- Opposition targeted by DISS spying
- UDC a threat to DISS
- DISS tribunal comprises of BDP politicians
- OP paid Serbian firm P50m for spyware
- Spy Chief denies knowledge of operation
Opposition leaders have fallen target of government spying by use of surveillance software designed to fight criminals and terrorist networks, a report compiled by a senior intelligence agent has confirmed.
While in Botswana spying is not meant to catch terrorist, but crush down on dissidents, the Botswana intelligence community is trembling at the comprehension of BDP losing power in 2019 and has labelled the opposition “an existential threat to prevailing political order and the DISS” that needs to be neutralized.
The intelligence report seen by The Botswana Gazette detailing a covert operation code named “Tholwana Borethe” whose principal objective is to neutralise BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe as a ‘centre-of-power’ in both BMD and UDC while throwing the party into rivalling factions, achieves its mandate by deployment of the controversial spyware TETRA purchased from a conroversial Serbian company with close links to spy boss Isaac Kgosi.
It began in 2009 when the Office of the President approved, invoice No 100 – T- 0002 to the company, which was dominating intelligence IT tenders worth close to P50 million for the supply and installation of a TETRA digital trunking radio system for the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), details linked to the spy chief Isaac Kgosi investigation docket reveal.
The clandestine TETRA surveillance network roll out for DISS covers installation of 90 base stations all across the country and the base stations have been manufactured by Motorola – namely 88 base stations are MTS2 and 2 base stations are MTS4 making the total number of transmitters on base stations -88 x 2 + 2 x 4 = 184, the report reveals. This was to ensure that classified information collected during the surveillance of Gaolathe and other political opponents does not get mishandled and compromised at any point.
While Mosinki was seemingly requesting for more capacitation for the sufficiency of moving to Phase 2B of the covert operation, the state of the art TETRA spyware also enabled the DISS agents to spy on journalists, researchers and other politicians without being detected.
“It is even more important to have sufficient and suitable assets to under Phase 2B activities and from a threat perspective, we will be operating in a higher threat environment within range of the journalists, politicians and researchers,” the secretive report stated, adding that the operation needed to be protected through counter-intelligence hence the request for, “the right type and number of assets to protect the operation.”
“Of particular importance is the provision of intelligence collection assets to provide me with the intelligence I need to properly plan Phase 3 operations,” Mosinki said referring to DISS agents and sources as assets and that the spy agency has established cosy relationships with some editors of media houses.
Botswana Congress Party President Dumelang Saleshando says that the black operation is a desperate measure by the DISS to keep the BDP in office. The intelligence report had collected in it Saleshando’s personal details, education and work background, political history, family life and Gilson Saleshando’s political career.
It also held details of UDC president Duma Boko’s personal life details, including allusion to the fact that Boko’s father was a Marxist and that the young Boko was at some point suspended by school authorities for using the word ‘revolutionary.’
The detail on Ndaba as the main focus of the operation is voluminous. It goes on to detail his mother , Isabella Nomazizi Zelpha Gaolathe’s roots from the grandparents, her upbringing in East London during apartheid and her relationship with husband the late Baledzi Gaolatlhe in Lesotho where he studying in the 60s.
The DISS of the BDP
The politicization of spy agencies is no new revelation. The head of the DISS, Kgosi himself came into the civil service as a political appointee and President Ian Khama’s Permanent Secretary before the formation of the spy unit.
The Central Intelligence Committee of the DISS comprises of politicians of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), President Khama, Vice President and Chairman of the BDP Mokgweetsi Masisi, BDP Deputy Treasurer Shaw Kgathi and Serowe South MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, and the political appointee Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi who is also allegedly gearing up to snatch the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency in the BDP’s Bulela- Ditswe billed for 2018.
Morupisi once attracted controversy in the constituency when he was accused of abusing state resources to campaign for his wife Pini Morupisi at Lecheng-Malaka Ward. Pini Morupisi lost the election to Charles Mabjeng who contested as an independent candidate.
It is in this notion that Saleshando pointed out to The Botswana Gazette that the DIS act, “has many loopholes for possible abuse. The oversight body consists of BDP activists and lacks a non partisan balance should one even consider complaining about the surveillance.”
The clandestine “Tholwana Borethe” black operation report reveals that the DISS views the UDC as a “major political existential threat” and fears that should it win elections in 2019, BDP politicians accused of corruption may be prosecuted and the spy agency disbanded.
“The alliance possesses a major political and existential threat both to the BDP and DISS. The 2014 Elections showed that unlike in previous elections, the alliance had sufficient financial support for their campaigns. This is a new and a serious political development that needs to be given due attention and neutralized,” the secret report reveals.
The DISS claims that if the UDC wins power in 2019 the country can be thrown into chaos and instability and this is cemented by the covert operation to split the BMD into factions to derail its stability.
“BDP is likely to be deposed from power at the 2019 General Elections. This will have serious political implications that threaten our peace and stability. The UDC is also a serious existential threat to the DISS. There is likelihood that the UDC government will dismantle the service and possibly pursue prosecution against officers. This threat cannot be taken for granted and needs to be given due attention,” the head of the DISS covert operation Mosinki stated in the report.
The DISS reports in the assessment of the profiles of the UDC leaders that BMD’s Ndaba Gaolathe is the ‘ace’ of the alliance and refers to him as the think-tank and strategist of the UDC who enjoys overwhelming public support and respect.
“Gaolathe enjoys good regional and international reputation. Having previously worked for South African and Namibian governments, Gaolathe has proven to be popular with ANC, SWAPO, US government and is often invited to meet with US Embassy staff and our assessment therefore is that, if the UDC is to be neutralized, the focus must be on Gaolathe and the BMD as a party is very weak and therefore presents a window of opportunity,” the DISS observed.
In the fields of political action and propaganda, the Tholwana Borethe covert program is aimed at lessening the influence and capabilities of the Umbrella for Democratic Change through severe destabilization of the BMD. The report however does not say what the DISS will do if their attempt to scupper Ndaba’s political career fails, considering the resources they have dedicated to target him.Kgosi denied any knowledge of the report.