Connect with us
Advertisement

Let’s create a robust national integrity system for Botswana

AUGUSTINE N. MAKGONATSOTLHE

In the past ten years Botswana has experienced a steady decline in its governance standards.  A corruption perception report by Transparency International shows a slip from 2008 to 2017.  Botswana is now fifth in the Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance in Africa, down from second in 2014.  The country has also shown a decline in some governance indicators by other international rating agencies.  This state of affairs should neither surprise nor shock us but rather make us take stock and re-assess the governance situation in our country.

We are constantly, on a daily basis, confronted with reports in the print and social media of serious allegations of corruption, impropriety and abuse of office by individuals in positions of authority and power.  These reports are met with disbelief as nothing is seemingly done against the alleged perpetrators.  On the face of it, only a few of those alleged to have committed these misdemeanors are thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and/or convicted.  Investigations into these alleged transgressions go on forever with no prosecution and/or conviction in sight.  

Members of the public are up in arms, accusing those who are mandated by law to investigate and prosecute these individuals of ineptitude, bias, toothlessness and outright “capture” by political and business interests.  Members of the public are asking questions such as: why is it that none of the “big men” who are alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices are prosecuted and convicted? 

why is it that our leaders, at every public gathering, make solemn platitudes about their commitment to fight corruption, impropriety and abuse of office, but no serious action is taken?  Why is it that we see “petty criminals” being paraded on Btv daily, accused of petty theft, stock theft, possession of marijuana, etc and not the “big men” who are alleged to have stolen public servants pensions, looting of NPF and funds allocated to poverty alleviation? Are the institutions mandated to fight corruption and malfeasance not working against the interests of the people by protecting these alleged criminals?  

When ordinary people ask the above questions, you realize how low the level of trust and confidence they have in our institutions.  Therefore, if correct measures are not urgently put in place to address the public’s lack of trust and confidence in our institutions our democracy, governance and the rule of law are in serious danger.

In order to address the above concerns of our people it is time for us to reassess the checks and balances that we have put in place to limit situations in which corruption, impropriety, conflict of interest and abuse of office may thrive and have a negative impact on our society.  By re-assessing our institutions, systems and procedures that are meant to safeguard our society against these social ills, we endeavor to come up with better and more sophisticated institutions to fight corruption, maladministration and abuse of office.  The fight against corruption cannot be the sole preserve of anti-corruption agencies alone, but needs active collaboration between government, the private sector, civil society and all other sectors of society.  

Experience demonstrates that no single approach to curbing corruption is likely to be effective.  A range of strategies, working together in an integrated fashion, is more likely to bear success.  These strategies must include measures that reduce the opportunity for and benefit of corruption, increase the likelihood of detection and punishment of transgressors.  First, appropriate administrative, financial and economic reforms can minimize the opportunities of corruption and secondly, building capacity to strengthen the institutions, i.e the media, parliament, watchdog agencies and the judiciary, amongst others, would raise public awareness about corrupt behavior and its costs and/or investigate and punish incidences of bad behavior.

The above measures are designed as part of a national effort to reduce corruption in the public sector and they constitute what is normally referred to as national integrity system.  The national integrity system creates a system of checks and balances that limit situations in which conflicts of interest and inappropriate behaviour may arise and involves both prevention and penalty.  This integrity system is anchored on the following eight pillars: political will, administrative reforms, watchdog agencies, parliament, the judiciary, public awareness and involvement, the media and the public sector.

There has to be a political will to stamp out corruption and prevent its manifestation. Successful anti-corruption initiatives require a visionary leader, or “champion” who recognizes the high cost of corruption on the economy and the well-being of citizens.  Mere platitudes about the fight against corruption are not enough but more concrete action is absolutely necessary.  Creating popular opposition to corruption is a function of the political leadership’s willingness to make corruption an issue and ensure that incidences of corruption are fully investigated and perpetrators prosecuted irrespective of their positions in society.

