Wednesday, September 23, 2020

DCEC likely to implode in Katholo’s hands

My first reaction when I first heard last week that Tymon Katholo had re-joined the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime after a decade or more in retirement was that of surprise, followed by anger and then disappointment.

Nothing better depicts how toxic political interference can be on public institutions than what is happening at DCEC.

Leadership succession at DCEC has for many years now been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

That interference and meddling has led to corruption and misgovernance – and with that, an inevitable loss of public trust.

It is difficult to see how DCEC can do its job if it does not enjoy public trust.

Nobody doubts Katholo’s investigative and administrative skills, honed in his earlier life as a police detective and later as head of CID (Criminal Investigations Department).

Even as a DCEC Director General, Katholo was a hands-on operations man.

He often emerged as a lead investigator in key cases – sometimes prosecuting, but also getting into the box to give evidence as a witness on behalf of prosecution.

He is effective and efficient.

But after a more than a decade out of work, recalling him is a big gamble.

Re-appointing Katholo to lead DCEC is more a sign of desperation than a vote of confidence on him.

We have simply run out of ideas.

In my head I can already conjure up images of Katholo whispering in muted tones to his buddies, who a few years back would have included the late Phadza Kgalemang – a police officer turned attorney and also retired army General, Louis Fischer that the president has asked him to come and clean up the mess at DCEC.

And indeed, he would be right. DCEC has become a royal mess. And it has been on a downward spiral for years now. So too has become the country’s other law enforcement and security agencies.

That mess is a result of political interference, aimed at controlling DCEC and ultimately rendering it impotent.

DCEC was started by Graham Stockwell – an experienced British police officer who had spent a lifetime as a detective.

Katholo was from the beginning a key man in the original DCEC executive.

He helped build a world-class public institution. And by the time he left it was in pretty good shape.

The public respected DCEC as shown by their willingness to go there and report what they suspected were acts of corruption.

And indeed DCEC investigated and brought for prosecution big name luminaries in our society – Louis Nchindo, Ndelu Seretse, Ken Matambo and Armando Lionjanga to name but a few.

I might be wrong, but I have a gut feeling that Katholo’s second coming risks soiling his legacy.

It might actually end up in tears.

In business, as in football a second coming is never as sweet as the first time around.

In football, bringing people in for a second reign because they had been successful in their first often ends up in a tragedy. Famously it has happened with Liverpool after they brought in Kenny Dalglish. At Chelsea it happened after they brought in Jose Mourinho. In both instances it all ended up not with great days as before but with tears.

Until last week, many of us had accepted to remember Katholo with nostalgia and fondness – a dying breed of Botswana’s public service; a man in whose own image he had built the DCEC – polite but firm, a principled and lovable man who could at the same time be fair and yet no-nonsense at the same time.

There is now a real risk that the DCEC will implode in Katholo’s hands.

He will soon realise that the culture at DCEC is totally different from when he left.

There is too much back-biting, too much backstabbing and a culture of snitching is all but accepted, encouraged and even rewarded.

He will also in no time recognize that his political superiors are a totally opposite breed from those he worked under during his long law enforcement career. Duty and service to the country are no longer the overriding principles. Selflessness is no longer on the table. He will in no time find himself being subtly nudged to go after political opponents.

Such is how low down the tube our country has gone.

Katholo was not forced to retire from government. He left on his own. And was too happy to leave when his time came.

Shortly after his retirement from DCEDC I met him in Francistown.

He told me he was enjoying his retirement, and it showed on his face.

He divided his time between Maun and Gaborone where he carried some consultancy work.

Most of all he was happy to be spending time with his family, obviously all the sweeter after decades of long hours as a police detective and later a DCEC executive.

American Civil Rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has argued that that evil is deeply ingrained inside man. And that platitudes alone will never be enough to make sure that man gives away any of the sweet powers he might possess.

“Instead of assured progress in wisdom and decency, man faces the ever-present possibility of a swift relapse not merely to animalism, but into such calculated cruelty as no other man can practice.”

As Dr King said, power is sweet and those who have power seldom want to voluntarily share it, much less give it away.

Our public institutions are under attack from the very people who should be protecting them.

Some of them have literally become wrecks.

From the actions we are seeing, for many in government, clearly the independence of the DCEC is optional.

The public faith in these institutions – a crucial component for their continued relevance is itself being eroded at alarming speed, for a greater part done by those in power.

In almost a similar way, some of the country’s most cherished institutions have been rendered nondescript as they have literally been overrun by greed.

With takeover of the DCEC now all but complete, our politicians now have their eyes fully trained on the judiciary. That will be an easy task for them.

A few more years and the carnage will become irreversible.

Clearly when it comes to protecting their interests, politicians are light years ahead of us.

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime was created in the early 1990s to help fight official corruption.

Almost a generation later, we see that DCEC has fallen victim to the same evil it was created to fight.

When it lasted, DCEC had a big role to promote civic order by fighting corruption, deterring corruption and educating people about the evils of corruption.

Today an ordinary man can only watch in helpless despair as the elite are blithely tearing it down.

It is a grim spectacle. Ordinary citizens believe that since the State of Emergency started, there has been more corruption, especially with regards to Covid19-related procurement. There is no evidence to proffer.

But it is enough evidence on the extent to which public trust on those in power has totally broken down. That is public opinion. And public opinion matters.

That is the fate that awaits Katholo as he returns to a totally changed DCEC, a totally changed people in it and one might add, a totally changed country.

We wish him all the best.

But we have to be realistic and start lowering our expectations on him – even for a near superman that he is the odds are heavily stacked against him!

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.