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.”
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.