Safe City, as a project, is a phenomenon, manifesting itself at two levels, one being the “Safe City”, which is being touted as the police’s program to reduce crime in neighbourhoods. This, it is plausibly argued, would assist both police and emergency services, the ability to understand the layout of the city, pinpoint the location of any incident that may need them, and dispatch assistance to that specific place. That is the story, peddled to the public, even to some unsuspecting members of the Botswana Police Service. The renaming of suburbs and streets in Gaborone, and later, other urban areas, would be part of that grand plan to solve this problem.
But Safe City according to those close to the deal, is something more sinister, it is a grand plan to put every part of urban Botswana under surveillance, preferably before the General Elections of 2019. It would entail putting together a surveillance system, with CCTV cameras on most of the major streets of the major areas of the country. While Phase 1 of the project entails renaming some suburbs and streets in Gaborone, the second part would include installation of surveillance systems in the said suburbs, putting up command centres to manage the information.
Insiders say the difference between an innocent traffic and petty crime observation system and an extensive surveillance system for listening in and recording is a major one. “With a simple traffic camera system you have largely CCTV-like cameras, they show you images, of course you can zoom in when you require,” said one source.
However, security organizations and the political leadership are more ambitious, they seek a surveillance system that can enable them to listen in and even record, audio and video.
The Safe City project was conceptualised in the Ministry of Justice and Security at least three years ago, only as an idea. The major role players in the project are the security forces and some members of the political leadership. This part of the project is said to be outside of the mandate of the civilian crime fighting organs such as Police and the Fire Departments. The Police remain a front without their knowledge.
Last year at a meeting held in Gaborone, hosted by the Botswana Police for security companies, the latter were asked to express their interest in the said tender. They were told that the project would entail installing high definition security cameras, internet linkages for the cameras, and command centers. Even this was just choreographed according to inside sources. A security company with connections to a former minister and a high ranking intelligence chief, had already been given the tender.
The Safe City tender came to prominence recently when businessman Monty Chiepe and his enstranged business partners in the security company, Noroc Technologies, Temo Tau and Frederick Mathibe, exchanged threats over a BDP tender the company won in the lead up to last year’s General Elections.
Noroc Technologies (PTY) Ltd, alongside Moon Stone Capital (PTY) Ltd and Defence Concepts (PTY) Ltd have all reportedly tendered for the lucrative project.
Noroc Technologies according to the Registrar of Companies Botswana is a company collectively owned by Temo Tau and Tau Moroka with shares at 90 percent and 10 percent respectively. It has entered into a partnership with Mer Systems, an Israeli based company which provides “turnkey safety, security and communications projects to governmental authorities, municipalities, military forces and private organizations throughout the world”, as cited by Mer System group official site.
The system integrator specializes in complex large-scale projects that require a high level of engineering and integration expertise, combined with outstanding operational and logistic capabilities. The merger is expected to tip the balance in favour of the Noroc Technologies, operating under the directorship of Robert Tlhagwane, Frederick Mathibe and Phenyo Fets.
Defence Concepts which has been embroiled in public scandals over tenders it won at the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) teamed up with Feather Brook, another Israeli based company.
On another hand, Moon Stone, also whistling for the tender acquisition will rub shoulders with Huawei: a global leader of ICT solutions. Official site highlighted that Huawei telecom network equipment, IT products and solutions, and smart devices are used in 170 countries and regions. Moon Stone capital, wholly owned by Moilwa Moswele who assumed the company shares transferred from previous shareholders Blocks IT Solutions (PTY) Ltd and Kalayamodimo Family Trust in March 2010 as indicated by the Registrar of Companies Botswana. As it appears, Moon Stone was trading as Blocks IT Solutions before the transactions were made. The company, which provides consultancy services on IT services, is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with extensive experience in the Botswana market.
Information from their website reveals that the supplier of software and hardware holds “Microsoft competencies in Volume Licensing, Server Platform, Management & Virtualization and Collaboration & Content”. Registrar of Companies disclosed that the company is directed by Kalayamotho Mercy who had shares previously, Tsotetsi Pretty, Gao Yuefi and Moilwa Moswele.
Botswana Telecommunication Corporations, on the verge of privatization has tendered its bid for the lucrative acquisition.
“When it is complete, it will be perfectly possible for security agents to be able to hear and watch any conversation unfold, in any major street in this country” warns an insider. The complete project will be implemented in stages, from Gaborone, to Francistown and then other major areas of Botswana.