Under normal circumstances President Ian Khama would have long sacked or suspended his intelligence chief from work pending the finalisation of his corruption cases, but the nature of president Khama’s relationship with his spy chief will always make it difficult for the president to dump the man who has always been by his side during his military days and political life.
For several weeks now the spy chief has been in the news over allegations of corrupt practices and questionable business dealings. He is currently a subject of investigations by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). While Khama has confirmed during a Kgotla meeting in Tlokweng that his trusted lieutenant was under the DCEC investigations, Kgosi has remained mum about the investigations let alone allegations of corruption. Kgosi is certainly a man under siege. Since he took office in 2008, president Khama has been hesitant in taking action against senior government officials facing allegations of corruption. Khama only forced Member of Parliament for Tati East Samson Moyo Guma to resign from his junior ministerial position in 2008 after it emerged that he was under DCEC investigations. When Ramadeluka Seretse – president Khama’s cousin, was charged with corruption by the DCEC he resigned from cabinet only to be reinstated months later after he won the case. Other ministers such as Kenneth Matambo and Vincent Seretse were never pushed from cabinet. Kgosi’s case is different. What makes the case different is Kgosi’s closeness with the president. And perhaps what he knows.
Khama and Kgosi
As far as their relationship goes, nobody knows Khama better than Kgosi, not even his immediate family members. For Khama and Kgosi, blood may be thicker than water, but loyalty is thicker than anything. The relationship between Khama and Kgosi can be traced back to the barracks of the Botswana Defence Force. While it is not clear how the two men first met, sources that have worked with the two men say that it was Kgosi’s sheer bravery, hard work and loyalty that drew him close to president Khama. Kgosi joined the BDF at the rank of Private and rose to the position of Colonel. “…Make no mistake, Kgosi’s rise at the BDF was not because Khama favoured him but mainly because Khama recognised his hard work and rewarded it. Khama rewarded so many army men at BDF not only because of their academic qualifications but because of hard work,” commented a former army officer who worked with both Khama and Kgosi at the BDF. The relationship between the two men grew from strength to strength according to sources. In Kgosi, Khama saw the younger self – someone that he can groom to be a leader. At one point they became inseparable. They became more than just colleagues at work. They became friends, close buddies whose friendship extended beyond working hours. Those who attended the funeral of president Khama’s mother lady Ruth Khama attest that Kgosi was the most influential non-family member who played a critical role during the funeral. In 2001 when Khama was awarded a plot near Mosu village in Boteti District it was Kgosi who travelled from Gaborone to Letlhakane to represent the president during the allocation process. After he was appointed vice president in 1998, president Khama roped in Kgosi to be his personal secretary. As a personal secretary to Khama – Kgosi acted more like Khama’s chief of staff; he was his enforcer and gatekeeper at the office of the vice president.
Who created Isaac Kgosi? The answer is simple. It was President Ian Khama. It is an open secret that it was Khama who recommended that Kgosi be groomed to take over as the new head of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security. To prepare him for the task, Kgosi was sent for training in the United Kingdom. One of Kgosi’s tasks as the DIS director was also to protect president Khama and his immediate family members. The recent furore over Kgosi’s alleged misdemeanours is a classical case of the creator failing to control and manage his creation. Khama’s silence on allegations of Isaac’s scandals is a reflection of Khama’s inability to manage a problem of his design.
The case of knowing too much
Regardless of how one looks at it, Kgosi holds an influential position in government. He is not only the most powerful civil servant but also the most feared. The sound of his name brings shivers down the spines of many including cabinet ministers. As the head of the intelligence community, Kgosi has the power to spy on almost everyone including senior government officials. He has the human and financial resources to do so.
According to security observers, the challenge is that Khama made a mistake of putting his eggs in one basket (Kgosi) and allowed Kgosi to grow so powerful that he even outgrew him in terms of power. The problem is that Kgosi derives his power from the fact that he knows where the dead bodies are buried. He has power and knowledge is power. Rationally speaking, he is proving to know more on Khama than Khama knows about Kgosi, said one security observer. In fact although Isaac has become a serious political liability to Khama inversely, Khama is his security liability.
Only God knows what information Kgosi has on so many people including members of Khama’s own administration. It is possible that Kgosi may also have incriminating information on a lot of people including cabinet ministers and leaders of the opposition and corporate world. The fact that some of the ministers are not saying anything about Kgosi’s scandal is telling. “You don’t dispose an intelligence figure like Kgosi overnight. It’s risky and it may come to haunt you. Surely president Khama has assessed the situation and concluded that it may not be easy to dispose of Kgosi,” a source said.
Under immense pressure from within the BDP, an outside source this week told Botswana Guardian that Khama asked Kgosi to consider resigning.
Khama, according to sources, wanted Kgosi to resign or take a leave of absence with the hope that after he clears his name he will reappoint him to his position again. The same arrangement worked with Ramadeluka Seretse.
The president is alleged to have further assured Kgosi that should he be found guilty of corruption by courts of law he will use his powers to pardon him.
Sources say Kgosi flatly refused to resign deciding rather to fight the corruption allegations to the bitter end. Kgosi wasn’t entirely convinced that he would be pardoned or that he would get his job back, said a source. If this is true then this clearly demonstrates why Kgosi is a powerful individual that cannot be brushed aside even by the president.
During his protracted bitter battle with Ramadeluka Seretse, Khama chose to listen to Kgosi over his cousin. Insiders believe that Kgosi’s gripe was that he wasn’t willing to report to Seretse and felt that as a spy boss he should be reporting directly to the president. He loathed reporting to Seretse. In the end Khama, to a certain extent, took a decision that pleased Kgosi and left Seretse with an emaciated ministry of defence, justice and security. He moved the DIS and the DCEC to the office of the president. Kgosi had the last laugh.
Khama’s political base and Kgosi’s influence
Khama is a popular political figure in the country but there is no denying that his political base is premised on foreknowledge provided by Kgosi. Politicians often talk about how Kgosi’s DIS is often prepared to go the extra mile to spy on the opposition parties and also the ruling parties to satisfy the president. If it were not the role played by Kgosi to recruit back those who had defected to BMD, we would be talking about BDP in past tenses. Therefore, besides providing safe and secure operating environment for Khama, Kgosi also provides a political sanctuary for Khama’s policies. The role of intimidation from DIS has also played a crucial role in ensuring little or no resistance to Khama’s ideas and agendas. Trying to imagine Khama without Kgosi is almost an impossible task more so that it is an election year where most of Khama’s preferred candidates lost primary elections.