Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Position of DCEC head needs security of tenure

In less than three years the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has had no less than three Directors General .There has been Rose Seretse, Bruce Paledi, Joseph Mathambo and now Tymon Katholo. This does not inspire confidence on the position or the institution, for that matter. Removing a head of the DCEC almost on a daily basis risks turning people against the president as the appointing authority. No explanation is ever given when these people are removed. There was a groundswell of innuendos way ahead of Paledi being removed. When that time came, people asked why he was even allowed to stay because it was clear from the beginning that he never stood a chance. That was also the feeling with Mathambo.

This high turnover by itself says a lot about a position that in today’s climate should ordinarily be the most important linking power and those on whose behalf power is being exercised. At the moment the Director of Public Prosecutions enjoys a security of tenure. This is deliberate a protection and cushion because of the sensitivity of the job. The same applies to the Attorney General. Nobody can capriciously or whimsically remove those holding these two positions. It is thus shocking that the equally important if not more important position of Director General at DCEC could be sacked by a simple summons from the employer, in this instance the President. Yet the DCEC is often touted as a reason why ordinary citizens should believe anybody in Botswana can be investigated and be prosecuted for corruption.This flies in the face of reality and reason if the head of DCEC can be removed from office willy-nilly.

There is also an issue of due diligence and also vetting.It is important that the high turnover in the last few years is an outcome of poor vetting and shoddy work on due diligence.Otherwise what explains recalling Tymon Katholo who had long retired.An impression is being created that Katholo is indispensable – which would be unfortunate if that was true. An impression of interference is being created, that the Director General of DCEC has to things a certain way or they will be removed. This impression of asphyxiating DCEC works against the president and his intentions. People will in no time start questioning and them doubting his motives. These are too important to be left to one or just two people.At the moment it has been left to the President to hire and fire – alone, at most surrounded like-minded people who owe their positions to him.That cannot be right, even if a president could be a saint. And presidents are not saints – not by any stretch.

They are human being with all human failings and human frailties.At the moment parliament has very few levers with which to shape the debate, much less effect change.We are all at the mercy of a sitting President. The DCEC Act has to be changed. When it comes to appointing the Director General, it has clearly been overtaken by events. President Mokgweetsi Masisi has a big opportunity toIf he wants more power, he can get it by giving some of it away.No power is bigger than that derived from legitimacy and goodwill.

Appointing the head of DCEC no doubt can be used to tighten grip if a president is weakened.But power without legitimacy and goodwill does not bring security. He can on his own surrender the power to appoint DCEC director general, and give that power to parliament. Or at the very least start a process that would bring about the security of tenure for that position.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.