I was reading former FBI Director, James Comey’s Book, “A Higher Loyalty”, the other day. He makes reference to an encounter with one of the most dangerous mafia he had gone to interview at a safe house in Italy and how ordinary the man looked.
The man even cooked him a hearty meal. He makes the point that evil doesn’t have a unique face and often presents itself in very good ways. After the culinary treat at the hands of this heartless murderer, he had to accept one fact – “evil cooks good pasta”.
Over the past week, the nation was embroiled in brouhaha over supposed corruption between the Masisi administration and a company called Khato Civils (Pty) Ltd (hereinafter Khato Civils). Khato Civils is a black-owned multi national company with a project footprint spanning Africa’s landmass. The company’s owner is a man of Botswana and Malawi ancestry. If you understand the ancestry of the one-time presidential hopeful, Dr. Venson-Moitoi, you understand the ancestry of the man behind Khato Civils, Simbi Phiri. That is how close or how far he is from Botswana.
Not so long ago, Khato Civils were locked in a battle with the Director of Public Prosecutions over money laundering allegations. Millions of Pulas belonging to the company were frozen. The matter went to court, and just as in the Kgori Capital matter that I discussed in last week’s column, it was all noise and no thunder. In fact, it was all noise and nonsense. The company was fully absolved. As it turned out, there had never been any genuine basis for suspecting money laundering. The amounts were well within the company’s financial strength, and the evidence supported that finding.
But why? Why attack and scandalise an innocent company in the absence of evidence? Why do it so many times? And why, Khato Civils? When news broke out last week that Parliament had voted against funding a project Khato Civils have been contracted by the government to undertake, many celebrated. The objecting members of Parliament became heroes overnight. To them, the contract had all the hallmarks of corruption.
The current administration’s pretences, it was suggested, had been busted. Its attempt to hijack the fiscus and to fund its electoral campaign, it was contended, had been thwarted. Well, for the opposition, the truth mattered less. The tender issue was an electoral issue. To the undiscerning, such news could not have come at a better time. The nation was reeling from unprecedented rapine and the suggestion that a tender heist in the neighbourhood of a billion Pula had been thwarted, was bound to be accepted uncritically.
I have litigated tender wars before. I know the rivalry playing out in that sector. After a moment of intense reflection on available facts, I knew there was more to it
The unsuccessful companies would surely have asked for a debriefing after the winner was announced. They would surely have wanted to know why they lost. It was a billion Pula at stake. They would surely have litigated had some irregularity been found during or after the debriefing process.
Surprisingly, none had litigated either to set the award aside or for a substitutionary order. Instead, a judicial job was being done on the parliamentary floor by politicians equipped with nothing but hearsay. Why was it that those affected chose to evade the rigours of legal redress for political solutions?
Who told the opposition and ruling party politicians that voted against the motion that the tender had been corruptly awarded? After a careful review of the facts, there was, according to me, only one irresistible conclusion. It was all a turf war. It had nothing to do with the national interest.
The new kid on the block is, as a matter of fact, a colossus; a new player in a sector dominated by a few privileged contractors with deep, long standing connections to the corrupt politicians and high ranking civil servants. They have, together, perpetuated and enjoyed a largesse of corruption and the only rivalry they had ever had to worry about was the one between themselves.
The audacious entry of Khato Civils into the market and their flamboyant show of muscle sent shivers down the spines of this motley cabal of insatiable thugs. Khato Civils had to be resisted, and fiercely. The company had to be chased off the turf. The legal avenue was hopeless. Courts don’t work on emotions and hearsay.
Hungry politicians in dire need of campaign finance had to be courted. God knows how many of those members of parliament who objected can claim not to have received a cent from the motion’s sponsors in exchange for breaching their sacred oaths.
What we saw on the floor of parliament was not a defeat of corruption. It was corruption itself but few even noticed. Just as with the false money laundering allegations, the territorial construction mafia fooled and captured a section of parliament to block out a worthy competitor whose only crime was to be better than them. And we believed their lies. Boy, evil cooks good pasta.