Former Ministers Ndelu Seretse and Peter Siele have joined the bandwagon and almost questioned the style of leadership of the current government.
The duo had this week, for the first time since becoming the ‘fall guys’ at the recent General Elections, took to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) anti-corruption Pitso podium their frustrations and objections of government’s shortcomings.
The Pitso, themed “Twenty years fighting corruption – the journey continues” has put together various DCEC stakeholders to deliberate on ways of assisting the organization to deliver its mandate and by extension assist the entire nation to curtail corruption.
The two ex-ministers have thrown down the gauntlet to incumbent leaders after consuming findings of the 2014 Afrobarometer study. The study found out that a majority of eight in 10 (81%) of Batswana think that government officials are involved in corruption, with just over half (51%) of Batswana saying that the level of corruption has increased over the past year.
In addition the study says a majority of over eight in 10 (84%) of Batswana want the President to appear before Parliament to account and there is two thirds (75%) support for a law on declaration of assets and liabilities by senior government officials, ministers, MPs and the president.
According to the seemingly provoked former minister of Local Government and Rural development (MLGRD), Siele, corruption figures from the study are worrisome and a cause for concern.
“The current leaders of the country should have been present in such gatherings – and particularly this one – so that they can listen to this informational study and introspect,” Siele said. Former leaders like statesmen, Sir Ketumile Masire, Festus Mogae and Ponatshego Kedikilwe have also made it routine to slate government though they have led and served in it in the yesteryears.
“Perceptions such as these derived from this study should be interrogated to see the extent to which they are real and true,” Siele said.
On his part, erstwhile Minister of Defence, Justice and Security (MoDJS) Ndelu Seretse, also called on the government to give the nation full explanation on the high corruption figures purported by the study. “Leadership should come to explain these figures so that we inform ourselves – and therefore move from perception (of the study) to reality.”
Local vs international research studies
In the DCEC Pitso deliberations, Dr. Gape Kaboyakgosi who is currently Senior Research Fellow at Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) also commented that there was a clear disjunction between Botswana’s local and international corruption rankings.
While the local Afrobarometer study implicated the crop of leaders in the country as generally corrupt, international research institutions like Transparency International’s corruption perception
index, continue to shower accolades to Botswana labelling it as least corrupt in Sub Saharan Africa.
This according to Dr. Kaboyakgosi and some in the gathering, raises eyebrows on the methodologies and type of interviewees engaged for both research studies.
Government systems need to be overhauled
Meanwhile ex-Member of Parliament (MP), Robert Masitara had a presentation in which he decried “poor government systems” that have swamped the administration of the country.
In his presentation Masitara declared that “we need to overhaul all government systems including accounting and record methods to put things in order and most importantly to easily detect any wrongdoing especially amounting to corruption.”
Adding up to Masitara’s chorus in the comments session, Director in the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Ruth Maphorisa reminded participants to “avoid finger pointing at the alleged corrupt heads but instead also look at and talk to the system to see whether it serves us well or not.”
Maphorisa who has literally served government for donkey years expressed reservations at the government system which she suggested although not explicit,that might be powering such shady undertakings as well.
“We should look at our system and whether it serves us well with regard to corruption,” she warned the packed gallery comprising of former and current ministers, legislators, councilors, leaders in the private sector and parastatals as well as other stakeholders and the general public.
She almost conceded that the government systems leave a lot to be desired.
Parliament should have integrity to pass well researched laws
Meanwhile, in the rough-and-the-tumble-world of the countryside where top politicians and high ranking government officials bark worse than their bite with regard to corruption, Masitara chose to be a lone voice in scorning corruption and further at times threatening to spill the beans by naming-and-shaming corrupt leaders.
The ex- Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MP for Gaborone West North now dubbed Gaborone Bonnington North is notorious for his signature loathe for corruption that spans from his stint in parliament.
In his presentation the candid and outspoken ex-legislator said parliament should have the integrity to pass laws that have been well researched.
He commended the current parliamentarians for passing corruption busting legislations such as the Counterterrorism Act and Financial Intelligence and Agency Act.
Meanwhile keynote speaker, Assistant Minister at the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele told the assembly that the whistle blowing bill which stopped at the second reading in the last sitting of parliament is likely to be completed during this current sitting of parliament.
In addition, while a bill on declaration of assets is being drafted at the Attorney General’s Chambers and also expected to enhance the fight against corruption, Masitara believes that the Act, “e siilwe ke nako” meaning that “it’s no longer relevant”saying the Act will be a ‘useless’ tool in fighting corruption.
“Those who have declared their assets will still buy property with other people’s names in it. Then the assets will be sold and money goes back to the hands of those who previously declared.” In terms of the much anticipated Freedom of Information Act (FOI), he said the law will also be pointless arguing that what is more crucial is the Data Protection Act (DPA). “FOI Act is a subset of DPA mathematically. The best you can do is fuss FOI Act into DPA,” he added.
DCEC needs to carry lifestyle audits
According to the debatable former philanthropist under the Masitara foundation, “what we need in our country is lifestyle audits.” The audits, he highlighted should be done by constituted institutions like DCEC.
It will force us to declare our incomes, liabilities etc and failure to justify then the assets will be fully confiscated by government. New ministry of Governance of Oversight needed
Masitara said DCEC needs to be properly independent from government and a new ministry of Governance and Oversight be created. He said, DCEC will have to report administratively to the new ministry. Functionally, they must go outside the ambit of the ministry to parliament or the president, he said.
The business kingpin believes that if the (new ministry) is given more powers and responsibilities it naturally shall equate to being accountable. He added that parallel investigations by DCEC and parliament select committee will become things of the past. Other issues
In other matters, the former legislator cautioned against tendering processes which are frequently being flouted and also regional bodies like Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) tribunal which he says has failed due to big brother mentality of some countries adding that the International Criminal Court (ICC) must as well equate grand corruption to crimes against humanity.
Masitara further warned Financial Intelligence Agency that internal audits are not supposed to be under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). “With regard to board members in multiple organisations, this needs to stop,” he warned.
“We are also going to go back and trace how some people in the country ended up having around 900 plots. How is that possible, I mean even if one has money and may have bought the plots, they have to be thoroughly investigated,” he said to a deafening silence in the room.
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.