Of the stolen half a billion pula absurd!

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Mr Editor, please allow me once again the space to seek clarity and air grievances. My communication this time around borders on a story that appeared on the front page of the Mmegi Newspaper of 6 February, 2015.

I read with interest a front page story in the Mmegi about a half a billion Pula that disappeared into Government officials’ pockets. Amazing. Interestingly, the story is from a certain docket that is supposedly in court, according to the writers. The story is obviously of great interest to me as a serving military officer. I am not writing to you in my official capacity because I do not have such a mandate. But I am rather writing to you first as a concerned Motswana and secondly a concerned military officer.

Curiously for me, why do the journalists shy away from naming and shaming the so-called big and top government figures involved in the P500 million fraud in the story? It is quite amazing considering that in their own investigations, and in their own words, this evidence is in fact before the courts. So why would the writers withhold the names of the implicated government officials, save for only one, namely the director general of the DIS? In other words, why would the editor choose to withhold information that is in the public domain; in courts?

Mr. Editor, you will agree with me that the writers just wanted to spice up the story. They should please let us know other Government officials involved; name them so that we may know if at all the intention is to make the public aware and so that we appreciate the intention least we heavy our already soaked suspicion that ‘brown envelope journalism’ has made way for proper journalism.

The investigative piece got interesting for me when I read that actually the P500 million stolen went into a government ICT project that has been considered too sensitive to float publicly. Fair to the writers as they name the project as nothing but an email security system detecting emails coming in and out of Government computers.  Now should we believe the Mmegi story that such a project remains uncompleted?

So I should believe that there is no security in Government computers’ communication systems? Please, get your average brains back, this does not need rocket scientists.

I can with huge confidence state that my colleagues in the military and intelligence who are directly involved in ensuring that this country and its people remain safe from both external and internal forces will agree with me that this is amongst those things that make us refuse to take the Botswana media seriously. We work hard to ensure the nation is secure from external and internal forces and some in the media work hard in fabricating stories that create chaos. You will recall that sometime last year I wrote to the media houses, pleading that you should stop risking the lives of military men by publishing dates and processes of military operations. Today I found myself compressed between two issues: One being that the story at hand is misleading the nation into believing that the Government computers’ communication systems is not secure. How absurd;  Secondly, the story goes on to engage operations of national security in public space and for external forces to have their way without struggle. I am yet again inclined to believe those who say much of what we consider journalism is merely tabloid and a quest to sell the paper, only to hit the target.

More curiosity in the story is brought by writers alleging that the director of the company that was awarded the government ICT project is currently Botswana’s consul in Israel, and also works closely with the DIS and that he has been here for over 20 years. Revealing indeed. But what does it show? Immediately after reading the story in question, I did a bit of base check and realised that the company mentioned and a person referred to are more part of our trusted intelligence network.

Hypothetically speaking, if indeed Government of Botswana has even gone to that extent of entrusting him with the consulate job in Israel, then that man and that company are not just your ordinary fraudsters. They maybe part and parcel of the Botswana security intelligence.

And if that is true, then we are not dealing with a case of corruption, fraud, and top government officials stealing half a billion Pula. It is yet another case of routine clandestine operations of our security intelligence mistaken for fraud by Mmegi staff writers who were interested in making headlines and hence taking the opportunity to fabricate.

One could further question that, since the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and Bank of Botswana are directly responsible for the payment of government projects, did the writers confirm the payment? Well if they did not, then I am more inclined to once again rise to the occasion and label such a story as irresponsible reporting in the name of journalism. I like many others have argued before that we should not risk the security of the country by misleading and false reports.

I like many others before have also argued that it does not help to have media outlets being excited by cooking information for the consumption of the innocent reader and unsuspecting Motswana.

Bear in mind that the  misinformed news are not only consumed locally but are also consumed internationally. I plead with journalist to feed us with accurate information and stay away from complex scoops associated with security intelligence because they can easily be fooled since verification of those fabrications are by nature impossible to find

When you don’t have anything to report on please stop fabricating. We all are concerned about the affairs of the country but to fabricate does not help us in anyway. It will also do you a lot of good if for the sake of us, your readers that you go all out to investigate and authenticate your stories before publishing them.

Lieutenant Godfrey Letsholo* 

From Glen Valley Barracks,

*Not my real names as I prefer anonymity

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