DISS’ meddling could harm BDP

As DISS intervenes to stop construction projects whose tenders were allegedly awarded corruptly in pursuit of the Masisi administration’s anti-corruption drive, the BDP is hurting badly because Magosi’s enthusiasm could harm its electoral prospects, writes TEFO PHEAGE

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DISS) is rubbing the Botswana Democratic Party and the Chinese government the wrong way by meddling in tenders for mega projects, The Botswana Gazette has established.

DISS director general Peter Magosi ‘s move to disqualify a Chinese state company, China Jiangsu International, from two mega projects for allegedly being a security threat is currently before two different courts.

The Chinese company argues that it cannot be a coincidence it has been disqualified and both tenders awarded to the same company, Zhengtai Group Botswana, which is another Chinese outfit. China Jiangsu International is a Chinese state company which has been in Botswana since 1999 and operates in several other countries, including Iraq, Mozambique, Zambia, Mauritius, Namibia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

DISS has accused the company of engaging “in massive corrupt activities” and classifies it as a threat to national security, which entails, among others, espionage, sabotage, terrorism and subversion, according to the Intelligence and Security Services Act. A source at the Chinese embassy in Gaborone sees the accusations as serious but says the embassy will watch before it demands answers.

All Chinese state companies make an undertaking to the Chinese government to protect China’s reputation by conduct and delivery of quality projects.

By practice, the Botswana government does not engage Chinese state companies at state level but as individual companies. This was confirmed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Dipogiso Mokotedi. “We know they are state companies and that is an arrangement they have with their country, but we deal with them as private companies and have never really wanted to know how they work with their government,” Mokotedi says. Even so, he acknowledges that they do engage the Chinese government when there are problem.

Magosi rubs Masisi up the wrong way

The director of China Jiangsu International Botswana, Cui Wanglin, was deported by the Ian Khama administration but President Masisi revoked the Prohibited Immigrant Status on him upon taking office. “Speculation is that Cui may have refused to grease the elders’ palms but Cui denies ever entering into such terms with anybody,” a source said at the Chinese Embassy.
In a savingram DISS director Magosi has said no ministry should engage China Jiangsu International on any new projects. The development may spell the end of the company in Botswana, should it lose the court cases where it has interdicted the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) against acting on “falsehoods” from DISS. In its papers, the company argues that it has never been charged by the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) or the police with corruption.

China Jiangsu designed and built the Gaborone High Court and the Court of Appeal, the Gaborone and Mahalapye sewage reticulation systems, as well as Lotsane and Palapye water pipelines. The company is currently building a P270 million police forensic laboratory at the old Police College at Village in Gaborone.

The Gazette understands that DISS’s pouncing on tenders is now getting on the nerves of some BDP politicians. One of them is Karabo Gare, the MP for Moshopa-Manyana where a project to build a hospital has been affected. “Should they continue with this attitude, all mega tenders are going to be stalled because no company will leave a multimillion pula tender cancellation or disqualification unchallenged,” says a source who adds that Gare considered the hospital as his ammunition. “This will stall projects which were our campaign tools and jeopardise our electoral chances.”

BDP spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse has confirmed that the BDP is concerned about stalled projects but says the party respects the court processes. “It certainly deprives the communities of much-needed services but what can you do about court processes?,” he queries. “The BDP respects the independence of the judiciary and the right of whistleblowers to draw attention to things.”

The candidate for the Umbrella for Democratic Change in Moshopa-Manyana, Ngaka Monageng, says DISS intervention aside, the BDP had decided to suspend construction of the hospital in Moshopa so that it coincided with elections for mileage and that President Masisi never leaves a kgotla meeting without being asked about the hospital. “It is such a necessity here because we travel a lot to seek medical attention outside Moshopa,” says Monageng.

The MP Karabo Gare could not be reached.

DISS intervention has also stalled the P1.5 billion Maun Water Reticulation Project and the matter is now before the Lobatse High Court where PPADB last week argued that it could not ignore DISS’s advice on national security while China Jiangsu said the DISS correspondence was a mere advice that should have been disregarded.