Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Namibian President dares legislatures to publicly declare their assets

Visiting Namibian President Hage Geingob said Monday that as a way of curbing corruption, leaders should declare assets upon assuming public office.  

Geingob revealed that in a bid to continue the Namibian government’s robust drive to wipe out corruption, he decided to declare his assets after assuming the presidency of the neighbouring country in 2015.

According to reports from the Namibian media, Geingob’s assets are worth over N$50 million while the First Lady’s assets range from N$45 to N$60 million in equity. 

Addressing parliament as part of his state visit, Geingob maintained that transparency should be the guiding light because governance is a partnership of equals which works only in transparency and accountability. 

Geingob who also declared that he once lived in Francistown, Botswana as a refugee for more than a year told both the ruling and opposition Members of Parliament that the declaration of assets is an indicator of transparency and accountability. President Khama was absent from parliament despite having hosted Geingob at a state lunch a few hours before his address.  

“I declared my assets upon taken office as part of doing away with corruption in my country.”

Geingob’s remarks come at a time when debate on assets disposal by public leaders in Botswana seems to have died a natural death. A few years ago, the debate took centre stage even reaching parliament corridors. 

In 2012, a study by Afro Barometer revealed that a considerable number of Botswana citizens are in support of a law on declaration of assets and liabilities by the country’s politicians and top government officials.

Out of the 1200 Batswana interviewed by the Afro Barometer team, over 50 percent expressed support for declaration of assets and liabilities by cabinet ministers. The respondents prefer a disclosure of assets and liabilities to an independent body instead of the President as is currently the case.

From the study, 64 percent were in support of the law on asset declaration being extended to sitting Members of Parliament, heads of Parastatals and senior government officials. Despite the study findings, there is no law that is currently forcing political leaders to publicly declare their assets. 

In July 2015, the Minister responsible for Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi retracted a statement he made to parliament earlier that year regarding the declaration of assets by members of parliament as well as the judges of the high court.

On 24 March 2015, Kgathi had told parliament that cabinet ministers have been declaring their interests to President Ian Khama while judges were declaring to the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo same as MPs whom he said do so to Speaker of the National Assembly.

However fast forward to mid July 2015, Kgathi requested that part of his 24 March 2015 answer to a question by Gabane-Mmankgodi Member of Parliament, retired Major General Pius Mokgware be expunged from the Hansard as he said he has since established that members of parliament and judges are not doing as the ‘executive’ expect them to.

“I wish to retract my submission in relation to Members of Parliament and judicial officers as I have since established that this is not yet the case. My answer at the time was based on the expectation on the part of the executive that Members of Parliament would declare their interests to the Speaker and judicial officers to the chief executive,” Kgathi said. 

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