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DCEC new chief lays down sweeping reforms

Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Director General Victor Bruno Paledi has laid down sweeping reforms for his agency.

Paledi ascended to DCEC as Director on 1st September 2017 following the departure of erstwhile boss Rose Seretse to the newly formed Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) also as its head. When speaking to WeekendPost on the sidelines of the Botswana’s second review cycle of United Nations Convention against Corruption, organized by the DCEC, Paledi hinted on his reforms that will transform the corruption busting agency.

“As you know, when someone gets into office they have their own strategy; have strategic plan and know the critical things that you want to focus on. And therefore my main focus will be prevention. Investigations will not be the backbone of my agenda. Priority will be prevention. But of course investigations will also be done as its part and parcel of the system,” he told this publication.

According to Paledi, he will focus much on crime prevention for a very simple reason being that cases involving millions of pula drag too long at the courts spanning close to 10 years, and on the way witnesses may die out of natural causes, and some might resign from their jobs, so they (investigations) can really get difficult. He emphasised that “you can’t really base your strategy on investigation. Investigation is reactive. It comes after the corruption has already been done.”

In a carefully calculated manner and to avoid being misconstrued, the former Deputy Commissioner of Botswana Police Service (operations) stressed that but he is not saying they will not do investigations at all.But rather that “investigations are necessary although we know it takes time and need a lot of money but we will still do it nonetheless. And when we do them we must do it to the best of our abilities. We need people who are highly trained and skilled to do it. But it will not be number one priority for us.”

DCEC Director General says DCEC is independent

Paledi also pointed out that another critical thing that he really wants the DCEC to be is that it should be highly professional and that it should also be a very independent organisation which is reputable internationally. However he was quick to highlight that “it’s not to suggest that we are not independent because independence is a function of the mind.”

He continued: “Independence is in the mind. It’s a function of the mind. There is no institution that can hand it over to you on silver platter. What you think and how ethical you are defines independence. I may give you the powers to do something and you may not realize that you are independent if you don’t know what it really entails.”

The maverick DCEC Director General explained that when the agency accounts to the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and public Administration, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is not independent but rather that it is using public funds and that they have to account for them to someone of higher-ranking.

“So, still in this predicament even if I investigate cases of people that are senior to me, I need not bow down to their seniority. And it would have been not them who told me to bow down. I need to go out to them and do my job. If anything I maybe get fired and that’s okay as you will all know why I was fired in that case. So this is the independence am referring to,” he emphasised.

Paledi, who started his career as a teacher, also said it’s very difficult to say whether he is comfortable or not for DCEC to continue reporting to the Minister instead of parliament because reporting to the minister to him does not necessary compromise his operations anyhow.  

“But I don’t know if someone comes into my position how he will react as they may look at it differently.” He added: “I can still report to parliament and still feel am not free depending on the constitution of parliament. As you know the ruling party may still be there to keep the status quo at DCEC.”

Paledi says DCEC remains powerful, does not even fear DIS

According to Paledi, DCEC is a big institution, very well resourced, consisting of lawyers, engineers, and he doesn’t know what other people mean that DCEC fears the DIS or anyone for that matter. This is in light of utterances by ex Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang who revealed to Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently when appearing before it that DCEC, including cabinet ministers and the public, fear Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

But Paledi differs with Kebonang: “the one who said that is dim-witted. He should unpack what they mean by this because as DCEC we go out for everyone equally. So whoever says that maybe just did out of frustration.”
Another independent thinker who has criticized the DCEC describing it as “useless” is Kgosi Ngakaagae, a renowned attorney who is representing Bakang Seretse in a marathon case involving 250 million diverted from the National Petroleum Fund to DISS.

Ngakaagae had said about DCEC: “this is a hopeless department that does not fight corruption but that protects it.  This simple act of selective charging is in its self an act of corruption by DCEC. You have to understand that. That is stupid on the part of the DCEC. They are crying because we are asking why Kgosi is not prosecuted. That is the nonsense they are crying for and it is really regrettable just because when we ask if our clients are guilty why are particular people not prosecuted, and then all you get is harassment in turn of our clients by the DCEC.”  

He also stated on record that “I have to mention that this (DCEC) is a department of cowards. They are impotent they are hopeless. They tremble at power and they feed on the meek that is the DCEC for you. You can’t tremble at power when you are an investigative authority and then feed on the meek, chasing people accused of stealing P200 and those owing traffic fines and then bang P250 million is gone and what do you do; you can’t look at power in the eyes and say account.”

In light of Ngakaagae statements on DCEC, when defending the organ, Paledi stated that the DCEC is competent. “DCEC is not incompetent. Those who say it is are just frustrated. Investigations take long and it is by their nature.” Ngakaagae said this because he wants DCEC to also charge DISS former Director Isaac Kgosi as he is implicated in the matter before the courts as documents indicate he authorized the imbursement of funds from NPF to DISS.

However when quizzed about if indeed they fear(ed) Kgosi and DISS, Paledi would not venture into that discussion including whether they would later investigate Kgosi or not. Instead he said, that he (Kgosi) was fired this week was news to his ear and that he was constrained to talk about it as there is a matter before the courts that would deal with such matters.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that Paledi was at one point accused of conniving with DIS Director General, Kgosi to release DIS agents who were arrested with suspected poached elephant tusks while he (Paledi) was acting Commissioner of Police.
The Sunday Standard newspaper reported then that one Mosetse was deployed by the Office of the President to head Operation Save Isaac Kgosi who it was believed then that he would be brought in to lead the DCEC as part of a strategy to kill DISS boss’ corruption case.

Paledi explained that corruption cases are complicated because the perpetrators are mainly people in power and highly intelligent people. These are scientists, mathematicians, lawyers, politicians and they know all the tricks, he justified.
According to the former Police Officer, the perpetrators even review, amongst them what might happen if they are caught and go to court and their defense, and that is why, when you go to court you spend a lot of time on technical issues and that’s why it takes a lot of time.

Paledi also added that he wants DCEC to move away from being shrouded in secrecy stressing that it should rather be easily accessible. He also said “that Botswana is regarded as the least corrupt in Africa is a challenge to me because it means that if it is so am in big trouble should it slide under my watch.”Paledi is the fourth Director General to lead the corruption busting agency after Tymon Katlholo and most recently Rose Seretse.

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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