After accusations and counter-accusations of corruption, Botswana’s director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi last week decided to break his silence in a written statement published in the Weekend Post newspaper of August 30, 2014, pleading his innocence and cataloguing how he ‘amassed’ the ‘fortune’ he was accused of having acquired by corrupt means.
In a case –– that is to some degree — reminiscent of accusations that were levelled at Zambia’s former intelligence director-general Xavier Chungu, who was alleged to have been spotted (by his accusers) carrying a suitcase full of American dollars that were to be deposited allegedly into late President Frederick Chiluba’s offshore bank account, the Botswana intelligence chief was accused of having attempted ‘to make a large cash deposit’ at a local branch of Stanbic Bank in Gaborone.
Mr Kgosi has challenged the bank to publicly name the teller who allegedly turned him away and also to produce the relevant CCTV footage to authenticate the claims by his accusers that he had entered the banking hall to make the alleged cash deposit.
In the same statement, Mr Kgosi also defended his intelligence agency against any involvement in the ‘mysterious’ death in a road accident of former president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Gomolimo Motswaledi, two months before the country holds its general election on October 24, 2014.
Opposition parties suspected the 44-year-old charismatic politician had been ‘eliminated’ by security operatives. But both government and private forensic investigators have since established that Mr Motswaledi died of injuries he suffered in the road accident as he returned from a business trip in South Africa.
However, this narrative is not about the controversy surrounding the DISS and Mr Kgosi, as its director, but it is about a man he mentioned in his statement called Harry Tembo, who had been introduced to me in 1992 as a Zambian businessman running an ICT company in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.
Mr Tembo was attacked at night as he walked to his home from a nearby jaunt in the plush Phakalane suburb. His body was found dumped in a ditch the following morning by passersby who reported their golly discovery to Botswana police. Rumours were rife at the time that Tembo had been probably ‘eliminated’ by secret service agents allegedly over some business deal that had gone awry.
But police investigations proved that the businessman was attacked by thugs who had even stripped him of every possession he had.
Mr Kgosi has explained the problem of mistaken identity that arose. Some people came to the unfair conclusion that Harry Tembo had been killed allegedly because of differences he probably had with the local spy chief over the house he was building for him. This is another point that Mr Kgosi denied in his statement, saying he did not even know the man (Harry Tembo).
“My wife and I contracted LT & Associates (Pty) Limited to build our house. The company is owned by, NOT by the late Harry Tembo who I did not know and have never met, but by Mr Liver Tembo who currently lives in Zambia having relocated from Botswana. As is usual LT & Associates sub-contracted Power Force, a company belonging to Mr Mpesene Jere, another national of Zambia.
LT & Associates were being paid on my behalf out of funds belonging to us held in a trust account of Collins Newman & Co. The contractor claimed more money than was due by some P690, 000. It became necessary for the contractor to pay back, in which Mr Liver Tembo signed, on behalf of his company, an acknowledgement of debt in writing, undertaking to pay that money back.
When the DISS was established in 2008, it took over some of the functions and ongoing operations of the Botswana Police Security Intelligence Services, formerly the Special Branch, personnel and suppliers.
The Death of Harry Tembo
“As I have said, I have never met Mr Harry Tembo, his death had nothing to do with the DISS, has never been engaged either by me or the DISS, has never done any work either for the DISS or me, and we had nothing to do with his death. A postmortem examination was done on March 20, 2012 and the report was given to the Commander of the Broadhurst Police Station. At no time have the police approached us in respect of the death, and no doubt they would have done so if there were any evidence to connect the DISS to it.
Deliberately confusing the two Tembos to suit people’s selfish needs is mischievous, cruel and insensitive and must be causing the late Harry Tembo’s family considerable and prolonged pain,” he concluded.
As indicated earlier I was introduced to the late Harry Tembo in Gaborone in 1992 by Chase Mhango, a former colleague on the Times of Zambia, which had employed a number of Zimbabweans (both ZANU-PF and ZAPU-PF), Malawian, Ugandan and South African exiles in the late 1960s and early 70s.
