The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime has dismissed complaints that their investigation into the private lives of citizens, especially with regards to how they have acquired their wealth, is an infringement of human rights and civil liberties.
The complaints came after the DCEC launched investigations into the private dealings of two men who were found to be living beyond their means.
The two, Victor Basinyi (34) and Omphitlhetse Mmoloki Tsime (26), were yesterday (Tuesday) hauled before the Village Magistrates’ courts after failing to explain how they came to possess assets that reflect a lavish lifestyle that is not commensurate with their known incomes.
The two are said to have been found in possession of luxury vehicles and mansions that are beyond their pay grade. They failed to give a satisfactory explanation as to how they are able to maintain such a standard of living or how such pecuniary resources or property came under their control and possession.
DCEC Public Relations Officer, Lentswe Motshoganetsi, said at the time that they are investigating a number of similar cases, one of which is already before the courts of law.
Basinyi is a former employee of the Department of Roads Training and Safety and Tsime is a private mechanic. The DCEC has already confiscated the alleged assets.
The case has attracted a lot of interest and comment from society, with human rights activists saying that it is a violation of human rights while political commentators posited that it is hypocritical for a government that has for many years refused to pass a law binding political leaders to declare their assets to impose such a draconian law on ordinary citizens.
“The DCEC should not violate citizens’ privacy and launch dehumanizing investigations against them just because they are found to be in possession of goods, but have not, in fact, been charged with any crime. What relief would such people find if they are found not guilty? How will they restore their images, their integrity and the trust of their colleagues and business partners?” they raged.
But the DCEC maintains that the law empowers them to carry out their mandate wherever and whenever they smell a rat.
“It is imperative to note that the DCEC is here to serve the country. Public needs precede individual needs. As long as the mandate to investigate corruption and economic crime is still valid, we will carry it out diligently and effectively without fear of rubbing a few individuals on the wrong side,” said Motshoganetsi.
He added that the DCEC believes that it is better to investigate and bring suspects to book rather than allow corruption and related crimes to proliferate in fear of violating individual’s rights.
But Peter Tshukudu of Ditshwanelo was more cautions in his response, telling The Telegraph that, while government was within its rights to launch such investigations, it is important that human rights and civil liberties are not desecrated at the end.
Asked what relief the accused will get if they are found not to be guilty, Motshoganetsi said: “Just like any other offence that is brought before the courts of law, there is no compensation or reward that an acquitted person gets from the DCEC.
Our intension is not to tarnish people’s names, but to act as the country’s vaccinatory remedy against corruption and related offenses.”
Moreover, said Motshoganetsi, it is logical that in conducting investigations, one tends to create enemies and rub some people the wrong way.
“DCEC, like any other law enforcement agency, has a duty to investigate all allegations of crime falling within its mandate, if at the end of the day there is no evidence, the fact of the matter is that the DCEC would have done its job,” said Motshoganetsi in conclusion.