The Ombudsman may have been intimidated by Khama

SHARE   |   Monday, 05 February 2018   |   By Dithapelo Keorapetse
The Ombudsman may have been intimidated by Khama

We have received The Ombudsman report regarding our report on allegations of abuse of power by the President in respect of his private residence in Mosu. First we are disappointed that the office saw it fit to circulate the report in some form publicly before they responded to us the complainant. We saw the matter on social media before we knew there was a formal response from Ombudsman. It shows disrespect and discourtesy by the office. Secondly we are studying the report and our preliminary view is that following the recent objective report by the Ombudsman on the abuse of Btv by the ruling party, the office may have been intimidated by the powers that be. The Ombudsman has perhaps been reminded that he serves at the behest of the President and the ruling party; that he should shut up and behave because elections are near. He also speaks about our tendency to report just before elections; we are a political party interested in attaining state power on account of better policies among others transparent, accountable and ethical government which are lacking in Botswana. The Ombudsman should desist from speaking the language of corrupt ruling party politicians. He should leave politics to politicians, the timing of reports is none of his business; his is to investigate and assess our case in its merits, period. We are not at fault to question the procedure of his recent appointment; he can’t be angered by calls to reform the process.

Our lawyers are studying the report and we are just curious why no fault hasn’t been found on President Ian Khama who sent DIS to threaten to kill and or harm INK investigative journalists - Joel Konopo, Ntibinyane Ntibinyane and Kaombona Kanani – for attempting to investigate the matter. We wonder how the Ombudsman missed satellite images of military trucks shown by INK investigation in local papers. We wonder how Ombudsman vindicated his investigations. We are however not surprised because as the party we have said and maintain that the Ombudsman is a toothless institution which has become a mere Public relations exercise. The Ombudsman Act lists matters not to be investigated by the office and these are numerous and very substantial. These are: Action taken for protecting the security of the state; Commencement of civil or criminal proceedings in any court; Appointment of offices of government; Matters certified by the President or minister to affect relations or dealings between the government of Botswana and any other government or any international organisation; Action taken for the purpose of protecting the security of the state; Action taken in respect of appointments to offices or other employment in the service of the government of Botswana or appointment made by or with the approval of the President or any Minister, and action taken in relation to any person as the holder or former holder of such office, employment or appointment; Action taken with respect to orders or directions to the Botswana Police Force or Botswana Defence Force (BDF); and Action taken outside Botswana by any governmental representative or officer. The list is not exhaustive. The defence and security realm is protected from investigation by the Ombudsman and this has far reaching implications on democratic oversight of defence and security as an integral part of liberal democracy. In Namibia, for example, the office has broad powers and functions to investigate complaints of violation of fundamental rights and freedoms, the abuse of power, manifest injustice, corruption, or conduct by any official which would be regarded as unlawful, oppressive or unfair in a democratic society. The powers of the ombudsman in Namibia include investigation of the defence force and the police in so far as complaints might be related to the failure to achieve a balanced structuring of such services or equal access by all to recruitment, or fair administration in those agencies. The ombudsman in Namibia reports to parliament - and not to the president.

In Botswana, the Ombudsman Act is silent on the enforcement and prosecutionary powers of the office and according to one scholar, they must be deemed to be limited to non-existent. Observers have concluded that the effectiveness of the institution of the Ombudsman in Botswana is mediocre. The features which lie beneath the Ombudsman contemptible performance are in particular their lack of independence from the executive arm; the chief grievance officer is appointed by the executive and answerable to it and the fact that the office depends on the executive for their budgets and staffing and lack powers to enforce their recommendations. All of these restrictions may have played a part in the current verdict. After receiving a written complaint from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) about the Vice President piloting of BDF aircraft, Lethebe Maine handed a report to President Festus Mogae in April 2001 and more than two years later, after President Mogae failed to act on his report, he passed the matter to the minister responsible, in the expectation that the report will be tabled before Parliament, but still no action was taken. In late 2003 the Ombudsman affirmed publicly that there was no more that he could do. If the Ombudsman is unable to enforce his recommendations/findings and the government doesn’t respond or act on his or her findings, then we are tempted to conclude that this office is a mere public relations exercise. Maine had called for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act in 1999. He argued that attractive words about the Ombudsman as a pillar of democracy meant very little, unless the right to complain and raise issues was fully available to all sectors of the public.

Dithapelo Keorapetse
Selibe-Phikwe West MP
BCP spokesperson