DISS boss, Isaac Kgosi seems on course to exposing the ignorance of law on the part of Members of Parliament as he appears before the Parliament Accounts Committee (PAC) that is investigating the National Petrol Fund (NPF) scandal.
Through the two days seating, Kgosi remained consistent on three points, that he was sworn to secrecy, he is the custodian of government secrets and that he was bound by the founding statutes of the intelligence body, DISS Act.
The spy boss would not be intimidated by the MPs’s heckling rising to the occasion in a subtle undertone to score his point: “The Acts of Parliament rank equally; I have a law that governs me on what I do. You have a law that governs you on what you do. It does not mean that your procedures supersede what the DISS Act says”.
Kgosi was also quick to tell the committee that the NPF matter is before the court and therefore subjudice to discuss it, a matter that frustrated almost all members of the Committee except for Ndaba Gaolathe who maintained his calmness during the first seating on Thursday.
Presiding over the hearing, PAC chairman, Dithapelo Keorapetse - who was himself compromised by reason of recent utterances he had made to the Press claiming that he and MP Samson Guma were targets of elimination by DISS - had his back to the wall.
And recoiling in an emotional outburst, Keorapetse directed Kgosi to the parliamentary standing orders that empower the committee to compel anybody appearing before it to cooperate and answer its questions instead of telling them on how they should operate.
But Kgosi would not budge. After a lengthy exchange, PAC agreed to allow him to say his part and his statement hit below the belt particularly on Keorapetse.
“I am aware of recent newspaper articles, radio interviews and comments from some members of this Committee and those that appeared before me, that have sought to portray the DIS as a rogue institution.
This is unfortunate and I wish to assure you all that the Directorate is law abiding and shall at all times adhere to its founding statute, the Constitution and any other laws in force from time to time in this Republic.
“To this end I would like to put it on record that the DISS has never made threats to assassinate or cause harm to anybody, or acted outside its mandate. There is no reason for anybody to fear it, whether politicians or members of the public.
“The security of this country is way paramount to be always subjected to speculative and irresponsible commentary; Botswana is above all of us. On this matter, I want it to be put on record that I will cooperate with this committee to the extent allowed by Law.
“I would also want it recorded that I am appearing before this Committee in spite of grave allegations that have been levelled against me in person, and the Directorate by some members of this committee as read in the media. I do so in the hope that there will be fairness in the deliberation of the committee”.
Appeal to Speaker
What PAC stood to gain from Kgosi’s questioning may have been lost forever and the signs of their defeat and frustration was clearly visible on its chairman Keorapetse as he and colleagues Shawn Nthaile, Ndaba Gaolathe, Samson Moyo Guma, Ignatius Moswaane and Mephato Reatile announced that they would be writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly to invoke Section 13 of the National Assembly powers and privileges.
“In our view there are questions that we feel you must answer which you have indicated the reason why you cannot. At this point, it will be up to the Speaker to cause you to answer or not”.
Kgosi was bold in his response; “I will wait for the Speaker”.
Kgosi drew the attention of the committee to provisions of the DISS Act and National Archives Act on releasing classified documents. The Intelligence and Security Cap. 23.02 says permission to release classified information must come from DISS boss.
Section 9 (1) of the National Archives and Records Services Act states every person appointed under or employed in carrying out the provisions of this Act shall regard and deal with all public records which are secret or confidential or to which access may be restricted as secret. When the Thursday seating collapsed due to lack of quorum subsequent to the departure of MP Nthaile, Keorapetse told Kgosi that since he refused to answer some questions, then they will subpoena the Director of National Archives and Records Services and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
But there was a change of heart as it seems the Archives Director will be called. On Thursday the proceedings started 45 minutes late than the stipulated time as the PAC and the Attorney General teams were locked in a meeting where it was decided that the committee must appeal to the Speaker.
But the question is will the Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe order Kgosi to provide the answer?
The law does not compel her to as it says the Speaker “may” thereupon excuse the answering of that question or production of such paper.