Democracy suffers as DIS cracks the whip


The raiding of the office of the graft buster, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) boss, Tymon Katlholo this week has heightened fears of political interference in the affairs of the country by the Executive.

Officially, Katlholo whose office was sealed off by the DIS investigators Tuesday afternoon in his absence follows allegations that he has killed all efforts by his staff to investigate former president Ian Khama and his ally Isaac Kgosi, formerly DIS director-general in relation to possession of weapons of war. The other official reason for the raid is the allegation that Katlholo has refused to act on anything that implicates Khama and Kgosi. But, there is yet another allegation that in fact, the DIS chose to raid Katlholo’s office and that of his staff officer in his absence so that it could lay hands amongst others on files including that in which President Mokgweetsi Masisi and the DIS director-general, Peter Magosi are facing corruption allegations. So, the allegations suggest that the raid was more on snatching these two high profile files. In some quarters, the latest machinations by the DIS have been described as a threat to democracy. Quizzed about this rather scandalous development, the DIS director of public relations, Edward Robert vehemently denied the allegations. “The DCEC is governed by the DCEC Act while the DIS is governed by the DIS Act. The two pieces of legislation bring about separation of roles between the two institutions and there is no way one can encroach into the territory of the other to a point where there is interference as you suggest,” explained Robert. He was steadfast that actually his office would not be in a position to know whom the DCEC is investigating unless there is a good reason for the anti corruption agency to want to share that information with the DiS.

Ironically, the DIS raided the DCEC in search of specific files despite Robert's assertion. “To answer your question, I am not aware of any investigation against President Masisi or the director-general of the DIS,” Robert further emphasised. He was also adamant that by raiding the DCEC office, the DIS was not interfering with the work of the DCEC. “The DIS derives its mandate from the law. And the law is clear on what the Directorate can do and it cannot do. The DIS believes it is doing what it is doing in full compliance and observance of the law,” he said. Meanwhile, former DIS DG, Brigadier Joseph Mathambo left the DCEC at a time when there were growing concerns at the graft-busting agency that the DIS was overstepping its mandate. Mathambo previously cried foul that the DIS had snatched some files from the DCEC without permission to further investigate. At the time President Masisi is alleged to have intervened in the Magosi/Mathambo turf wars.

Perhaps worried by the tough road ahead, upon becoming the helmsman at the DCEC in 2020, Katlholo told the State-owned broadcaster, Botswana Television that he was not going to be told who to investigate and how to investigate and when to investigate. He had then vowed that the interfering hand in the work of the DCEC would be duly eliminated. An effort to solicit comments from Katlholo who is currently in Kigali, Rwanda on official duty could not bear fruit as he did not take calls on his mobile phone.

He could also not answer questions sent through WhatsApp although there is evidence he had seen them. However, the DCEC public relations officer, Lentswe Motshoganetsi would later issue a press statement following the raid at their offices. “The DCEC would like to inform the public that indeed on May 3, 2022 at around 4pm, officers from the DIS came to the DCEC headquarters in Gaborone on an operation (investigation) mission,” read the press statement in part. It added: “The said officers sealed two offices, that of the director-general and that of the DG’s staff officer. The DG and the staff officer are in Rwanda attending the annual general meeting of the Association of Anti Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa (AACACA).” University of Botswana (UB) lecturer in politics and administrative studies, Adam Mfundisi speaking as a public policy analyst, indicated that the raid on the anti corruption agency by the DIS is unfortunate and embarrassing to the country.

He stressed that the raid was untidy because it follows on the detention and prosecution of the suspended Commissioner of Police, Keabetswe Makgophe at the instigation of the security and intelligence community. To him, the most bizarre thing is that the DG of the DCEC was outside the country, on official assignment at the time of the raid. “The intrusive investigations by the DIS have started and the consequences are dire. I have not been able to research on Sections 21 and 22 dealing with powers of arrest and powers of entry, search and seizure. I only managed to read Section 5 related to functions of the DIS. There is enumeration of functions but no one of them deals with investigations and prosecutions,” noted the UB don. He was insistent the DIS, it would seem, has intensive and extensive powers to do whatever it deems fit. He is worried that the DIS has unfettered powers of search, confiscate, arrest, detain, and prosecute at will and has literally been provided with a blank cheque by the BDP moribund regime, paranoid and insecure. He added: “The cult of intelligence is upon Botswana and citizens.

Our cherished democracy is under threat by a security and intelligence service, which has unlimited powers. Unfortunately, there are ineffective and non-existent oversight institutions to restrain its powers. The DIS Act contained erroneous and redundant provision for an Executive appointed Committee of Parliament contrary to parliamentary procedures and processes on the creation and appointment of oversight committees. BDP MPs as usual did not find it wrong for a branch of government to impose on the other a committee to do its role” To the UB academic, separation of powers promote checks and balances in the exercise of State power. There have been allegations and counter allegations and accusations and counter accusations from or between President Masisi and former president Khama camps on investigations and prosecutions taking place in the country. “The ghost in France Museveni has been levelling accusations against the DG of the DCEC and his private company and his association with Khama. And there are also allegations of tampering with evidence at the DCEC. Is this the spark that led to the raid on the DCEC by the DIS?” wondered Mfundisi. The academic added: “For legal jurists, we need advice on the powers of the DIS in respect of law enforcement functions.

I wonder "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (Who is to watch the watchers)". It's a political and administrative dilemma. The seemingly unlimited powers of the DIS vis-a-vis other governmental organisations have been a source of worry. It is blamed to have interfered in police and DCEC investigations and prosecutions. It is also feared this is a part of a strategy to intimidate and harass other law enforcement agencies in order to restrain them from doing their work. “The DIS is not infallible hence it has opportunity and incentive to violate the Constitution and statutes which would trigger the police and the DCEC to investigate and prosecute. This is direct challenge to the duo of security agencies and others in government that would dare think of investigating the DIS,” posited Mfundisi. He was worried that Parliament has become a lap dog incapable of demanding accountability and ethical management of the DIS. He noted that most are afraid of the DIS and would not dare to question its operations and performance.

Apparently, it is Masisi and Khama who both weaponised the DIS to deal with detractors and political opponents. Moreover, Mfundisi is of the view that the criminal justice system has been mobilised to investigate and prosecute political opponents. “This has polarised society and undermines collective actions for public good. Polarisation and partisanship have detrimental effects on good governance and the rule of law. Selective justice is taking place in the country where opponents of the regime are prosecuted but those who support government are spared,” he concluded.

Editor's Comment
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