My last encounter with Mr Harry Tembo happened by accident one evening. The World Cup was for the first time being played on African soil so instead of watching the games alone in the house I decided to go out to join other soccer fans. As we watched one of the 2010 FIFA World Cup matches played in South Africa on television at a popular rendezvous along Nyerere Drive, the late Harry Tembo came over to where I was and greeted me in Nyanja, saying:
“Muli bwanji baba?” (How’re you Mr). Upon noticing that I did not have a glass of any particular drink – beverage, he said, “Simukuumwa masiku yano? (You’re not drinking these days?). Why? Are you Born-Again? Have one from me – at least one beer won’t kill you,” he said jokingly and burst into that unmistakable Tumbuka laughter that had a few heads in the bar turning because he was a man of the people.
Tembo then reminded me of an incident that took place at the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, which I had almost forgotten about. Apparently his wife, who was expecting at the time, had told him about how “kind and helpful” I had been to her while inside the airport as passengers travelling to different countries jostled for places in the teeming ORT International departure lounge.
I had landed at ORT International Airport in transit from Gaborone en-route to Ndola when I saw this elegant towering pregnant lady, literally struggling to push her baggage-laden trolley. I was travelling light; so I offered to help push the trolley as the queue inched its way toward the check-in counter.
“Where are you going?” I asked her when I came to sudden realisation we were both in the same queue and checking-in at the same airline counter. She said she was travelling to Lusaka from Gaborone and that she would be returning in a week’s time.
She was happily surprised when I told her ‘we must have then been on the same Air Botswana flight from Gaborone’, but, unlike her, I was proceeding to the Copperbelt.
“So you are a Zambian? I did not know; Mukabapase moni banthu (Greet everyone out there),” she said as a parting shot.
A few months after that Mrs Tembo gave birth to a healthy baby girl, which I did not know at the time until the proud father broke news as we watched the World Cup game in the inn that always reminded me of the good time I had with some Libyan students at the Angel tavern in Cardiff, South Wales.
“I must make arrangements so that you can come home to see the child you assisted even before it was born. My wife told me how helpful you had been; she was so thankful that she would definitely love to have you come over and see the child – she has grown; she is such a big girl now,” Harry Tembo said.
If the information came from a third-party narrator I would not have believed the story. Tembo told me that he and his brother, Christone Tembo, the former Zambia National Defence Force (ZNDF) commander and Chiluba’s vice president, were Malawians in the sense that their father came from Nyasaland many years ago.
However, they were born in Kabompo in North Western province where their father was posted by the colonial administration as a district police commanding officer. When the three-country Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was abolished and Northern Rhodesia became independent on October 24, 1964, nationals from Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi) were given the option of automatically becoming Zambians provided they renounced their original citizenship.
“My brother Christone Tembo, whom you should know because he was once commander of the Zambia Army and served as vice president to Chiluba, decided to become a Zambia but I chose to remain Malawian; so I am Malawian though from time to time I do go to Zambia,” he said.
Of course I had met Lt Gen Tembo once or twice during the Army Officers Annual Ball at Chindwin Barracks in Kabwe and Tag Argun Barracks in Ndola to which my first wife Clara Phiri and I were invited by my brother-by-marriage, retired Colonel Douglas Mbiya.
General Kingsley Chinkuli was the Commander of the Zambia Army at the time. Lt Gen Tembo entered politics upon his retirement, served the Movement for Multiparty for Democracy (MMD) administration as Vice President and formed his own party, the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) before he died (much earlier than his brother Harry) in Lusaka.
Looking in the distant past, I must confess I do not know how to make of all this. Good old Harry passed on, leaving me groping in darkness for that invitation –– an invitation to see the unborn child whose mother I had assisted at ORT – but an invitation that never came to fruition because the child’s dad died suddenly. Yes, life is meaningless; it’s all a chasing after the wind…
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