- Minister says he will explain to Batswana after the bill has become law
- Presents bill as a response to FATF recommendations
- Says aim is to protect Batswana from illegal wire-tapping
The government has ignored a flurry of calls to withdraw a criminal procedure and evidence bill that seeks to routinely intercept communication between and among Batswana.
The Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, tabled the bill on urgency before Parliament for its first reading last week.
In the aftermath, opposition parties, civic society, lawyers, journalists and international organizations protested and asked the government to withdraw the bill but to no avail.
Minister Mmusi has told The Botswana Gazette that the government will go ahead with the bill that was expected to be brought back to Parliament today (Wednesday) for its second reading.
He said the bill has been distorted to fit the agenda of certain individuals and appealed for patience as there would be a second reading.
“We basically want to protect the citizens of this country because Batswana have complained that their phones are being bugged,” he averred. “We are bringing a law to allow this to be regulated.
“What we are saying is that if this is to be done, it should be in a proper manner. So as I table my second reading, which is the detailed part of the bill, and people will understand it better.”
Mmusi dismissed reports that the proposed law is about protecting President Mokgweetsi Masisi after the head of DISS, Peter Magosi, stated several times in the past that the President’s life was under threat.
The minister said the proposed law seeks to provide for the courts to regulate and authorize phone tapping to aid investigations. “In this particular case, if there is evidence suggesting strongly that two people may have had a conversation about committing a crime, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to can seek a court order to intercept the communication of such people.”
“If you look at the recommendations of FATAB, it is stated that the criminal investigations we conduct as a country are defunct and this should be rectified.”
Mmusi added that he will explain it to the public after the bill has become law and that there was consultation in the lead-up to the tabling of the bill. “We sat around as government and had discussions with agencies, my ministry and the Attorney General,” he said. “People should also consider that Parliament was tasked with advancing the Financial Intelligence Act and this was a part of it.
“Recommendations were made that in order for the country to be removed from grey listing, certain things would need to be followed and we are partially compliant on this one and want to be fully compliant.”
He said FATAB is expected to assess Botswana in September this year on issues related to its recommendations. “We will then be evaluated in 2024 and they want to see that there are some implementations,” Minister Mmusi said.
In 2016, then Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, said no registered illegal wire-tapping of phones and emails had been registered by his office or the police. This is despite a substantial numbers of people, especially on social media, complaining that wiretapping was widespread. “There are no instances of illegal wire-tapping of phones and emails by the security organs or private companies that have been brought to my attention,” Kgathi said. “There are no registered reports that I am aware of that have made it to the police or my office on concerns of illegal wire tappings.”
The former minister added that the BPS had never applied to the courts for permission to tap phones and emails since April 2008. However, Kgathi noted that Section 22 of the Intelligence and Security Services Act (CAP 23:02) provided for DISS applying to a senior magistrate or judge of the High Court for an order authorizing it to conduct investigations of a personal or intrusive nature, including interception of electronic mail and telephonic communications.