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22 Apr 2019

By Richard Moleofe

The newly appointed Director General at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime has promised the nation that he is going to work overtime to see convictions on those who have acted corruptly in the past. Is this empty rhetoric or are we going to see action from this fellow?

Brigadier Joseph Mathambo has come from Botswana Defence Force where he was appointed to the role of Director General and served in that role for over a decade. His role was to oversee the functions of the military in terms of keeping it clean from corruption.

After his arrival, Mathambo has not even waited for a week to begin pronouncing what we should expect from him. This is a man who is breathing smoke and fire through his nostrils and ears (o tswa mosi ka dinko le ditsebe) is the best way to express his pronounced intentions.

Before a week could go by, the man had already brought to life thirteen cases that had been buried due to lack of sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution. It will be very interesting to learn which cases these are, but knowing the man from our days in the military, he is going to haul in big fish in the DCEC net this time around.

Is Mathambo simply excited over his new job that comes with better pegs than those he enjoyed at BDF? Many are already dismissing him as someone who is simply exhibiting childlike tantrums. They are questioning his track record from the military.

His role at BDF was to oversee the institution’s organs and monitor that they do not work outside the parameters of the law. For instance, his role included sniffing through procurement records for any clues of corruption.

The nature of the military procurement leaves it vulnerable to corruption because most of the military hardware is bought under a cloud of secrecy. It is this secrecy that some use as a smokescreen to embezzle government funds.

For years, Seleka Springs has enjoyed the awarding of defence contracts when Mathambo was DG and we have not seen him bring any one of these issue to the surface. If there has been any officer who got paid for doing nothing, Mathambo is typical.

It was under Mathambo’s watch that corruption at BDF HQ skyrocketed. The welfare scheme scandal that he tried to fish to the surface soon died off. This is where millions of pula went missing from the welfare coffers. The situation was so sceptic to a point where some officers refused to be transferred from the unit and no one dared touch them because they knew too much.

Apparently these officers were behaving the way they did because they knew that the generals feared them. The generals had had their fingers in the honey jar. To this day no one has been prosecuted for stealing the savings of the poor soldiers.

Mathambo had no support from the leadership because almost all of them had soiled hands. This time around the man can make the loudest of noises because he has the full backing of the president. For the man that I know, that’s a ground to thrive on when he has the backing of the leadership.

He should restore the dignity of the DCEC which has long been eroded. People don’t seem to care anymore about this institution because over the past decade it has become the hub of corruption. This is why Mathambo can pull out so many cases and ready them for prosecution within a week of his arrival.

This man should bring the organization to its former glory in the days of Mr Tymon Katlholo, the first citizen director of the organization. Katlholo was a fearless man who took matters to the president for action. This time around it is the president who has raised the first alarm against corruption. This makes Mathambo’s job much easier because he simply has to flow with his employer’s wishes.

Katlholo was instrumental in the prosecution of Louis Nchindo. There was determination to act against corruption from DCEC and there was sufficient political will to back it. President Festus Mogae did not pull the rug over the case even at a point where he was threatened with the hanging of his dirty linen in public.

Political will and leadership is what we require from the state president. That is the basic requirement for winning the war against corruption. Our international rating has drastically suffered in the last ten years and that needs to be rectified.

But Mathambo needs to go back to the military barracks and cleanse its headquarters. So many millions have gone missing from the BDF Welfare Scheme. This was a scheme that was created primarily to provide collective security for the poor soldiers who could not otherwise qualify for a loan.

The very soldiers that were instrumental in the genesis of the scheme have been side-lined. They are almost all in retirement and wallowing in abject poverty while those remaining in the employ of BDF are looting the fund.

Many of these retired officers and men do not even earn a third of what they earned before retirement. Banks in Botswana do not generally accept retirees when it comes to applications for loans. These poor people can no longer use the Welfare Fund as security because of the sin of retirement.

The new DG at DCEC is a man who usually gets consumed with zeal. We must expect to see a lot from him as he is still carrying the fire on his bosom. But he has a mountain to climb. Dismantling corruption is like breaking up a religious cult. There are so many who would want to die defending the high priest.

For this reason, I am overly concerned with the safety of Mathambo. His security needs to be reviewed and strengthened. Someone might have an attempt on his life because corruption has become a multi-billion business in Botswana.  

*Richard Moleofe is a Security Analyst

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