Despite Botswana’s rising alleged incidents of corruption, the country continues to receive international accolades for combating graft within its shores. Transparency International’s reports on perceived levels of corruption continue to rank the country amongst the least corrupt nations. Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE looks at the President Mokgweetsi Masisi-led government’s efforts to fight corruption
FRANCISTOWN: Since he took over the reigns of power in 2018, Botswana’s fifth President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been proud amongst others to state that, “virtues such as transparency and accountability were amongst key catalysts at any given democratic setting required to hold to account those who hold public office”.
One of Masisi’s main pride is for his country to have “passed a law which requires all political leaders, all public servants and those in the judiciary to declare their assets and liabilities and many such important pieces of legislation to tighten the loose ends”.
To that end, President Masisi has amongst other things made graft busting his pet project although lately his has been overshadowed by the distribution of rams and uncastrated billy goats.
As it stands, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC has had the highest turnover of the appointments of director generals, with the exit of Rose Seretse in 2017, which saw Bruno Paledi taking over before Brigadier Joseph Mathambo taking over last year, before he was released to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) recently.
Tymon Katlholo, one of the pioneering director generals of the DCEC was recently returned on a three-year contract.
Katlholo’s return has heightened speculation that the powers that be feared that Mathambo was going to further ruffle feathers, especially that he was pursuing the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).
The release of Mathambo came about at a time when the DCEC was worried about the DIS’ ‘overstepping’ its mandate and unduly ‘snatching’ some files from the DCEC without permission to further investigate them.
The DIS spokesperson, Edward Robert has however, vehemently denied the existence of bad blood between the two powerful institutions that provide checks and balances in a previous interview.
Despite Robert’s denial, Mmegi is on good authority that even President Masisi had to intervene in the turf ‘wars’ that had ravaged the DCEC and the DIS.
Just recently in a Botswana Television’s The Eye programme, newly re-appointed DCEC director general, Katlholo vented his frustrations to the programme presenter, that he and his team will not be told who to investigate, how to investigate and when to investigate.
Katlholo could not specify whom he was referring to and interestingly, he kept pointing upwards in a gesture that suggested he was referring to top offices. He assured the public that “the interfering hand” in their work, would be duly eliminated.
But, the UB academic points out that corruption, since the President and his administration ascended to power, has escalated to unprecedented levels.
“Ethics and accountability of those in higher offices have been wanting to say the least. The government has further eroded the independence of oversight institutions partially by keeping them as part of the President’s Office,” he remarked.
Mfundisi was worried that the President and government have been propagating their desire to fight corruption. But their statements and deeds are not matching.
Conflict of interests by public officials, he declares, is not taken seriously in the business of government.
“It is one of the primary reasons for corruption in Botswana. We must accept that the government in Botswana is the most powerful institution in the country. It has economic, social, political, and legal powers to determine our destiny,” observes the UB lecturer.
Corruption in Botswana according to Mfundisi is rampant as evidenced by the number of scandals and serious misdemeanors perpetrated by public officials.
He said all government ministries and departments are inundated with cases of corruption of all kinds and manifestations.
“I cannot discount the DCEC’s contribution to exposing corruptive practices in the country. But the institution is hamstrung by institutional obstacles as government want it to seem to be fighting corruption, not actually doing that,” he declared worriedly.
He was mainly worried by the frequent change of guard at the DCEC, which he said indicates to political interference by the Executive.
It is his view that corruption can only be defeated if the country has political leaders of high standard integrity and zero tolerance for corruption.
He is adamant that corruption can be defeated if there were political leaders who are ethical and accountable.
Lack of political will to combat corruption, he says, is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in winning the fight against corruption.
His take is that the political leadership has not been committed to fighting corruption: legislative gaps, weak scrutiny, enforcement, and compliance to the highest standard of integrity.
Lack of capacity in the DCEC according the UB academic is hampering its efforts to effectively deal with corruptive practices.