President Lt Gen Ian Khama has explained why he will not rush to dismiss or suspend an official who is a subject of investigation or is faced with answering charges in a court of law.
In an interview tackling a wide range of issues with this publication on Friday, President Khama candidly opened up on his current and former ministers who had been subjects of investigation and or faced corruption charges. He said it is a subject that he has given thought to and ended up leaving it to an individual involved to make a decision. Along the way, the President said he has made certain observations.
MINISTERS AND CORRUPTION He said there have been three cases involving ministers and in all cases, it is either the charges were dropped or the cases dismissed. He said the principle of innocent until proven guilty should reign supreme because removing someone from their position on the basis of untested allegations has the potential to destroy careers and reputation. He pointed out that there was a case involving the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo in which he was ultimately cleared.
“The Minister was being accused of things that happened while he was still at the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), he was confident that he has not done anything wrong. I agreed with him that he is innocent until proven guilty. As we all he was ultimately acquitted.”
The President gave the example of another former Cabinet minister who quit his post following allegations of corruption and the charges were later dropped. He said the minister involved lost his job and his career was derailed. There was another case of corruption involving a minister and the matter was dropped again.
Khama said these precedents more or less support the notion that someone is innocent until proven guilty. He said there is no need to be quick to destroy people’s careers before allegations against them are tested.
Khama said this is the case with the Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi. He said there are allegations which were made against Kgosi and contact was made with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and indicated that they were investigating. The President said they are still waiting on the investigation from the DCEC. He said there is no reason to suspend or dismiss Kgosi on the basis of an investigation.
GENERAL VIEWS ON CORRUPTION The latest corruption index by Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa and is faring favourably on the international scene. Khama said it is unfortunate that there are those who downplay these ratings where as they cannot produce any proof to the effect that the rankings are wrong. He said corruption like any other crime is under surveillance in Botswana.
He said it matters what government is doing to fight corruption. He said Botswana has set up the DCEC, anti-corruption units in Ministries to reduce the opportunities of corruption finding room; agreed to have specialised judges to handle corruption cases; have a specialised team to handle corruption cases at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP); and there is also an Anti-Corruption Curriculum in schools. Khama said these are indications that his government is determined to fight corruption.
President Khama also weighed on the criticism that the corruption busting bodies only target “small fish”. He said under his watch he has seen ministers being charged and cleared by the courts. He said Ministers make declaration of assets to him in writing and he keeps the register. He said this helps to avoid conflict of interest.
The President also spoke on other issues ranging from party politics to government’s relationship with civil service unions.
OPPOSITION MP WALK OUT Although the President was not privy to the details as to what could have led to the walkout, he indicated that it is important for the opposition to appreciate democracy. He pointed out that as the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), they have a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and when it comes to voting those in minority will always come out second. He buttressed that they are determined to cooperate with the opposition parties to advance ideals that will “take Botswana forward”.
PUBLIC SERVICE UNIONS Asked whether the stance he took to heed the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) invitation to address their congress actually set the tone of his relationship with labour unions, the President indicated that “government has always been willing to work with unions.” He said they had only expressed misgivings about unions that adopt a political agenda.
He gave the example that one of the Federations (Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions) had taken a decision to support a particular party (the Umbrella for Democratic Change). Khama said as government they are of the view that unions should focus on the welfare of their members and advance their course in relation to their welfare. The President also responded to agitations that he has adopted a divide and rule attitude towards unions.
“I am not applying divide and rule, I was invited by BOPEU to come and address them at their congress. But I must point out that this does not necessarily mean that I will attend events of all the other unions because I have a schedule,” he said.
The President also indicated that he will be careful not to be invited to an event that could potentially turn into a shouting game. He said there is no way that he could be dividing unions, instead they have divided themselves. Khama’s view is that the unions are just too many; in most cases they duplicate the same duties of serving a similar constituency. He cited teachers’ unions as an example – “they have about three unions, if I recall,” he said.
He proposed that they could form one strong union representing all cadres. Under the current circumstances, Khama said unions are only dividing themselves.
He said unions must disengage from active politics to lay the foundation for constructive engagement with government. He said there is a new Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, a new Permanent Secretary to the President and a new Permanent Secretary – a good platform for new beginning.
Khama said government is more than willing to negotiate with unions, “not only at the Bargaining Council, we can also invite them here to engage more and take up our agreements with the Bargaining Council”. He cautioned against politicising unions, and further pointed out that there are union leaders who are using the platform to advance their political affiliations.
RELATIONSHIP WITH FORMER PRESIDENTS According to Khama, he tends to be amazed by some of the reports he sees in the media. “Sometimes, they write as if they are my eyes, ears and they are in my brain, they do not even ask us the material they write about.”
He said it is disturbing for untruths to be written about him and former Presidents like Dr Festus Mogae. He said he has served under Mogae as his Vice President and there is no way that he would not engage the former President, either formally or informally. He indicated that he has a good relationship with Mogae, “I have met several times this year,” he said.
Khama was quick to admit that there are opinions that Mogae can share with the public, “he may have views divergent from mine, but that does not mean that we are not in a good working relationship,” he said. He spoke out strongly against what he termed manufactured stories in the press and encouraged the media to focus on “sharing news and not untruths”.
POST ELECTION FEVER The President said he has the confidence that Batswana as a nation used to participating in elections, will revert back to their normal day to day business following political party campaigns. He acknowledged that politics has the potential to polarise a nation, but based on precedent, he said Batswana have always dealt with post-election period very well. “It is business as usual after elections. You should note that as a government we also do not rollout developments according to political lines,” said the President.
BDP CONGRESS: HOW INVOLVED WILL HE BE? Khama said like all the years, his interest will be to ensure that the process and the outcome do not divide the party. He said any event that has an election has the potential to divide. He pointed out that he is ready to work with whoever will be elected to govern the party.
He said in 2009, the BDP lost about six or more constituencies as a result of disgruntlement emanating from primary elections; therefore he does not want differences resulting from congress elections to divide the party. He said he has already observed that there is some ongoing posturing ahead of the congress and if the atmosphere gets toxic the leadership will step in to address it and restore order. He said as a party they want to manage their differences in an orderly fashion and avoid bickering.
Khama also clarified on the issue of Vice President assuming the role of chairman, he said the arrangement was never cast in stone. He gave examples that he did not become chairman for five years when he was Vice President and that former Vice President Mompati Merafhe was never chairman of the party. We had inquired if the loose arrangement shall hold under current Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi. Khama said the Vice President will look at his roles and determine if he wants to run for chairman. But in essence it is an open race.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.