On Friday the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime called a media conference at which among other things reference was made of what happened last week at The Botswana Gazette offices. In her statement, the Director General of DCEC, Rose Seretse made reference to the fact that it was the media that created a scene because almost on a daily basis, the DCEC investigators do what they were doing at Botswana Gazette without anybody raising an eyebrow over their actions. She accused the media of creating drama.
To put the matter into context, which both Ms Seretse and her legal team do not want to do, we want to point out that the media is not seeking any favours ÔÇô not from DCEC and certainly not from anyone. Contrary to a misperception created by DCEC, the media has never asked to be above any law. The media is not asking for a special dispensation nor is it seeking to be treated differently. Just because DCEC breaks the law almost on a daily basis does not make it a correct thing, much less a thing that the head of DCEC should be proud of. What happened at Botswana Gazette was that state investigators arrived with a search warrant that was immediately questioned by Gazette lawyers.
Investigators were advised to go back and get a proper warrant so that they could get access into the Gazette premises. This was in no way blocking investigations. Contrary it was emphasizing the importance of the rule of law which from the events, DCEC was still not following. By the time they came back with yet another warrant, investigators were once again reminded that the warrant did not allow them to get into the premises at night. “The position of the law in this country as we understand it is that Court Orders are there to be obeyed by all affected thereby without exception. We do not think it was open to those who were the subjects of the search and seizure and/or the warrant of arrest not to obey such warrants without challenging them properly in court of law. For as long as such warrants remained extent, they were to be obeyed without fail… Botswana is, at least to our knowledge a country that prides itself with respect for the rule of law,” said Ms Seretse in part. In our view this is a churlish way of appealing to emotional sentiment without addressing the underlying issues.
Sidestepping important issues as Ms Seretse did is, as it proved on Friday unhelpful to DCEC cause. Evading questions and patronizing the media as some of her charges were tempted to do, only further complicates what is already an untenable and in the eyes of some an irredeemable working relationship between DCEC and the media. A warrant, we want to observe is by nature an instrument of the court that is by nature intrusive. Being intrusive, the courts deliberately go out of their way to make warrants issue and place specific to avoid abuse as the DCEC wanted to do. The argument raised by the Gazette lawyer who in the eyes of all present was courteous and indeed very helpful to DCEC investigators was that the first warrant was not only broad by too vague. Thankfully the investigators agreed and indeed opted to go back and get a proper warrant. Now the DCEC say they indulged Gazette lawyers because they wanted to be nice.
This is ridiculous, to say the least. On another note we want to observe that we have issues with the Act creating DCEC. This piece of legislation is counterproductive even to DCEC mandate. Additionally, this law is in many ways a hindrance to a cordial working relationship between the media and the DCEC itself. From the media conference on Friday, it is clear that DCEC wants the media to always seek permission from them before publishing stories on corruption investigations. This is an insult. No self-respecting media house is going to expend resources on investigations, independent of DCEC and when it is about to publish the story be expected to defer to DCEC out of fear that DCEC might also be seized with a parallel investigations.
We call on Attorney General, Dr Athaliah Molokomme to look into events as they unfolded at The Gazette office with the aim of specifically assisting DCEC leadership who in our view seem to be overwhelmed by what should be elementary interpretation of the law establishing the Directiorate.