Saturday, September 26, 2020

Whatever happened to declaration of assets by MPs?

A salient and enduring black spot that bestrides Festus Mogae’s presidency has been his reluctance to come up with a law making it mandatory for him and his colleagues in parliament to publicly declare their assets and commercial interests.

A failure to come up with a law requiring politicians in office to declare their interests has bred distaste for the current administration in general and for Mogae in particular.
That distaste looks set to overspill into Khama’s early years in office.
It is a failure that is likely to follow, even haunt Mogae into retirement.
It is a failure that can only be described as disturbing.

Despite public clamours for such a law, it is an issue that Mogae has so conveniently and deliberately skirted and sidestepped with swagger.

It is a key omission that will make his presidency get more despised by history.
Yet from day one, his government set out to parade this piece of legislation as one of their leading ambitions while knowing it was a falsehood.

Declaration of commercial interests is both a substantively and symbolically significant requirement, especially in a country where politicians including presidents and their families are known to also dabble in business.

When it happens, declaration invokes trust, confidence and inspiration.
Failure by politicians to declare their interests has meant that the public can no longer readily discern the difference between interests honestly begotten (if there are any) and those acquired through abuse of office.

Missing an opportunity to bring about such a law has led to a situation where the president is now regrettably depicted as a man with a soft spot for corruption.

This latter day portrait of Mogae is the opposite of the man he was when he first ascended high office.

Then he was immensely popular, looked at as the best man to replace Sir Ketumile Masire who was viewed too intricately hooked to the country’s commercial jackboots.

Because of failure by MPs to declare their interests, far fewer voters trust Festus Mogae than they did when he came in almost a decade ago.

More and more voters are no longer able to detach him from business interests that dominate, control, manipulate and hold with a vice grip the direction of both the ruling party and its government.

Yet this was the man who, as Vice President and Minister of Finance, was walking on water telling the nation that business men and women owing the government owned NDB had to pay their debts up or face foreclosures.
It’s hard for one to come up with a plausible explanation for such a failure beyond that our politicians have something to hide.

Refusal to convince his colleagues to declare their interests is one key reason why over the past few years more and people have begun to suspect that there is something rum about Festus Mogae.

It is also the reason why more and more people have changed their views of him; now looking at him as an apprentice businessman rather than a detached technocrat turned politician with no interest in amassing bag loads of money.
It is instructive to note that again and again with their elaborate campaign of deceit and misrepresentation Mogae’s government has promised this particular law.

Again and again, Mogae’s government has not kept its promise, abandoning the people hanging on positions of false hopes just as good intentions (never to be delivered) had been created.

The closer this government is examined on the principles of honesty and integrity the less impressive its record becomes.

The most embarrassing and self-defeating point has been when Minister Phandu Skelemani was stopped in his tracks as he was on his way to presenting the legislation to parliament.
That was very untidy indeed.

The rumour mill has it that Vice President Ian Khama chaired the ill-fated cabinet meeting that condemned the declaration law to the dustbins.
If this is true, and if Khama is not careful, this shortsightedness is likely to contaminate his honeymoon come March next year.

The overriding quality a nation expects from its leadership (especially an overly powerful leadership) is honesty.
That is not what we are getting from this government.

Coming to think of Mogae’s looming retirement, his currently low ratings in contrast to the high hopes he brought into politics in 1998 when he became President, perhaps there is some truth after all in the adage that every political career ends up in failure
We can only look back in despair as we await Khama’s bite at the cherry in the near future.

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