The independence of the Office of the Ombudsman took centre stage in Parliament last week as Mahalapye East Member of Parliament Yandani Boko expressed disappointment at the institution’s failure to take action against senior government officials.
In his response to the Committee of Supply speech on the Office of the Ombudsman Boko accused the office of failing to take action against, particularly, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General Peter Magosi and former Vice President Ian Khama.
“While the role of the public protector is to hold the government to account, such is not the case with our office of the Ombudsman,” Boko said in Parliament on Thursday.
“We raised complaints about former Vice President Ian Khama and reported him to the Ombudsman for flying state aircraft but they decided to turn a blind eye. More recently UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) President Duma Boko complained about DIS Director Magosi who was overzealous, attending BDP meetings and even gesturing ‘ae jeke’ but nothing was done about it.”
Boko’s words were met with fierce opposition from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs, with the Deputy Speaker Mabuse Pule successfully forcing the youthful MP to withdraw his statement on Magosi because he could not be there to defend himself.
This was despite Boko’s assurance to bring proof in the form of newspaper articles.
Leader of the House and Vice President also did not take kindly to the accusations against the DIS Director, rejecting Boko’s offer to avail proof, saying newspapers publish falsities.
The Mahalapye legislator was responding to the Committee of Supply speech by Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance, and Public Administration Meshack Mthimkhulu.
UDC President Boko made a formal complaint with the Ombudsman early 2019 accusing the DIS Boss of acts of maladministration and abuse of office.
He said Magosi overstepped his security functions and crossed into the political landscape.
“His overzealous body guard comedian behavior, seemingly to impress his political appointer has left many Batswana saddened by the state of affairs and downgrading democratic credentials of this Country,” Boko wrote.
“The important question is, can an unethical and unprofessional public servant be expected to deliver, and in the case of Mr Magosi we say he can’t deliver. We expect the Director of DISS to owe his allegiance to the Constitution of this Country and Batswana.”
Boko said as a civil servant Magosi must adhere to appropriate procedure and high ethical standards in discharge of his official duties.
“On that note therefore, he is expected to within his competence reject any pressure to divert from his mandate and that of the Organization he is heading, even from his superiors.”
Back in Parliament, Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi also accused the ruling BDP presidents of failing to consult with the Leaders of Opposition when appointing an Ombudsman.
“Do you know that when the previous Ombudsman was appointed then president, Ian Khama, informed then Leader of Opposition Duma Boko over the telephone as opposed to consulting him?”
Mthimkhulu however differed with Mmolotsi saying President Mokgweetsi Masisi consults. “Khama is on your (opposition) corner now and he gives you financial support,” the Assistant Minister hit back,
“You used to complain about his abuse of office. Now we have a president who observes the rule of law. But you all see Khama as a messiah and criticize Masisi who is busy working to clean up Khama’s mess.”
Mthimkhulu said the opposition are always at liberty to challenge the appointment of an Ombudsman if they feel such an appointment was not procedural. He said contrary to complaints by the opposition, the office of the Ombudsman is in fact independent of any interference by authorities.