Masisi cracks the whip


FRANCISTOWN: If recent developments are anything to go by, President Mokgweetsi Masisi is certainly living to his promises of cracking the whip in the civil service.

Just this week, he did the unthinkable by firing the powerful and widely feared director general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi in his endeavour to cleanse the ailing public service.

The controversial Kgosi has been at the centre of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal, where he refused to account for about P250 million that came into his possession by virtue of his office at the parliamentary oversight body, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Masisi removed Kgosi from the powerful position that fed the presidency with regular national intelligence and security information.

Kgosi is former president Ian Khama’s blue-eyed boy and DIS’ pioneering director. At some stage, Khama’s efforts to fire Kgosi from his position backfired when the former spy agency chief reportedly refused to go. This raised fears that Kgosi could be in possession of information that he possibly used as a trade-off.

Kgosi formerly served Khama as his senior private secretary before the formation of the DIS in 2008. For many years during Khama’s era, Kgosi did as he pleased and was almost untouchable and did not account to anyone. Not even the state President.

It was during Khama’s presidency that Kgosi became too powerful and feared by even many officers senior to him.

At some stage, Kgosi was charged with corruption, money laundering and others, a docket that is gathering dust at both the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He is yet to have his day in court.

In one of his major tricks, Kgosi hired former a DCEC investigator who handled his case, a move that killed the DCEC case, as the officer was a key witness.

There was fear that as long as Kgosi remained at the helm of the spy agency, Khama who allegedly extended his contract on the verge of his retirement will continue to unduly benefit from the gathered intelligence and security work, which somewhat irked Masisi who has since closed the porous door of intelligence work. Kgosi was employed on a permanent and pensionable basis contrary to reports that Khama had given him a five-year contract before he handed power over to Masisi .

In his inaugural speech last month, Masisi promised, amongst others, to uproot corruption and economic crime with its related ills from his government.

He immediately announced emphatically that he was going to reshuffle Cabinet in line with his political beliefs. True to that character, he fired two substantive ministers, Sadique Kebonang and Prince Maele from the Cabinet as they were implicated in acts of corruption as a show of his pragmatism. He also wanted to show all and sundry that he meant business. He would even reshuffle the senior civil service in line with cleansing the public service.

Masisi only ascended to the highest office in the land on April 1 and already he is sending shockwaves across the government enclave leaving people on their toes wondering who is next. He does not fear to hold a bull by its horns, it seems.

It goes without saying that Masisi’s actions have left the entire civil service in a state of panic as it seems he is bound to end careers of many, especially those who have been doing things as they pleased.

It is apparent that Masisi and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are ready to get rid of anything that will stand on their way to win the 2019 general elections. They have started mending relations with the public sector trade unions and other organisations they were not in talking terms with.

Masisi terminated Kgosi’s contract this week when it was least expected after he (Kgosi) had exposed the parliamentary oversight body Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as a toothless dog after he refused to account for the missing NPF millions of pula.

In fact, Kgosi had always refused to account for the spy agency’s expenditure claiming security concerns.

University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Leonard Sesa described Masisi’s decision as a bombshell as no one expected it, as Kgosi has always appeared untouchable.

Sesa, however, traced Kgosi’s axing to the period when Masisi reshuffled Cabinet and other senior government officials.

“This decision tells me that this Kgosi exit was being negotiated before the President arrived at this decision. Like any President, Masisi wants to be surrounded by his own people who can help him deliver,” he noted.

“For Kgosi having served under Khama, it’s Masisi’s chance to appoint his own which it’s clear he’s doing. My main worry is that Masisi seems to be appointing people from the south of the country to strategic positions, which does not leave a good north/south balance.”

Unfortunately, the political scientist observed that it’s only the President who knows why.

“People expected this kind of a decision much earlier. As somebody who established the DIS, Kgosi has instilled fear in the minds of Batswana whenever they think about the DIS,” he noted.

He added that it’s within Masisi’s rights to appoint someone who can help him rule the country very well.

He emphasised that it was probably Kgosi’s language, “I don’t report to anyone” that prompted the President to take action against him. Another UB don, senior lecturer in politics, Kebapetse Lotshwao said since the DIS came into operation in 2008, the spy agency never had peace under the leadership of Kgosi.

“It became the law unto itself, as shown by the extrajudicial killings that rocked it and its tendency not to account for anything,” observed Lotshwao. The character of the DIS itself was problematic as one individual led it since its formation and its director general Kgosi was also uncooperative before the PAC, thinking he was above the law.

“Masisi is aware that in 2014, the ruling BDP didn’t do well in the general elections and therefore, to prepare for the 2019 general elections, he has to do away with things that antagonise the possible growth and good performance of the party.”

The axing of Kgosi is viewed as part of the President’s decision to correct things going into 2019 elections.

“It’s in order for the President to restore integrity of his government and party. But, the removal of Kgosi on its own is not a solution as the bigger thing is the Act that set up the DIS,” he noted and emphasised a need to relook at the Act, which was made towards the end of former president Festus Mogae’s term.

He also pointed at a need for Masisi to order an audit of the DIS and prosecute wrongdoers for Batswana to know the truth about the DIS.

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