Former Gaborone North West legislator, Robert Masitara this week revealed his intention to take head on, incumbent Mokgweetsi Masisi and cabinet minister, Nonofo Molefhi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairmanship bid at the July Congress because he harbours a strong ambition of being the country’s next president.
The businessman-cum-philanthropist told this publication in an exclusive interview at his home this week that he has taken the decision to run for chairmanship and also the presidency of the party in order to carry on the legacy of President Ian Khama and also fight corruption in government departments and public enterprises.
He said he should be elected to the party top post because unlike Masisi and Molefhi, he is the only chairmanship candidate who does not belong to any faction because it is necessary to have a united BDP in 2019. “After what President Khama [Ian] has done for this country in terms of coming up with initiatives and internal control systems, I think I am the only person with the expertise to take over reins to sustain his legacy,” he said.
“I will be tapping on what Khama has done and taking it further. Every country has internal control systems and there is a need to look at them. We need someone well versed with issues of corruption, maladministration, nepotism and all sorts of manifestation of corruption,” he boasted. Masitara who has been alleging that government departments and parastatals are infested with corruption has however praised Khama’s fight for corruption noting that most of the corruption did not emanate during Khama’s presidency.
“They have long been there during the previous administrations. We are starting to feel the effects of decisions which were made 10 or 15 years ago,” he argued. “I recently told a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) workshop that most of the problems that we are facing now including those of Air Botswana, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and others are results of decision which were made years ago before Khama became the president. We are only starting to feel the effects now.”
Masitara is of the view that most of the laws relating to institutions like DCEC, Financial Intelligence Agency, Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS) need to be recalled and taken back to parliament to be strengthened. “Now we have other manifestations of corruption which are not covered by our DCEC Act. DCEC should be equipped with vast expertise and equipment. There is likelihood in any organisation that people can be corrupted. People holding investigative powers can be corrupted. We have to make sure that these people they investigative equitably and fairly without skewing investigation because of other influences of corruption.”
Masitara revealed part of his ambition to become president is motivated by desire to uproot rot within government and parastatals. “We can only solve issues of corruption if we solve greed. We should start with elements of greed because they are precipitates for corruption. As long as we have got human elements, we will always have those characters,” he noted.
“We can solve greed by having internal controls, life skills audits within government. Some people are misplaced. They are not supposed to be where they are because they have got no expertise and experience. But through nepotism, a form of corruption they have been hired. We need skills audit in all parastatals.”
He said there is nowhere government machinery can be expected to be effective if it is led by people who are not qualified for the positions they are holding. He further contended that many ascended to those posts because of nepotism ahead of deserving individuals who can do the job better. Among the proposed reforms by Masitara is establishing a BDP committee at which quasi-government institutions will be hauled before the committee to account for financial use and their operations.
“We need to do this as a party because people are there for themselves, not to serve. BDP should start debating policies that shape government. We are people who are at the helm of government and we should own these initiatives,” he said. Masitara said corruption is the biggest threat to the country’s economic and socio progress given that fact that all other factors of progress hang on the government’s ability to have a clean and effective government.
“Issue of corruption is at the nucleus. You look at government like a matrix. Issues of unemployment will come in, issues of diversification will come. All of them hang on the ability to fight corruption,” he said Masitara further mentioned that a perfect example is the tertiary education sector where government continue to pump money year-in-year out on unaccredited courses because there are people who are benefiting from such arrangements, but government is losing big time.
“Students are graduating from schools which do not offer quality accredited courses but government continue to pump money into these institutions. Students are being taught by teachers who are not qualified, at the end of the day graduates cannot fit within the bucket because they were not trained properly,” he said.
Policy makers must use Schools, Hospitals
Masitara said one of the injustices facing the citizenship is being given poor services by the very same people whom they have chosen to govern their affairs. He said it is necessary through a piece of legislation for policy makers to use public services like schools and hospitals.
“I once stood up in parliament, it is captured even in the hansard, and said the reason why public schools are performing badly is because our (leaders) children do not attend public schools. If the laws could be passed forcing us to take our children to these schools; forcing us to use public clinics and hospitals, we will learn that things are not right, things will change drastically,” he contended. He said public schools are in a dire state because majority of the people who lead institutions are for themselves and are not committed to delivering quality services for the benefit of the ordinary citizens.
On parastatals and funding institutions
The biggest problem facing parastatals is placing of unqualified people at the helm, as well as greed and corruption, Masitara observed. He insists that the mandates of these institutions are clear but people at the helm are serving their interests. “Instead of them bringing investors for the benefit of the country, people go there to position themselves. We need to have people with the right calibre and who are qualified,” he contended.
“When I applied funding for my forensic investigation company, I got my application rejected. Because they didn’t understand the business, they said it was not feasible. That is the problem, I had to appeal. Now the company has multi-million contracts with big organisations. South Africans are also running around establishing the same business,” Masitara stated and added that, “That is the calibre of the people who sit behind the tables. We need people who are more versed with business and versed with business evaluation. Most of youth bring good ideas; they get rejected because the officers do not understand these ideas.”
Masitara said with his background as a businessman he will lead a new generation of young entrepreneurs with sustainable ideas. He said it is necessary for government to provide proper mentoring and serious partnership with youth owned companies.
Land ownership is a time ticking bomb
The former legislator has warned that one day, the country will go up in smoke if nothing is done to rectify land allocation in urban and semi-urban areas. “One day the young people will riot and take by force land which is possessed by certain people. We cannot afford to have one person owning 300 plots in Gaborone regardless he has the money and the resources. The system should cut him off.”
“Free market economy or laissez faire does not preclude us from coming up with our own laws to guard against issues of exploitation. Even if free market tells if you have money you can buy, the system should cut you off. Otherwise the money which is being laundered can be brought here to capture the whole government.”
Investigation of the politically exposed
Masitara said people will be shocked about how people who are politically exposed amassed their wealth at the detriment of the ordinary people. He said while the Declaration of Assets law is a good thing, Lifestyle Audit law is more important because it can unearth all rot because people will be forced to explain how they accumulated their wealth against their income.
“With declaration of assets, people can hide behind relatives and other people you cannot suspect such as their drivers and their maids. With the lifestyle audit there is nowhere to run to,” he said. “Politically exposed persons should be the subjects of lifestyle audit. Anyone who has political exposure can benefit wrongly from corruption activities; CEOs, ambassadors, Permanent Secretaries, Bank CEOs, MPs, Ministers and everyone who fit among that category.”
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.