How DIS defeated DCEC

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Staff Writer TSHIRELETSO MOTLOGELWA tells the story of the tussle between the corruption busting agency and the spy chief around the allegations of corruption facing Isaac Kgosi

Exactly two years ago, nearly to the year, an Uzi was pulled up against some man’s head, the trigger pulled, the bullet sent into the body. The bullet dealt with the physiology the way a bullet is manufactured to. The man was Malawian-born businessman Harry Tembo, otherwise known as Harrison Tembo, and the place was the upmarket suburb of Phakalane in the north of Gaborone. 

The use of the Israeli manufactured weapon struck security experts as interesting. Uzis are seldom used in the security sector in Botswana, and it is often associated with officials higher up in the security sector. If an Uzi is to be used, then a senior official better be holding it, and if a mortal being is to wield it at the minimum, permission would have come from some place a bit more hallowed.

But when the killer/s were done with Tembo, they decided to hack the body with an axe. Those who met the sight said it was a gruesome one. Tembo’s body, after the hacking, was thrown over a bridge somewhere between Phakalane and Gaborone. Tembo was dead.And sources in Botswana’s security establishment say Tembo could not be allowed to live. But it was also a statement of intent from his killers.

A few weeks ago, the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, Rose Seretse, was summoned to the Office of the President. The subject of the meeting was for her to explain why a Mmegi investigative team had so much detail regarding the Directorate General of the Directorate of Intelligence Isaac Kgosi’s business dealings.

The fact that the publication revealed so much of the specific details regarding the spy chief and the man close to President Ian Khama brought the thinkers at the highest office in the land to the suspicion that perhaps the DCEC boss was running a boat with more holes than Swiss cheese. But the men at the OP did not have any evidence that DCEC was supposedly leaking. But they were worried that the last time such details of Kgosi’s dealings were revealed was two years ago when the graft-busting agency was investigating the spy chief.

The investigation came to naught partly because of DCEC’s own ineptitude and  the type of man they were trying to investigate. In a way, both events, separated by two years, tell the story of how DCEC came to be put in its place, cut to size, in its attempt to pursue one of the most powerful men in the country.

Harry Tembo was an Information Technology expert and would often bid for IT tenders offered by government. The Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board had his company, DBHS Automation & Technology (Pty) Ltd, as one of citizen-owned companies recognised under their system. Tembo was also familiar to a number of high-ranking intelligence officials both through business interests and personally.

When DCEC sought to investigate some high-ranking officials of DIS, their journey first took them to the Financial Intelligence Agency. Investigating DIS would test not just the ability of DCEC to protect its own processes but it would test the individual capabilities of those tasked with investigating the spy agency.

The alleged corruption unfolding at DIS was initially reported by two individuals who were working at the spy agency at the time (names known to Mmegi).

Sources within DIS say the spy agency was able to infiltrate the corruption-busting agency even before those two individuals reported their own bosses. Indeed within a few months of reporting the alleged crimes, they were dismissed from DIS. There were two people who were responsible for reporting the alleged corruption at the spy agency.

This led to some within the DCEC questioning the ability of the organisation to protect whistleblowers. “The DCEC’s processes were questioned by those who thought it was infiltrated by sources of the DIS if not actual agents of the spy agency,” says one of the officials who were close to the case at the time.

One man who fell a victim of this investigation even at its early stage was an Australian citizen employed at DCEC, Don MacKenzie, who joined as deputy director. MacKenzie joined DCEC in early 2011 and would come close to the investigation within a few months of joining the organisation.

But MacKenzie would not last long  atDCEC. The following year, just after the bloody demise of Tambo and at the height of the investigation, intelligence coming out of Australia advised that he should leave the country urgently. Sources indicate that the Australians must have got wind of the dangers facing anyone even remotely connected to the investigation.

MacKenzie himself was determined to finish his three-year contract, but Australian authorities forced him to ultimately abandon it mid-term, indicating serious danger not just to him but to his family as well.

Details that emerged had been central to the investigations and the investigators were planning to pounce on DIS boss Isaac Kgosi, with Tembo slated for state witness.

Tembo himself was a figure familiar to the intelligence community because of his IT business dealings. Before he got involved with the investigation he had been involved in a tender alleged handed to him by the Financial Intelligence Agency, which had been advised of his capability, sources say, by some highly placed figures at the DIS with whom he was familiar.

While all this was going on the Ministry of Defence and Security led by Dikgakgamatso Ndelu Seretse was being put under increasing pressure from Office of the President to weigh in on the investigation, and at the very minimum facilitate its abortion. Seretse, those close to him say, was not keen on intervening on the investigations being conducted by DCEC, let alone stopping it.

At the same time Rose Seretse was seen as being too enthusiastic in following the investigation to the letter, most at Government Enclave viewed this in a dim light. It was as if she did not understand “that there were certain investigations you just could not engage in”, this being one such. Rose Seretse and Minister Seretse seemed to have been rubbing the authorities up the wrong way. But DCEC was also under public pressure to be seen to be objective in its investigation of high profile figures, Kgosi being perhaps the closest to the highest office, insiders say.

Within the same year, both DCEC and DIS were then removed from the supervision of Minister Seretse and relocated to the Office of the President. Those close to the minister say he took it hard and saw it as a slap in the face. “Ndelu’s position at that point was that DCEC should be left to investigate and that it was being tacitly condemned,” says one insider at the ministry.

With the battle between the ministry and DIS won by the spy agency, the battle between DIS and DCEC still raged on. The killing of Tembo dealt a serious blow to the investigation, given that he had inside information on the alleged activities of some high ranking officials of DIS, especially their business dealings.

To all intents and purposes, the investigation into Kgosi’s dealings was dead until recently when Mmegi brought the matter back to public attention. However, DIS remains split down the middle, with some siding with Kgosi and others viewing his leadership as lacking the required integrity. Kgosi is said to view the investigation as an attempt to victimise him. It would seem Kgosi’s position is slowly gaining currency at the highest levels of power. 

The revelations brought forward by Mmegi have caused consternation within DIS, but also at DCEC, given that DIS officials see the corruption busting agency as the likely source of the story. Sources say the recent reporting by Mmegi has also put Rose Seretse under pressure, with some on Government Enclave suspecting her officers of helping the Mmegi team. However, even the DCEC officials have been taken aback by the amount of information coming out of Mmegi investigations.

It remains to be seen how the struggle between the two organisations will pan out, but what remains true is that DIS may not have won the war just yet but is winning sporadic battles, hence the summoning of Rose Seretse for questioning over Mmegi reports. Following the killing of Tembo no police report has been released regarding the killing, but sources within the police say no suspects have been found.

Some believe the inquest was stillborn.  The Botswana Police Service had not responded to Mmegi enquiries on the matter by last evening. DCEC had also not responded to Mmegi questions on this matter. Kgosi has consistently turned down Mmegi request for an interview on the matter.

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