Welcome to Botswana: Africa's newest lootocracy!

In its 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, Berlin based Transparency International listed Zimbabwe as more corrupt than Kenya and Nigeria. Reacting angrily to Zimbabwe’s 157 rank against Nigeria placed at 144th out of 175 countries, President Robert Mugabe asked, when addressing military chiefs during his 90th birthday celebrations in March 2014, ‘Are we now like Kenya and Nigeria where you have to reach into your pocket to get anything done?’

The veteran leader’s comments were roundly condemned as vitriolic and denigrating forcing Nigeria to summon Zimbabwean diplomat Stanley Kanjeku to lodge the ‘strongest protest’. Permanent Secretary in Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Dr Martin Uhomoibhi wrote, ‘Not only does it not reflect the reality in our country, but to come from a sitting president of a brotherly country is most unkind and very dishonourable’.

There was no response from 136th placed Kenya to Harare, the head of public service instead choosing to scold 18 Nairobi based ambassadors for declaring that, ‘corruption was undermining Kenya’s future’ and offering assistance to combat corruption. President Uhuru Kenyatta accused the diplomats of libel, disrespect and knee-jerk racism.

This is an African phenomena – those tasked with combatting societal ills implore the assistance of state, security and prosecutions agents to discredit alarmists while their countries perish under a horrible plague of graft.

The quest for damning legacies in infectious corruption of institutions and individuals has landed in Botswana. Gaborone has joined the elite rogue’s gallery of grand thievery. Despite glowing ratings this shining example excels in subverting means to curtail graft and sweeping corruption under the carpet. We are untethered from morality.

Leading the onslaught is Office of the President (OP). This leaven of principle is called on to engage in civility and be a guiding beacon for all officials in honourable service to the common good of the country. But, according to media reports, the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) has fallen to the worship of money.

Historically presidents ascended to office with their choice of PSP. Presidents Ian Khama and Mokgweetsi Masisi inherited PSP’s from predecessors. When Hon Eric Molale went to Parliament, head of Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) Carter Morupisi, a man tainted by dismal leadership in public service was appointed as PSP.

The position of PSP is nothing but an overly celebrated bogey man. Legislatively, constitutionally and legally speaking it does not exist in laws of Botswana as observed by Justice Michael Mothobi in the late Ombudsman Ofentse Lepodise’s case. For the amount of assumed power that this office wields, it is not legislated as the Attorney General, Ombudsman, Auditor General and Director of Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC). Even the henchman masquerading as head of the national intelligence is legislated albeit inadequately.

Legally speaking, PSP is not the head of DPSM. The public sector is headed by the Director of DPSM. Permanent Secretaries (PS) are legislated under Section 52 of the Constitution. These are technocrats who rank above departmental directors and supervise Ministries. PS’s do not brandish power. The basis of other unchecked powers conferred on the PSP and exercised extraordinarily therefore remains unknown and can only be allowed by the President.

In 2015 Morupisi was appointed Chair of the Botswana Public Officer’s Pension Fund (BPOPF). This added to other appointments into the Judicial Services Commission; as government representative within the Board of mining giant Debswana; as well as long standing arrangement of PSP as Secretary of Cabinet, a role legislated in Section 46 of the Constitution. These roles come with absolute power. In an unchecked environment, that power went onto display in self-promotion and money grabbing.

Media reports allege a portion of BPOPF’s missing millions was spent on a vehicle purchased for Morupisi’s wife. This comes in a matter in which the fund is trying to recover P500 million from investment entity Capital Management Botswana (CMB). According to media houses, Morupisi denied a conflict of interest ridden relationship with CMB Director Rapula Okaile only for investigations to expose a complex web linking back to the PSP.

The CMB scandal with its associated allegations of Morupisi’s fingers in the pension coffers and the widely reported National Petroleum Fund (NPF) expose a new and unparalleled nature of human greed dogging Botswana’s affairs. Elitism draped in ‘it’s our time to eat’ mentality marches like Siamese twins in this spectacular accumulation of graft. Could they be more skeletons?

Kenya can be credited with the political will to fight corruption. Amongst many examples, in 2015 Anne Waiguru stepped down from her cabinet position following pressure from the public, opposition and strangely enough her own ruling party Jubilee Alliance. Ghost companies and inflated payments saw $78 million eaten at National Youth Service. Wiaguru initially denied the allegations and the money going missing.

OP however is unable to determine right from wrong on the allegations surrounding Morupisi. Before society could determine authenticity of an audio clip supposedly carrying the voice of Dr Collie Monkge, the old timer was shown the door. Action was swift when allegations of insubordination by former spy chief Isaac Kgosi surfaced. Just when we thought OP had suddenly arisen with people for whom truth, political honour, ethics and integrity meant something, we are left to ponder on the double standards. Those who eat with impunity are never convicted – that is the message to the public service.

It should be noted that Morupisi remains innocent. But, there is a prima facie case of which its reasonable suspicion should warrant due diligence. Public confidence of the civil service and the integrity of the Presidency are at stake. It is untidy to retain such an individual.

Do we have to reach into our pockets to get things done? Corruption is a cancer that slowly eats away at the moral fabric of society and denies it of any development. This handicap will make the poor poorer and only a few richer. Left unchecked, thieves will steal us out of the map of the world.

This may be the greatest shame of a shameful time. In truth, we have arrived! We are a lootocracy – with the origins of graft sitting right at the top!

Editor's Comment
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