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A Sidebar of Shame - Inventing corruption and letting the bad guys off the hook!

Social media erupted last week with five video recordings of Botswana Police Services (BPS) officers receiving monies amounting to nothing more than P400 each.

In a display of Orwellian power, sophisticated recording gadgets consistent with a professional spy setup were at work to expose what up to now remains unclear in motive and object. One wonders if this was internal anti-graft mechanisations of BPS or a brotherly organ in the security cluster taking up watchdog status. While there is evidence of money passing from one hand to another, what is not explicit is if this was a typical case of the scourge that is bribery.

Reactions to the recordings were of outrage with views ranging from the perceived despicable conduct of the officers to extreme condemnation of the inhumanity of deceptive filming. The videos seen thus far do not show the officers categorically soliciting bribes. The imprint left – the reckless nature by which the power to decide which is dangerous regardless of the genuine threat posed can be toyed with?

Bribery can be collusive or coercive. The media has repeatedly alleged that PSP Carter Morupisi as chair of BPOPF oversaw the contentious contract which to date sees the fund trying to recover P500 million from embattled CMB. Media reports also cite the purchase of a Land Cruiser for Morupisi’s wife by a CMB subsidiary. Media reports further allege CMB director Rapula Okaile has a longstanding relationship with the conflicted Morupisi. Proven true, these allegations of an official and giver of a bribe both benefitting at the cost of the public would typify collusive corruption.

Sometime in January 2019 a Johannesburg Metro Police Department officer was caught on camera asking for a R200 bribe from a driver pulled over for alleged drunken driving. The driver did inform the officer he was being filmed. When the common man is forced to give a bribe in return for something it is coercive corruption.

The police service is an area of society vulnerable to corruption as any other. Legislated anti-corruption units working with BPS must take strong measures to ensure that officers who are found to be corrupt face the full might of the law. However, the videos of last week fall short of spelling corrupt practices. The shame of the videos introduces another disgraceful element. Entrapment!

Wherein the idea was probably to show widespread bribery in BPS the video however promotes witchcraft consistent with jealous natives. The idea and intent of gifting money originates with the recording agent who additionally incites the officers to receive small change as he captures the acts on camera. Entrapment is when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime that they would otherwise have been unlikely to commit. If indeed there is a crime, the recording agent should equally be culpable as the officers. How do you charge the subject of an experiment and leave out the principal doing the test?

Those in support of entrapment argue that no matter how much meat government sticks in front of your nose and even have you open your mouth, it is the individual who chooses to bite. Whichever way one looks at it, the authorities or the rogue recording agent’s script  makes the five officers look like a danger to the serenity of good service.

The Botswana Police Act abhors corruption and has statutes in place to deter officers from accepting fees or rewards for any service performed in the course of duties. Commissioner Keabetswe

Makgophe has ably led BPS to success with the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) ranking Botswana as Africa’s best police service and 43rd in the world. The index measures the ability of the police to respond to present and future internal security challenges within domains of capacity, effectiveness, legitimacy and outcomes. The November 2017 WISPI reported with the IEP’s Positive Peace Report and Index placed Botswana amongst high peace ranking countries thanks to the commitment of Makgophe and team.

The BPS of today is deeply founded on solid shoulders of Adolf Hirschfeld, Norman Moleboge, Edwin Batshu and Thebeyame Tsimako to name a few. The sentiments of the incorruptible nature of public officers was best captured by South Africa Correctional Services Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla.

Speaking in December 2018, Makwetla said, “Civil servants in Botswana are so conscious of their duties. To think that you can corrupt them you’re going to struggle. That starts from the ordinary, democratic, law enforcement roadblocks. Whoever has paid a bribe at a roadblock in Botswana, could you please raise your hand? There is no one. Botswana Police are known to be like that”.

But in one arid afternoon, errant and exuberant carelessness has obliterated a world class service held in high esteem globally.

No one has claimed ownership of the sting operation. Flies on the wall allege the henchmen masquerading as the national intelligence to be behind the plot to discredit BPS. That would not be surprising. The DIS under Brigadier Fana Magosi has diminished in stature and purpose.

The elevation of Magosi sees a figure devoid of strategic leadership being tasked beyond his capabilities. Very much like the Deputy Permanent Secretary who defaulted to reading news, Magosi is comfortable in regressing to operations. Beyond being rudderless DIS clamours for operational relevance that the head takes pride in parading as a bodyguard. The absence of an independent police watchdog does not however abrogate powers of audit and investigation to another agency in the security cluster. Government security arms cannot function like that.

BPS has in the past successfully led in investigating and prosecuting their own. Many within the police service have argued that emphasis of protection is skewed towards the public more than officers on duty in cases ranging from brutality, false arrests, malicious prosecutions and extra judicial killings.

The five officers in question will most likely lose their jobs. Saddening though, is the energy to address a microscopic problem when millionaire corrupters sit comfortably in air conditioned offices in the government enclave. Botswana will send its spaceship to the moon before the money trail traceable to those in government enclave is found if ever. Society wants integrity. There are enough people doing criminal acts that do not require the culprits to be entrapped to make a case against them. For some the evidence is invisible money trails stuck in mortar and expensive wheels.

A public servant in a position of power is aided to sell their services, abuse their trust and steal people’s advancement to the detriment of plain citizens in need to survive. Nothing is done about it. Until someone owns up to this embarrassing episode, we will remain nothing but a country that seeks to invent corruption while letting the bad guys off the hook.

Let us pray for the mercy of humanity!

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