Say there is more than meets the eye
Following the acquittal of all accused in the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) case last week, leading figures in Botswana’s political opposition say the matter should not end here because they believe there is more than meets the eye in its total collapse and complete failure of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The judgement set Bakang Seretse of Basis Point, as well former spy chief Issac Kgosi, Botho Leburu, Kenneth Kerekang and the Kebonang brothers, ex minister Sadique and High Court judge Zein, free. Over 65 charges were brought up in this first case, which was Botswana’s biggest case of corruption case involving an array of high profile personages and a network of international links.
The Member of Parliament for Sefhare-Ramokgonami, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, holds that politically-motivated cases like the NPF have exposed lack of independence of the DPP. “The independence of this institution has been compromised beyond repair,” Dr Gobotswanag said in an interview. “Its reputation is in tatters because of political interference.”
In his view, the reason the case failed is that President Masisi was implicated in it. “He is suspected to have benefited from the proceeds of the alleged crime,” he said.
He added that Botswana has adopted a strategy of arrest-and-release that is common in some of countries in Africa. “Another weakness in our justice system is the culture of arrest-and-investigate that clearly amounts to guilty until proven guilty,” he asserted. “It is shameful for a country that prides itself in adherence to the rule of law to allow such gross miscarriage of justice.”
Most of all, he argued, prosecution will not be effective in fighting corruption if the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes is controlled by the government of the day because corruption begins at the top and ends at the top. “I suspect that the DPP is under the influence of the powers that deliberately allowed the case to collapse,” he said.
For the MP for Selibe-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse, the failure of the DPP calls for a commission of enquiry to establish what the matter with a department that is crucial to curbing corruption may be. “The commission must be chaired by a retired judge or a senior lawyer because these kinds of people can pursue complex enquiries,” Keorapetse said.
In his view, substantial issues were not argued in the NPF case, yet Batswana needed to know the truth regarding what really happened. “I am not in favour of selected parliamentary committees because of the experience of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and Botswana Development Cooperation,” lamented Keorapetse. “People may be set free but it does not mean that wrongs were not committed.”
The president of the Botswana Patriotic (BPF), Biggie Butale, said he needed to look at the judgement of the case first in order to be able to make an informed comment. “I do not know what the judge said, so I cannot make an informed comment,” said Butale, who is a former MP for Tati West.