Cabinet has this week moved swiftly to make and approve amendments into the contentious newly proposed declaration of assets and liabilities law. This comes at the back drop of the ongoing hotly contested debate of the contentious Bill during/in this winter session of Parliament.
MP’s whom criticised and rejected the Bill especially from the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has raised concerns on the provision for all civil servants declaring their assets even drivers, cleaners and so forth; questioned the independence of DCEC from the Executive. They have also denounced the proposed law on the basis that it applies to office bearers who left the office less than 2 years after exit.
In addition, they query the declarations of assets bill as it makes provision for secrecy where the bill forces those whom the declarations are made to, to preserve the confidentiality of all information contained in such a declaration. The scope of the bill extends to senior government officials and parastatals chiefs, Dikgosi, Judges, magistrates, heads of private enterprises, MPs, councillors, spouses and dependent children.
Cabinet has agreed this week, pressurised by the ongoing parliament debates, to re look and amend some concerns including increasing the 2 years for those who left office to more than 5 years. Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Nonofo Molefhi confirmed to Weekend Post this week that as cabinet they have considered some of the inputs and will be considered before the law is passed.
He emphasised that certainly the law is work in progress. “Cabinet has already agreed on the amendments. It’s a done deal. We will now move these to the Committee stages,” Molefhi told Weekend Post on Friday. Government back steps inclusion of all public servants in the law. He further explained that the ones agreed by cabinet to amend include: to reduce scope of public servants – other than including all of them.
“We have to determine which ones we include and which ones we do not. We will robustly look at their definition. Public servants that would not be included then we will see how they will declare,” he said. Molefhi added that those with knowledge on the procurement arrangements; those who will cause risk one way or the other – will be excluded but covered by special provisions.
For example, he continued, there is an architecture or quantity surveyor who are not directly involved in tendering but are involved by virtue of where they work, so they have a knowledge of tenders and therefore can divulge such information to third parties to have an undue advantage. According to the Minister in the Office of the President (OP), cabinet has also approved to fix the definition of private enterprises with regard to Chief Executive Officers (CEO)’s as they also receive government money.
Government wants to protect privacy and confidentiality
When speaking on the secrecy of the law and why the information is not made explicitly to the media and members of the public, Molefhi said the proposed law had to balance the public interest specification and the right to confidentiality and privacy of other individuals. “The media or the public remain free to apply to the Director General of the DCEC on the information they want to source; why they want it and they purpose from which they will use it for,” he stated.
I ask myself, he highlighted: “will it be right for everyone to see who owes what and where, why other people’s debts should be exposed in such a manner? So we have to protect such data, as we know we have data protection Act.” According to Molefhi, the declaration of assets bill is not in isolation as it works with and complement other laws like the Financial Intelligence and Agency Act (FIA) which covers politically exposed persons; as well as laws like the Botswana Panel Code.
Minister overseeing DCEC believes it is independent
As a minister in the Office of the President where some oversight institution like DCEC, DIS, fall, the Selibe Phikwe East maintains that such bodies are wholly and very independent. “These body are independent, they only come to me when asking for funds or annual budget. Then it ends there. That’s the end of the story. I then, do not tell them what to do in their scope of work,” he stressed. The OP Minister continued: “I never issued a directive to DCEC or DIS on how they should carry their job and I have no reason to believe the President has not done the same. All is left in the DCEC Directors hands.”
Constitutional review on the cards; will make DCEC, DIS independent
According to the law maker, a holistic constitutional review process is on the way and all people are be free to state whether they want the organisations to report to parliament other that the OP and as such that can be considered. “So, some of these views suggesting that these oversight bodies are not purely independent are just political. Politicians implanted such views on the people.”
President Masisi says the law targets politicians and senior gov’t officials
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has recently told the 15th National Business Conference that the proposed law targets politicians and senior public officials. “It aims to root out corruption and would improve investor confidence and enhance transparency and accountability,” reports indicate. Reports further point out that the President said it was evident that some in the private sector also facilitated corruption by corrupting public officers.
Anti-corruption heads Masitara, Gaolatlhe denounces the Bill
Meanwhile former Gaborone West North, now Gaborone Bonnington North, legislator Robert Masitara has long denounced the declaration of assets and liabilities law saying “e siilwe ke nako” meaning that “it’s no longer relevant” and therefore that the Act will be a ‘useless’ tool in fighting corruption.
“Those who have declared their assets will still buy property with other people’s names in it. Then the assets will be sold and money goes back to the hands of those who previously declared,” he has always maintained. Another lawmaker who abhors corruption, Gaborone Bonnington South law maker Ndaba Gaolatlhe has recently told his party, Alliance for Progressives (AP) annual Policy declaration that the introduction of the bill as is will not bring any change to Botswana. “It will not cause our governance system to be cleaner. It will not discourage corruption,” the Gaborone Bonnington South highlighted.
He also hinted that the DCEC which the bill identifies as the administrator of the bill is “not independent enough” from the Executive to provide rigorous and unbiased assessments of potential wealth anomalies. On inclusion of all civil servants he said: “office bearers should be at a minimum include Members of Parliament, Members of the Judiciary, councillors, CEOs and other executives of Parastatals, Permanent Secretaries and key officers involved in procurement,” he concluded the policy statement.
Attorney general drafted the Declaration of Assets and liabilities Bill
When asked who specifically drafted the Bill which has been a subject of public scrutiny in the media, Molefhi said it is the Attorney General’s Chambers. “There is a drafting department at the office of the Attorney General. We just give the officers the parameters of the intended law. Then they draft it in the legal language, in Botswana’s style of drafting, in terms of language and vocabulary; and that sometimes the service is outsourced,” he said.
Ruling BDP to use MP numbers to pass the Bill with amendments
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are expected to use their numbers to smoothly pass the law with amendments as adopted by cabinet. “Of course discussions are still ongoing. MP’s are still debating the Bill. I am confident that bill will pass into law. There are really no key issues that can stop this.”
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.