DIS torture house revealed?
The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) is allegedly operating a torture chamber in Sasakwe settlement between the villages of Lentsweletau and Kopong. The Botswana Gazette investigations have revealed that the DISS obtained the plot under questionable circumstances as it tried to use other government departments as a front in applying for allocation. Allegations further indicate that the DISS initially attempted to circumvent land allocation procedures, but were foiled by Lentsweletau sub-land board officials who ordered them to consult residents of Sasakwe settlement.
The DISS allegedly approached residents of Sasakwe claiming that they had been sent by President Ian Khama to request their permission for the plot to be allocated as a training camp for the BDF. Sasakwe headman Thibakgomo Kgadimapa, told The Botswana Gazette that he was visited by some government officials between 2008-2009 who claimed that they were acting on instructions from president Ian Khama to ask for a plot on the outskirts of their settlement.
A kgotla meeting was later convened which was attended by government officials who claimed to be representing the president. According to Kgosi Kgadimapa, the officials repeated their earlier statement that they had been sent by president Khama to request for permission to set up a BDF training camp in the settlement. They also warned villagers to brace for minor disturbances as they would sometimes hear gun shots emanating from the training camp. Kgadimapa said the villagers agreed to allow the state to set up the training camp, only to be disappointed when they later learnt that the place belongs to the DISS.
“We agreed to allocate the plot to the BDF, but we later learnt that it is owned by the DISS. Everyone in the settlement now knows that the camp belongs to DISS,” he said.
He also complained that villagers are repeatedly disturbed by sounds of shootings from the place. It is understood that both BDF and DISS agents frequent the secret place which looks like an abandoned farm. A source close to the DIS, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that the place is used for torturing people.
He said: “People are taken there at night under the cover of darkness. A lot of things happen there.”
The Botswana Gazette has established that the Ministry of Defense, Justice and Security has no file at Lentsweletau sub-land board. Instead, the Office of the President (OP) has a file at the sub-land board. Land board officials refused to share the contents of the file, but only confirmed the existence of a file under OP and nothing under BDF. Attempts to get more clarification from Kweneng land board were futile as the land board secretary and the deputy were not in office.
Security insiders have revealed that the DISS routinely carries out covert operations under the guise of other security apparatus and government departments. Sources close to the DISS allege that the spy agency controls all security apparatus to the extent that they use their uniforms and cars during covert operations.
“This creates a public relations disaster because most offenses that were allegedly committed by the Botswana Police Service (BPS) and the BDF were actually perpetrated by DISS agents,” he said.
When commenting on the issue, chairperson of Law Society of Botswana Lawrence Lecha said cases of torture by security officers are prevalent in Botswana.
“This kind of treatment is against provisions of the constitution because it is inhuman and degrading,” he said.
Lecha also urged government to investigate allegations that the DISS uses other departments as a front so as to win public confidence. He also cautioned that such practices, if true, send a wrong message against other departments and put them at a risk. For his part, BPS spokesperson, assistant commissioner Christopher Mbulawa said torturing is prohibited in the laws of Botswana. He said the police have in the past dealt with such cases, though they were not many. Mbulawa also revealed that some individuals sometimes claim that they were tortured so they can use that as a defense.