If you want to reach for easy, mentally-untaxing answers, it is very easy to appreciate President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s anti-corruption crusade in terms of a scores-settling campaign. The facts reveal something else.
Across the southern border, an anti-corruption crusade has caught up with former President Jacob Zuma and those who were part of his administration are falling like dominoes. Zuma is facing 18 charges of corruption covering more than 700 counts of fraud and money laundering. His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, doesn’t want to touch Zuma’s associates with a barge pole and has dropped some from his cabinet. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, is also facing corruption charges on the back of allegations that he was part of a group that tried to bribe a former deputy finance minister during his father’s rule to take on a senior government role. Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption crusade also takes the form of a commission of enquiry into state capture.
Across the northern border, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has made fighting corruption a top priority. Resultantly, former First Lady, Grave Mugabe, has been investigated for her ties to an ivory smuggling ring. She has also been investigated for what appears to be fraudulent acquisition of a PhD from the University of Zimbabwe. Having been part of Robert Mugabe’s government since 1980, Mnangagwa is himself by no means an angel but that he has made public pronouncements to fight corruption counts for something.
In Angola, the new president, Joao Lourenco, promised to crack down on corruption after taking over from Jose Eduardo dos Santos who ruled the oil-rich nation for 38 years. Last year, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the former president’s son, was arrested on suspicion of money-laundering, embezzlement of public funds and fraud. He was later charged with fraud over the alleged transfer of P5 billion from the central bank to a British bank. His sister Isabel, who is Africa’s richest woman, was removed as head of the state oil company, Sonangol.
The shorthand of it all is that in a region with world’s highest geographic concentration of income and wealth inequality, there is emerging a new type of leader who is tackling one of the main causes of that inequality ÔÇô corruption. In all instances, his predecessors are culpable and he has gone after them as well. In all cases, the predecessors fight back tooth and nail and make spirited effort to replace incumbents with friendlier people from within their parties.
SADC is also going through a historical phase in which the liberation-struggle leaders (who are clannish) are going into either voluntary or forced retirement. In the bush during the struggle, this coterie proved itself to be very corrupt and that corruption was carried over into the national governments they subsequently led. Their struggle-forged camaraderie impeded even minimal application of the African Peer Review Mechanism because they were shielding each other all the time. Leaders from these era now have to sit at the table with people they have no history with, who have a new outlook and who wouldn’t reflexively shield them. This has weakened the power bloc that was mired in autocracy and corruption that took root during the struggle years.
This is context in which the anti-corruption crusade that Botswana has embarked on under Masisi is merely a sign of the times, merely standard operating procedure in SADC countries that want to make substance of the “Africa Rising” mantra. The opposition that Masisi faces here at home is the opposition that Ramaphosa, Mnangagwa and Lourenco are facing in their own countries.