Saturday, December 9, 2023

Cabinet revolt against Masisi is a pushback against his crusade to fight corruption

Introducing the Declaration of Assets Law has become a source of immense pride for President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Apparently no guest leaves the president’s office without being treated to a long lecture on the impending law.

Festus Mogae tried and failed to come up with the law because his then deputy, Ian Khama who held Government in lock at the time hated the law and waged a blatant war against it.

An absence of this law has been a constant reminder that contrary to Transparency International’s long tributes, when it comes to corruption, Botswana is not an unalloyed poster boy the country has always pretended to be.

Since Ian Khama’s departure, governance has changed ÔÇô dramatically.

It is set to change even more.

Growing corruption among ministers especially since the shameful saga of National Petroleum Fund has given the law added impetus and relevance.

We all know that Morupule “B” was a cesspool of corruption.

We should never forget that the Palapye Glass Project collapsed under a heavy weight because it had also become a sanctuary of official corruption.

We now learn that ministers are eyeing the proposed energy projects that include renewables as well as another expansion at Morupule.

It is unpardonable that while public projects have been cancelled because there are no funds, ministers on their part had seen nothing wrong siphoning and stashing stolen money outside the country.

Masisi is fighting hard to change the “gangsters paradise” image that was abetted, facilitated and cultivated by his predecessor.

While the entire nation is celebrating his efforts particularly the Declaration of Assets Law, the mood inside cabinet is starkly grumpy and sombre.

Ministers are crankier and increasingly defiant.

By coming up with this law, president Masisi once again shows that he understands the public mood – that he is in touch with the peoples concerns.

Though they are oblivious to it, he is also doing the ruling elite a great favour.

He is forcing them not only to face up to their past but also to come to terms with today’s unvarnished realities that the world has moved on past them.

Batswana can no longer be recipients of soup and blankets while the ruling elite and their expatriate friends dismember the country as has been happening at the Okavango tourism enclave under Ian Khama.

Through this law Masisi is giving the elite a lifeline to finally get at ease with all the public suspicious surrounding their unexplained obscene wealth ÔÇô much of it ill-gotten.

Reports that over half of cabinet is plotting against Masisi should be put into perspective.

If not put into context we risk losing through the cracks just why such a high number of people could opt to rebel against their leader and employer.

Masisi has said he does not want any of his ministers involved in procurement; not even out of the most benign of reasons, he has said.

This is a new culture that Masisi is introducing. It has led to something akin to intra-class struggle. And the fault-lines are already clear for all to see, including us the outsiders.

There is something eerily repugnant in cabinet’s response to the president’s good intentions.

Their first and natural instinct has been to rebel against him.

As we speak those ministers are locked in open warfare with the president.

They are leading a subtle but determined resistance against him.

Based on their attitude, it is clear that a majority in cabinet is not ready to atone for the crimes of corruption many of them committed in the past.

Clearly crimes as those committed at the National Petroleum Fund do not bring any sense of shame to these ministers.

If anything they want the blissful plunder to go on – uninterrupted.

The ultimate trophy goes beyond just Masisi’s head. They want restoration of a past epoch where ministerial looting was blessed right from the top.

Public procurement has for time immemorial been a honeypot for cabinet ministers.

It has come as a shock to them that the new president is literally cutting what has always been their lifeline and lifeboat.

Thus cabinet revolt against Masisi is essentially a pushback against his crusade against corruption.

For many of these cabinet ministers, the fight is about survival.

For them, Masisi’s high-minded decision on procurement poses an existential threat. They joined politics to make money through exactly the same umbilical cord that he is now severing.

While ordinary citizens celebrate the Law as long overdue, to these ministers, Masisi’s use of it in his fight against corruption is theological and too hardline.

They cannot watch the very source of their very lavish and predatory lifestyles being sacrificed on what they perceive to be alien principles of good governance.

They are now questioning his legitimacy and suitability for high office, including through the deployment of purchasable mercenaries hired from the opposition ranks.

Of course their behavior is insidious.

Of course these ministers are totally out of touch with public mood.

They do not seem to see the simmering resentment against them.

Addicted to corruption and its evils, they seem indifferent to growing public discontent around them.

They do not seem to see that the by-product of their attachment to corruption has been a public backlash against them together with their hired guns at opposition and a vote of popular approval for Masisi.

The phony storm fermented by these ministers should be called out for what it really is.

It has nothing to do with politics much less with principles.

Rather it has everything to do with continuation of the corruption complex.

Where in the past cabinet was known for collective responsibility and loyalty to the president, today they have become a haven of corruption lobbyism, fighting the president and all that he stands for.

Perhaps not surprisingly, none of them is willing to resign from cabinet over policy disagreement with the cabinet chairman.

The mistake that the president can make is to try to appease this lot by climbing back on his fight against corruption.

To pay for the goodwill that he gets from the public, Masisi has to maintain the course or better still be even more aggressive in his fight against corruption as epitomized by his unwavering determination to wean ministers away from the public tendering system.


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