>Pilot reduced to a clerk launches court case
Mistrust, fear and betrayal that have gripped the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) following the public fallout between the former president, Ian Khama Seretse Khama and his successor, Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi early this year has apparently manifested itself in a vicious fight for the control of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
A DISS Pilot, Opelonomi Edwin Matlhagela who was recently redeployed to “clerical duties” has claimed to have been a target of the new regime, in their effort to loosen Khama and Kgosi’s grip on what was the most feared security orga for the past 10 years.
Matlhagela has already launched a court battle to protest his redeployment and wants to be reinstated as a pilot after being grounded and deprived of flying DISS aircrafts for the past four months.
In fact Matlhagela suggested that he is merely a victim of a split at the top of the powers that be.
“I have not been given reasons why I was redeployed but I can only infer that it is because it is believed that I am associated with the previous Director of the DISS, Isaac Kgosi. I say this because after he left I was asked by Tino Phuthego (my immediate supervisor) why I took an instruction from him to fly the previous president Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama to Mosu,” Matlhagela stated in his founding affidavit, filed at Gaborone high court late last week.
Soon after president Masisi took over power from Khama in April this year, he forced the then Director General of the DISS, Kgosi to resign and replaced him with his longtime rival, Peter Magosi.
Information put before court suggests that Matlhagela who was recruited from the Civil Aviation s Authority Botswana, by Kgosi in 2012, was then subjected to frustrations and stopped from flying DISS aircrafts since July 3rd.
The move is believed to be one of Magosi’s strategy to losen Khama and Kgosi’s grip on the security organ, but Matlhagela has contended in court papers that as a pilot, he was “merely executing an instruction as a subordinate as in my line of duty I have been given instructions to fly people, sometimes for purposes unknown to me.”
Through his attorney, Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi lawfirm, Matlhagela argues that, “The redeployment is not only illegal but irrational as it appears to spite or frustrate the claimant (Matlhagela) as it comes soon after he formally lodged his grievance with being grounded as a Pilot with no valid reasons advanced.’
Kgosi as DISS Principal Intelligence Officer from 28 September 2012 employed Matlhagela. Although his employment letter does state that he was hired as a Pilot, he did confirm that he was specifically recruited for that purpose.
“Much to my shock, I was on 27th July, 2018 served with a letter redeploying me from the Air Wing where I served as a Pilot to the corporate services division. It is important to note that when I queried the justification for the change and what the role entailed, I was only given an unsigned note by my supervisor Tshegofatso Dioka,” Matlhagela’s affidavit reads in part before adding that, “as I would appear from the profile, the functions are not technical but merely clerical or administrative in nature as they include procurement of all logistical needs for Air Unit and their personnel. I am also in charge of booking accommodation for the crew.”
Meanwhile DISS says there is no conspiracy to purge or target anyone alleged to be an associate or loyalist of the former Director General, as it is sometimes suggested.
“While change of leadership in any organization may raise curiosity and suspicion, it is also not uncommon for organizations to experience change in strategies, operations methods and staffing,” and that “The DISS, under the current management, does not intend to prejudice any of its staff members. Our aim is to heighten professionalism and entrench accountability as we want to be a world class intelligence and security organ,” explained DISS spokesperson, Edward Robert.