Legal and administrative measures should be put in place to minimize corruption within the public service.  Good administrative practices and regulations governing conflict of interest in the public service are directed at maintaining an administrative system that protects public decision making process. Curbing corruption requires a clear ethical commitment by political leaders and senior public officials.  This is usually achieved by the establishment of a public sector code of ethics which sets out the ethics that should guide those in management and leadership positions.  The code acts as a reminder to public officials of their responsibilities to the public.

The adoption and implementation of Leadership Ethical Codes ensures that leaders account for their unethical conduct.  These leadership codes have been put to good use in a number of countries e.g Republic of South Africa and Rwanda, to enforce integrity and accountability in public administration. It is also common nowadays to require all persons in position of authority/influence to periodically declare their income, assets and liabilities to maintain integrity in the public sector.  In this respect, the long awaited law on the declaration of assets in this country is well overdue.

Watchdog agencies such as the DCEC, Ombudsman, and the Office of the Auditor General should be adequately resourced and afforded the space to execute their mandates without fear, favour or prejudice.  By exercising oversight on the executive branch, a function that they perform on behalf of the legislature, these institutions reinforce transparency, accountability and financial integrity in the public sector.  For these institutions to perform optimally, they should also enjoy some form of arms-length or independent relationship with the government and not be part of the public service.

Parliament should be afforded the necessary space to fully exercise its oversight role on the executive arm of government.  Parliament exercises an oversight role on the executive branch of government in the development and implementation of legislation, policies and programs.  Therefore, the executive arm of government should guarantee the independence of Parliament and respect the legitimate role of the opposition in Parliament.  Moreover, Parliament and its committees should be adequately resourced and supported with independent professional staff and not be made to rely on government officials.

The judiciary must insist on high ethical standards within its own ranks and jealously guard against the erosion of its independence and integrity.  The public must be confident that Judges are chosen solely on merit and for their individual ability and integrity. Allegations of impropriety, corruption or abuse of office against a sitting Judge has not only a damaging effect on the independence and integrity of the particular Judge, but also the entire judicial system. A judiciary that is not itself corrupt makes it possible to successfully prosecute corrupt officials. Therefore, it is imperative that both legal and administrative measures are put in place to speedily address issues of corruption and ethical lapses as and when they occur within the judiciary.

Public awareness and involvement of ordinary citizens is very critical in the fight against these social ills.  It is of utmost importance to enlist the support and cooperation of civil society and the general public in the fight against corruption.  They can play a useful role in developing and strengthening ethics and practice in the public sector; reducing public tolerance of corruption; making the unaccountably rich into figures of contempt rather than role models and encouraging citizens to actively report and provide evidence of corruption whenever it occurs. 

Many civil society organizations have a fundamental interest in achieving effective integrity system in our society.  There are principled individuals in business and the professions, religious leaders, the press and, most importantly, ordinary citizens who have to bear the brunt of corruption on a daily basis.

The media is a very important watchdog and a useful tool in the fight against corruption.  Through balanced and responsible reporting by journalists, a culture of freedom of the press develops, and this culture is the guarantor of the ability of the free press to be a watchdog against abuse by public officials.  

Effective freedom of information laws are required to guard against the executive branch of government concealing corruption, maladministration, incompetence and waste by doing things in secrecy. It is therefore, of utmost importance that the long awaited Freedom of Information law be passed by our Parliament as a matter of urgency.

The private sector is a critical partner in the fight against corruption.  In the private sector, professional bodies such as legal, accounting and engineering associations and organizations should insist on the observance of laid down procedures of public procurement and high standards of ethical conduct from their members. These eight pillars are interdependent and when working together in harmony create a robust national integrity system, an effective tool for curbing corruption, maladministration, and abuse of power in the public sector.  

The perception by members of the public that nothing is being done to curb corruption is a matter that should be seriously addressed as it has a serious effect of eroding the trust and confidence of the people in our institutions and government’s commitment to fight corruption.  A lack of trust and confidence by the people in our institutions and systems undermines and even destroys political stability. Therefore, we should continuously re-assess and recalibrate our system of checks and balances to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.

In addressing this matter, our strategies should be anchored on the eight pillars which should be embedded in appropriate and sound financial and economic reforms.

Augustine N. Makgonatsotlhe is Botswana’s OMBUDSMAN

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

Continue Reading

Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading