Cabinet Ministers Are Free from Prosecution – Attorney General

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TEFO PHEAGE

• New AG commits to never prosecute ministers
• Cabinet shocked by AG’s awkward promise

The newly appointed Attorney General AdvocateAbraham Keetshabe has reportedly made a shocking undertaking to President Khama at a cabinet meeting, stating that cabinet ministers are “free from prosecution” as long as he is the Attorney General.

The utterance by Keetshabe, who recently inherited the powerful position from Athaliah Molokomme

is said to have shocked cabinet members who viewed the promise to the president as “unnecessary”.

“He was briefing the session and as he discussed some issues in relation to some cases which I would not want to share with you he made a shocking statement that as long as he is the Attorney Central, no cabinet Minister would be prosecuted,” revealed a Minister who attended the cabinet meeting. The Minister said that while the promise might have relieved some, it raised the eyebrows of many, “We did not know what

the pressure was to make such a promise but there were murmurs after the session with many asking each other-did you hear that?” the Minister said, adding that many had thought the President would call the AG to order but did not.

Keetshabe is not new to high profile positions; he served as the Director of Public Prosecutions since March 2016 with a career spanning over three decades in the legal fraternity. He was first appointed to the magistracy in 1986 as a junior magistrate and rose through the ranks to become a Chief Magistrate. The Botswana Gazette attempted to contact him to verify the claims but was unsuccessful despite several efforts yesterday (Monday).

The Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi who is the Cabinet Secretary however denied that there was ever such a discussion. “We do not discuss such issues at cabinet, the President does not interfere with the rule of law and he has said it before,” he said in a brief interview with this publication.

The reports come at a time when many observers are of the view that Khama is not doing enough to fight corruption, economic crime, government mismanagement, concealment of assets, non-accountability and unethical practices in governance, particularly when perpetuated by senior government officials close to his circle. Oversight institutions, they argue, have been deliberately weakened, left to become ineffective and toothless.

In almost all of his State of The Nation addresses, Khama expressed pleasure at Botswana’s low level of corruption, on numerous occasions saying he is “pleased to report that Botswana continues to enjoy superior international ratings in terms of our relatively low level of corruption.” The opposition however argues that Botswana should never at any point be compared with other African countries, who are worst case scenarios.

In 2012, the Botswana Congress Party leader, Dumelang Saleshando, expressed disappointment with what he referred to as the emergence of a new culture in which ministers facing criminal charges or serious accusations do not resign from their positions, which he said is a deviation from “our parliamentary and democratic traditions”.

In the past, various ministers resigned from office in order to clear their names or protect the integrity of the their office among them, Daniel Kwelagobe when he was Minister of Agriculture, and Peter Mmusi when he was Minister of Local Government, Michael Tshipinare then an Assistant Minister of Local Government and

Lands, who resigned in the face of impending criminal charges following revelations of alleged misconduct by the Christie Commission that probed corruption at Botswana Housing Corporation; Jacob Nkate in his days as Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning resigned when he was linked to ZAC Construction, a company then implicated in a tender scandal. The last to take an honourable bow was Ramadeluka Seretse as the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, who resigned when facing corruption

charges in order to clear his name. In spite of the accusations against all the a foregoing

they were either not chargedor were not convicted on the allegations made against them.

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