Mogoditshane.
The House Arrest
After being detained at the army barracks overnight, Kgosi was in the morning of Wednesday taken to his Phakalane home where the DIS agents together with the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS) conducted a search.
A group of media practitioners and curious onlookers camped outside the house throughout the day until midnight but Kgosi never showed his face. Although there was not much drama, the DIS boss kept the media abreast about the operation with regular updates.
At night Magosi told the media that he was satisfied with what they had uncovered in the house. He however did not tell exactly what it was they found. Magosi also said that because Kgosi has been cooperating well with the investigators, they would not send him to any detention cell but would be allowed to sleep at his home with his family. At the time of going to print on Thursday, the DIS was still in the process of searching other Kgosi’s other properties.