How many times have I heard politicians across the globe and with wrinkled foreheads declaring that they will fight corruption with whatever it takes? And I am talking about those who came before the present generation. But because the present generation has learnt from the previous one with the added advantage of corruption sophistication, corruption levels have manifested substantially without the slightest indication of subsiding in the foreseeable future. If the wrinkled foreheads had the courage to decisively deal with corruption, Africa for one, would be a continent to be proud of because the socio-economic circumstances of her inhabitants would be a marvel to watch. Politicians hold the necessary power and authority to put corruption under lock and key but sadly, these imperatives are instead used effectively to aid and abet corruption.
My point of departure is that the power of citizens to ensure that politicians deliver on corruption fighting promises begins and ends on the day of elections. Thereafter, citizens’ preoccupation is that of wailing and groaning like a lost animal in the wilderness. They become painfully and pitifully helpless souls because they have no recourse until the next elections. Even then, the cycle of wailing and groaning becomes more of the same if not the worst. This is further exacerbated by the moribund civil society as is the case in Botswana. Civil society is supposed to be the vanguard of the citizen voice before and in between the election cycles by mobilising citizens to pile pressure on politicians to deal with, and to be seen to be dealing decisively with corruption. Even in countries like South Africa, where civil society is robust and dont take no for an answer, politicians still thrive on high levels of corruption.
The next stop for politicians to capitalise on citizens’ passiveness to hold them accountable for corruption is parliament. Botswana parliament for instance, is known over the years to be a toothless dog that cannot hold the executive to account. It took parliament over two decades to pass the Assets and Liabilities Bill, which remains a law of convenience. Experts have punched glaring holes in the proposed law to the point that it stands in large measure to be ineffective in fighting corruption, primarily because such declarations will still be made to their peers, politicians. What’s more, parliamentarians across the political divide recently failed to honour this very law by failing to meet the deadline for their declarations. After being elected in October 2019, parliamentarians were bound by the law to have declared by the end of 2019 or thereabout. Before the end of last year, they were expected to have filed their election returns. In both instances, they amended the law to cater for their own personal needs. With citizens so timid to demand that politicians deal with corruption, parliamentarians become birds of the same feather by failing to put a strong leash around the necks of the executive. With the above scenario firmly in place, ruling politicians are well and truly on their way to effect a corrupt behaviour completely unhindered.
With ruling politicians now firmly in charge in terms of controlling all the levers of power, they build corruption networks across board whose purpose is to facilitate and entrench corruption in all its manifests. This, because a single politician cannot do corruption on their own. Facilitating and entrenching corruption in Botswana, for example, becomes very easy because institutions whose mandate is to fight corruption are controlled from the highest office in the land. History has shown that with a set up similar to Botswana, fighting corruption becomes a non-starter in terms of pursuing charges against members of the network who may have fallen out with the ruling politicians together with members of the opposition parties who may be a threat to such ruling politicians.
Generally speaking, political office is regarded as a gateway to undeserved prosperity where politicians acquire opulent lifestyles of unimagined proportions. The continent, including Botswana is awash with such characters who, when called upon to account for their opulent lifestyles, frantically fail to do so. This, because they are members of the much sought out network who are religiously protected by those in the highest offices who control the levers of power. It is a common phenomenon that a politician who would have assumed political office as your ordinary poor man next door immediately swims in a pool of luxury not that such has been legitimately acquired but because it is time for them to eat wherein they really sink their teeth into the juicy meat suddenly on their plates.
Money and politics have become the proverbial birds of the same feather flocking together. Without money, politics becomes unattractive and cannot therefore thrive. The reverse is also true. I hold the view that the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in South Africa continues to give a glimpse on how money and politics played a significant role in high value corruption in that country. By extension and if Botswana was to set up a similar commission, similar revelations of high value corruption would emerge because unfolding corruption events now and in the immediate past point in that direction. The country has been stuck in the National Petroleum Fund scandal for so long with no resolution therefrom reasonably in sight. Prominent politicians and businessmen are repeatedly mentioned in the scandal, but they remain untouchable. Because in our part of the world, politics and business interests are at stake, the proverbial birds of the same feather gang up. In the midst of politics and money becoming inseparable, high levels of corruption take centre stage with politicians who benefit handsomely somewhat incapacitated to deal with corruption.
The monster that is corruption is aided and abetted by politicians holding all the levers of power. It is inconceivable as a consequence that the very same politicians can genuinely and decisively deal with corruption. Ideally, ruling politicians should be the best placed persons to deal with corruption because they are vested with the levers of power to do so. But realistically because they allow themselves to be caught in the same corruption web, fighting corruption at best becomes a hollow political rhetoric to win elections and at worst, a selective tool to persecute those who may have fallen out of favour with the big brothers.
I am convinced that ruling politicians are the architects of corruption and cannot therefore decisively deal with it. If anything, fighting corruption will be a half-hearted and cosmetic preoccupation whose impact is not commensurate with the scourge itself. Until the full might of the levers of power are set in full swing without exception to deal with corruption, may be and just maybe could one talk about fighting corruption. The decisive common denominator is whether politicians fully entrenched in high levels of corruption can allow themselves to be investigated for corruption. Emerging trends provide the answer in the negative. As long as there are still laws that make other ruling politicians fully insulated from any legal intervention and, as long as ruling party parliamentarians still remain beholden to their political party leaders will fighting corruption become as elusive as peace is in South Sudan. And as long as the civil society remains indifferent in addressing corruption, politicians will remain in their comfort zones to perpetuate corruption. In other countries, executive minded judges are known to have accepted corruption bribes from politicians facing corruption judges. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!