The Vice President and the ‘incoming’ President of the Republic of Botswana His Honour Mokgweetsi Masisi is embroiled in allegations of serious corruption as a result of alleged receipt of P3m windfall from the P250m National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal. These allegations were revealed by the defence lawyer representing accused persons in the NPF case before the Gaborone Regional Magistrate. The investigating officer in the case is reported by the Botswana Guardian newspaper dated March 9, 2018 to have said that “….we discovered such information along when we investigate. The VP has been approached and interviewed regarding the funds attributed to him but at this moment I cannot say what the final outcome would be, safe to say I interviewed him….” On the basis and strength of what the investigating officer says, I expect Masisi not to hide behind his finger but to resign forthwith in order to clear his name as a private citizen. One is not oblivious to the principle of being innocent until proven guilty. This principle should perfectly apply to Masisi. But Masisi is fully aware of the implications of the oath of office the Chief Justice administers on incoming Presidents – to protect the Constitution and all laws of Botswana. The very fact that there are these serious allegations against him suggests that he may very well or not, have violated the oath of office he currently holds. Even before he is ‘inaugurated’, it would do him a great deal of good by stepping down to let the law take its course. This by no means implies that he is admitting any guilt. I would advise Masisi to watch and listen to what the South African Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said when he recently swore in President Ramaphosa’s Ministers about the value and implications of oath of office. He said “…only people who have a measure of credibility and integrity and some character to write about should be elected as public servants.” He continued “…those who betrayed their oath of office should be judged most brutally.” As of now, circumstantial evidence owing to his interaction with the investigating officer in the alleged benefit firmly places Masisi in the latter quote of Mogoeng J.
Integrity is defined by some as ‘the qualification of being honest and having strong moral principles, or moral uprightness.’ As a strong and declared proponent of bolope (sycophancy) Masisi’s measure of credibility and integrity credentials were already in question long before the emergence of his current woes. His current circumstances (unproven as they currently are) have worsened his situation. I am expecting Masisi to go beyond the valid but politically convenient principle of innocent until proven guilty by invoking his own moral conscience and saying: much as allegations against me have not been proven in a court of law, have they not, whether true or false, damaged my credibility and integrity and by extension the office I currently hold let alone the higher one I am looking forward to; how am I going to deal with Ministers who are also allegedly facing similar allegations; how credible will I be to for example appoint the Chief Justice and other judges with this baggage of allegations on my back; how am I going to ask all those involved in the NPF scandal and other wrongdoings in government to account when in the eyes of Batswana and the world, I am also firmly in the eye of the same storm. The moral conscience of Masisi should frankly speak to these questions and only him; and him alone, should and can provide answers given that he has the capacity to do so. But Masisi is unable to resign on account of either his lack of courage to effect his moral conscience or because, and perhaps more importantly, that he cannot imagine missing an opportunity of his lifetime of becoming the fifth President of Botswana. Either way, Botswana is bound to play second fiddle to his self-preservation.
If Masisi is inaugurated on 1 April 2018, current allegations against him as well as the prospect of having his day in court should ongoing investigations so unfold, will immediately fall away courtesy of absolute immunity provided by Section 41 (1) of the Constitution of Botswana for holders of the Office of the President. If I had it my way, the investigating officer in this matter will have to race against time to ensure that Masisi’s matter is speedily investigated so that he appears in court before 1 April should such investigations dictate. Legal scholars should be in a position to advice whether he can be criminally charged after the fact. That is, even assuming he becomes President on 1 April, can he still be charged for acts committed before he would have become President? The political high stakes chess game in the NDF scandal takes its roots in some way from the Minister of Minerals and Energy Sadique Kebonang who is quoted by the Sunday Standard online edition dated 10 December 2017; saying “In relation to Bakang Seretse, I state that I have known him for many years. He has funded my campaign and political activities since 2013 to date. He has also donated generously to a number of causes, entities, and people, political and otherwise through me.” The paper further says that “….all the leaders of political parties in Botswana save for the Alliance for Progressives and the Botswana Peoples Party have been routinely receiving money from Seretse as part of his political largesse and political patronage.” While leaders of opposition parties have vehemently denied receiving any funds from Seretse, the trail of such is currently and firmly with the BDP. It should be noted that opposition parties are not yet out of the woods. Kebonang’s statement may very well carry currency because in the 2014 general election, we saw some opposition parties using a helicopter and branded bus-resources they have always suggested were beyond them. While they may have received funds from somewhere else for these resources, Kebonang’s statement to the DCEC may very well provide another perspective. Only time and how the case unfolds will tell us if indeed opposition parties also benefitted from the extraordinary NPF windfall.