The Competition Authority (CA) says its investigation process is independent and unfettered by the influence of any person.
CA Chief Executive Officer, Thula Kaira, says this process is very important because if they act on every allegation before they satisfy themselves of the truthfulness of the allegations, then they would be a meddlesome institution that risks losing focus.
Speaking during the media Competition Law Conference in Mokolodi recently, Kaira pointed out that CA investigations involve prying into the conduct of business in relation to suspected cartels, abuse of dominance and unauthorised mergers.
“In our investigations, we try as much as possible, being an institution founded on law, to ensure that we do not pre-judge an accused’s case before it has been properly investigated and adjudicated fairly and impartially,” said Kaira.
He stated that while the competition law is a mirror of good business practices, it is also a law that, if improperly enforced or implemented, can have grave consequences on the freedom of enterprise, wealth creation and distribution in an economy.
He added that it can also inevitably have long lasting personal consequences for the creators of wealth in the economy.
“The media is important for us to reach out to the public. You are evidently closer to the people than we are and people are likely to listen more to your version of the truth than our version. You are able to capture the people’s moods and expectations – which in our quest to follow the letter and spirit of the law, we may miss,” said Kaira.
Regarding the challenges, he said CA has the problem of having a case managed in the press before facts have been gathered. He stated that while the press may be the source of those facts, they are also careful that sometimes competitors may use the press to fight each other.
Kaira emphasized that naturally, they are careful to ensure that they do not find themselves in a position where they unduly frustrate the business progress of one enterprise based on what sometimes may be allegations fuelled by the frustrations of cut-throat competition.
“While there is a requirement for us to be impartial in our cases, sometimes accused business entities consider their cases as already pre-judged through publicity before they are notified by the authority that they are under investigation,” he stated.
Tendekani Malebeswa, a commissioner at the CA, said in the short period that the Competition Commission and the Competition Authority have been running, competition, fair competition, mergers, monopoly, cartels, and dominant firms are some of the clich├®s that have been added to our everyday public discourse.
“There is no doubt in my mind that many businesses and many Batswana are aware of the presence of the Competition Commission and the Competition Authority and this awareness is largely attributable to the supportive role that the media has rendered to us,” said Malebeswa.
He also emphasised that the Competition Authority is the secretariat to the Commission and deals with all day to day operational matters. Malebeswa added that it also deals with all merger issues, and refers the results of its investigations in other matters to the Competition Commission.