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Declaration of Assets & Liabilities: non-negotiable tenets (Part 2)

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

Last week, we discussed what we refer to as the ‘non-negotiable tenets of a Declaration of Assets & Liabilities law’. This, obviously in view of the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill which has been the subject of heated debate in Parliament.

Just to remind ourselves, we identified those tenets as the ability to effectively combat the scourge of corruption; the ability to build integrity; and provision for effective codes of conduct, whose object is avoidance of corruption. The other are the provision for use of useful software to verify information declared; provision for the application of new training techniques to reach civil servants; and provision for conducting effective communication campaigns to foster transparency.

Not only that. Persons to whom declaration is made should be impartial; asset declaration information should be accessible to the public and there is need for passage of a law on Freedom of Access to Information. The other essential tenet is the target of a few officials with high levels of perceived risk in different areas of public administration and application and enforcement of appropriate and proportionate sanctions.    

As promised last week, this week, we critique the Bill against the aforesaid tenets, of course taking Botswana’s peculiar socio-economic and political circumstances into consideration. However, in doing so, we shall not lose sight of the fact that there are universal standards in respect of such law. First, the tenet that persons to whom declaration is made should be impartial. This is important because it will ensure that all are treated equally and fairly regardless of position, socio-economic status or political affiliation.

This is even more important considering the fact that there is a general feeling that some individuals, especially leaders of Opposition political parties, are often targeted by government through politically motivated investigations and charges. In our view, one of the most troubling aspects of the Bill is that declaration is to be made to the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It is common course that the independence of the Director General of the DCEC has always been an issue, with many arguing that the fact that he or she is appointed by the President, acting alone, makes him or her susceptible to influence by the President. This concern is not without basis. Section 4(1) of the Corruption & Economic Crime Act, Cap. 08:05 provides that “The President may appoint a Director on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.”

Being a politician, the President is unlikely to appoint a person whose political affiliation he does not know. So, the chances that the President would appoint someone sympathetic to his own political party are very high. In the unlikely event that the President exercises restraint and makes an apolitical appointment, the concern, which was raised by, among others, the Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Advocate Duma Boko, is that as per 4(1) of the Corruption & Economic Crime Act, Cap. 08:05,  such appointment is on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit.

What if such terms are as to favour him, his relatives, friends, members of his political party, etc? What if the terms are that he, for instance, cannot be the subject of any investigation by the DCEC? With specific reference to the Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill, what if the terms are such that the Director cannot take any action against him, his relatives, friends, members of his political party, etc if issues arise from their declarations?

It is for this reason that the call that declaration should start with the President himself disclosing the terms and conditions under which he appointed the DCEC Director are justified. No doubt, if the DCEC Director were appointed in an impartial manner, with checks and balances, and on terms and conditions determined by Parliament, for instance, he or she would be the most appropriate office to which declaration is made. But that is not the case.

So, because of this defect alone the Bill also fails another crucial test-the integrity test. Because of these two defects alone, the Bill will fail in its most important object- the ability to effectively combat the scourge of corruption. Second, the tenet that asset declaration information should be accessible to the public. International best practice has shown that one of the most effective ways to ensure this is passage of a law on Freedom of Access to Information.

Of course, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Honourable Nonofho Molefhi, is right in saying the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act will work in liaison with such other already existing laws as the Data Protection Act and the Financial Intelligence and Agency Act, but the Freedom of Access to Information Act is the best suited. Through the law on Freedom of Access to Information, individuals, the media and civil society are able to access public information, including on declaration of assets and liabilities.

Again, Honourable Molefhi is right in stating that, under the proposed Bill, the media or the public will be free to apply to the DCEC Director General on the information they want to source; why they want it and the purpose for which they will use it, but the reality is that such can not be effective if it is not done under the Freedom of Access to Information Act.

Of course, since like all information, information on one’s assets and liabilities, raises such issues as the right to privacy and dignity, such law is essential not only to allow access to information, but also to regulate how the information is used with respect to human rights and liberties. Thirdly, is the tenet regarding targeting a few officials with high levels of perceived risk in different areas of public administration.

Making too many public officials the subject of the declaration of assets and liabilities requirement can only make the task too onerous and costly, with the result that it becomes ineffective. It is in this regard that government has to be commended for agreeing to amend the Bill to reduce the classes of public officials who are subject to the declaration requirement.

I agree with the President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Honourable Ndaba Gaolatlhe’s view that office bearers should, at a minimum, include Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Judiciary, Councillors, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other executives of Parastatals, Permanent Secretaries and key officers involved in procurement. Cabinet also deserves commendation for agreeing to amend the definition of private enterprises with regard to CEOs as they also receive government money.

Cabinet also deserves commendation for agreeing to increase the years of applicability of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act to officials who left office from two (2) years to five (5) years. Next week, in last part of this series, we will compare Botswana’s Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill with that of selected countries, with examples taken from various continents, not just Africa.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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