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.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.