There are many memorable moments from Tymon Katlholo’s time in office, but the former Director of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is enjoying the greatest moment of his career while in retirement.
For many years, the first citizen head of the DCEC was maligned for chasing after small fries while big fishes got away.
A few months into his retirement, a vindicated Katlholo is finally marveling at his catch as files of high profile cases he had been chasing fly off the “OUT” trays at the DCEC offices and stack up the “IN” trays at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Speaking to the Telegraph this week, Katlholo was confident that the DCEC is measuring up to the task. ?“By looking at the cases that were investigated since the formation of the anti-corruption unit, I have no doubt in my mind that the DCEC has matured as evidenced by the kind of sophisticated cases that it has investigated and continues to investigate. The directorate has matured into handling corruption cases however complicated they may be,” he said.?At its inception, public perception was rife that the unit was failing or deliberately avoiding investigating cases involving prominent political and public figures. The perceptions were at the time buttressed by the fact that no high profile case investigated by the directorate had reached the prosecuting authorities let alone the courts of law.
The DCEC was accused of chasing after small fries while big fishes got away. Lately, however, a number of big names have been hitting court charge sheets and newspaper headlines featuring high profile cases of corruption and economic crime. Some of the cases are still on the DCEC pending tray, allaying perceptions that the crime busters are only fishing on small ponds.
The prosecution of high profile cases has also vindicated the anti-corruption outfit which has always insisted that it is independent and not laboring under any political influence.
The high profile cases that have reached the courts include among others, the case of the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Lands and Housing Elvidge Mhlauli. He was convicted by the Village Magistrates Court but was later acquitted by the High Court.?Former executive director of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board, Armando Lionjanga, was also investigated for corruption-related offences and prosecuted for the same. He was convicted by the magistrate courts but was later discharged by the High Court.?Other high-profile cases that the DCEC investigated and handed to the DPP for prosecution include the Nchindo marathon trial in which Garvas Nchindo and Joe Matome were ultimately convicted by former Regional Magistrate South, Lot Moroka, who has since moved to the High Court as a judge.
The duo has since appealed their convictions and sentences.?Ongoing cases include the corruption case against the former Minister of Justice, Defence and Security Dikgakgamatso Seretse. Last week another high profile case started at the magistrate courts in which property tycoon Sayed Jamali and deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs Victor Rantshabeng are charged with corruption. ?In Francistown, more than 30 people have also been charged with a land scam case that was investigated by the anti-corruption buster.?Reports are flying fast and thick that a senior minister and an assistant minister are in the process of being arraigned before the courts to answer corruption related charges.?Katlholo explained that corruption investigation is a very long process because it takes a long time to unravel the evidence that is needed before the culprits are brought to book. ?“You cannot complete the investigations overnight. ┬áInvestigations can take up to 10 years. You try to close all the gaps before you arraign the culprits before the courts. Some of the cases that are now coming before the courts were investigated a long time ago.
There is no short cut to corruption investigations because you scrutinize each and every aspect of allegation associated with the issue. The reason is simply that at the time the allegation is raised, there is no evidence before the investigators unlike in a murder case where you may find the body and weapon used,” said the former DCEC chief.?He explained that when alleged cases of corruption are reported, people would be basically basing their suspicions on perceptions and to break the veil surrounding the issue is not an easy task.?“The investigation has to establish whether there is corruption or not. In other crimes evidence is readily available. You look for the perpetrator because there is evidence but in corruption cases there is a lot of leads that have to be followed to establish whether any crime has been committed,” said Katlholo.?He pointed out that at the beginning there was a lot of impatience on the part of the public because the directorate had not yet nabbed any prominent political or public figures.?Katlholo is however happy that the nation now appreciates the results of the hard work done by the DCEC as evidenced by the kind of cases that have been brought before the courts of law. It is evident that the corruption buster has matured.?While he is pleased that the work of the DCEC is evident, he feels that a lot still has to be done to ensure that the directorate delivered on its mandate. He cites among others the building of skills capacity and legislative framework.?Katlholo noted that corruption kept on changing its colours and it needed the investigators who were be able to keep track with such changes. “You have to keep on changing and improving the tactics lest you are beaten hands down by the perpetrators.
The investigators need to be trained on new developments in order to cope otherwise they would be left behind and fail in their duty,” he said.?He was quick to maintain that the crime unit is independent as evidenced by the kind of cases it has investigated and handed over for prosecution.
“The independence of the directorate should be looked at from the operational context. At least for the time I was head of the directorate, I was never directed on who to investigate and when to investigate. The independence of the directorate has to be equated to a decision of a judge when he has to adjudicate on a matter. We had to satisfy ourselves whether it was worth investigating the reports that we had received and we did that independently without the interference of the political leadership,” said Katlholo.?Although he is happy that the directorate has matured, he feels that a lot still has to be done in terms of its financing and upping of the skills of the investigators, emphasizing that an important unit like the directorate can be hamstrung by lack of funding.?“During my tenure as the head, I never came across a situation where government refused to fund DCEC. The only problem is that the directorate competed for funds with all other national projects and in cases where we did not get sufficient funding, the explanations rendered for cutting the budget were convincing,” he said.?On the political will of the government to ensure that the directorate delivered on its mandate, Katlholo said the directorate was never stopped from investigating any case which it had deemed worthy of investigating.?“In fact if the political leadership had done that, in terms of the Act they would have been committing a crime. The Act gives the unit operational independence. We have only failed where the evidence eked was not sufficient to probe the issues further otherwise we were free to investigate anybody irrespective of societal standing,” he emphasized.?On whether he feels he did a good job as the leader of the directorate, Katlholo said it was not his business to judge himself. “I cannot judge myself. I leave it to the public to judge whether I delivered. But all in all I can safely say that I tried the best that I could in the circumstances of the available resources,” said Katlholo.?
Although he is happy that the directorate has come of age, Katlholo is concerned that the tenure of the director of the unit is not constitutionally entrenched adding that in 2004 a recommendation was made calling of the protection of the director and the entrenching and protection of the director.?On his relation with the DPP, he said the unit has a cordial relationship with the DPP and that they never encountered substantially differences with the prosecuting authority. ?“You must however understand that at times they returned certain dockets back to us for further investigations because upon analyzing the evidence, they were not satisfied that we had closed all the gaps which made a good case for them to prosecute. In the circumstances they would point to the shortfalls which we would readily fill,” said Katlholo.?In conclusion, he said he is just looking forward to the prosecution of all the cases that were investigated during his tenure and he is hopeful that the DPP would succeed in securing convictions especially that their investigations were thorough.?As a parting shot, Katlholo said he is currently concentrating on his consultancy which is doing work on anti-corruption and good governance, including forensic investigations.