. . . or corruption will kill Lesotho
Topollo Charles Putsoane
WHEN the law can no longer protect you from the corrupt, but protects the corrupt from you, you know your country is heading for doom! All I know is corruption and nepotism are rampaging the civil service. At long last, the longest serving minister, Monyane Moleleki attests to that. And I, as a long time lone corruption fighter, feel vindicated.
Thank you Mokola, and welcome to the army of Corruption Freedom Fighters. However, while I welcome you as a buffalo soldier, be warned, fighting corruption in Lesotho is not an easy feat, it is a very risky, lonely and bitter war. Be cautioned further, the corruption peddlers, are well organized and ruthless; unless you are careful, they will skin you alive. In order to survive the war, humble yourself and learn from us the veterans with old battle scars and fresh wounds, we have seen it all, we are the corruption fighting maestros. While I don’t claim I have a panacea to kill corruption in Lesotho, I know you are a witness that I am a one size short shoe on the foot of corruption, and have been for a long time, remember!? I hope you have what it takes to see the war through, that’s stamina, high level of pain tolerance, ethics and guts! You also need mercy, to forgive because greed occupies center part of their hearts, not God. Good luck to you Mokola!’’
Ntate Thabane is also a witness to intolerable high levels of corruption, because in his tenure of two and a half years as the premier, he once declared war against crime in the rural areas of Lesotho where he was running after the criminals day in day out. But, after he declared war on corruption in the civil service, he was pushed out of power by a powerful hurricane force that he fell far in Ficksburg. Unlike in the rural areas where he set criminals on the run, he never managed to wage the intended war against white-collar crime – corruption, nepotism and connivance with criminals against freedom fighters. It seems this time around corruption set him on the run. Some people say by attacking white collar crime, he touched a wrong button. White collar criminals are the ones responsible for the rot and poverty in Lesotho through destruction of the economy by corruption and incompetency. These are the true enemies of the country; not AIDS, not drought.
There is a saying in Lesotho that, “if you are not corrupt, you are corrupt”. Simply put, it means if you are not corrupt and are known for your firm anti-corruption principles, your corrupt superiors, will organize corrupt and/or incompetent staff, to frame you as corrupt or incompetent in order to harass and humiliate you so that you can resign or ultimately get fired, whether the courts of law say no, they don’t care.
Those who attended Ntate Mphanya’s memorial service will remember that I made a very passionate speech giving a stern warning about the impending calamity awaiting the present administration that unless a serious introspection was made soon, with heavy emphasis on corruption and nepotism we are risking a revolt. It’s amazing how the leadership can at times fail to correctly read the political barometer even after they were warned of the consequences of corruption that is bedeviling the civil service!
On the international corruption watch scale Lesotho is ranked number 66, most surprisingly two places ahead of South Africa. I say surprisingly because, while I admit corruption is a serious problem in SA, they are clearly doing something about it, they are not condoning it through the culture of impunity like in Lesotho. I was advised by some senior government officer friends of mine, to stop wasting my time by annoying corruption in Lesotho because it is orchestrated by some of powerful people.
Corruption is defined as the misuse/abuse of entrusted power for private gain. The late Ntsukunyane Mphanya, the former Congress Party stalwart famous for his uncompromising stance against corruption defined corruption simply as “a mortal enemy of the poor people in Lesotho, worse than prostitution”. He said: “Prostitution endangers morals of an individual, while corruption endangers the morals of the entire country. Because corruption is destroying the poor people; it must be destroyed.
“We don’t need SADC to kill it, all we need is ethical political leadership with the patriotic and Godly attitude, with no sympathy with law breakers. The Basotho youth must challenge and fight corruption fiercely and mercilessly without any compromise, because it is destroying their future.”
The greatest evil in Lesotho these days is lack of love and indifference towards the victims of corruption, the poor, who are the voting fodder for the ruling elite – the energetic party supporters who are mostly unaware that they are victims of corruption. This evil is characterized by some party leaders openly fraternizing and socializing with known criminals.
It was encouraging, however, to hear Mr Moleleki, the longest serving minister admitting that there is corruption in the government, and instead of doing what ostriches do best, burying head in the sand, he has now declared war against it. It is also gratifying to Dr Thabane saying, “if my stand against acts of corruption has cost me my job, so be it! I am a happy loser”. Courageous and bold statements indeed.
The consistently least corrupt countries in Africa are Botswana, Mauritius, Cape Verde and Namibia and this lack of corruption is reflected in their political stability and growing economies.
Ministers and PSs are holding in trust billions of Maloti of the tax-payers’ money and it is our duty to keep them in check. Unfortunately, somebody must risk and bell the cat if we are to survive as a credible nation. Regrettably, in Lesotho some people have turned politics into a very profitable business and they need to be stopped. Martin Luther King Jr said, “a man who is not prepared to sacrifice and die for something is not a man”. Are you a man? If you are, join the Lesotho Corruption Liberation Army, we have work for you.
Suggested remedies towards long-term reduction of corruption in Lesotho:
- Declaration of assets by all senior government leaders.
All politically exposed people, The PM, Ministers, PSs, DPSs, Directors and the CEOs of the parastatals must declare their assets at the beginning of their contracts. Banks must subject these people to more and effective enhanced due diligence checks to ensure legitimacy of their source of wealth. All Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) senior staff must be included in this exercise.
- DCEO and Ombudsman must be empowered and be seen to be free from any political influence.
Processes that ensure total independence of these these bodies must be in place. The head of DCEO should report to the dedicated and ethical Board appointed by the parliament transparently. The head of DCEO should serve one non-renewable term of six years. DCEO staff salaries to reflect the dangerous and very stressful job they are doing. This department to be resourced sufficiently to meet the serious national challenge.
- Establishment of separate courts for corruption cases.
Let there be specialised courts sufficiently staffed with highly ethical, competent and motivated judges to deal with this scourge; if necessary complement our judges with foreign judges. Violations of judges’ Court Orders to be punished severely and promptly.
- Criminalise failure to report corruption and enact whistleblower protection law.
Failure to report corruption should be criminalized. Government to protect whistleblowers who have witnessed corruption throw effective whistleblowing policies.
- Ensure good corporate governance in the ministries and parastatals.
There is no way you can get good candidates for the job using outdated and corrupt recruitment methods and processes, with little or zero transparency. The PSs, DPSs and directors must go through a good corporate governance training, preferably King II, III and IV, which is cheaply obtainable across the border. It must be stated that criminals, like hyenas, are able to spot and capture a vulnerable officer and entice him with employment of their relatives and friends in senior government positions irrespective of their lack of qualifications. Thereafter, the tail starts to wag the dog, the poor captured officer is blackmailed and dictated to by the criminal forever.
- Corruption ex-convicts to undergo rehabilitation before reemployment.
Remorseful ex-convicts can be considered for re-employed in the civil service only after re-training and undergone some observation. And of course, not employed in the same department and position they abused. Discriminating corruption repentant ex-convicts, can be counterproductive and exacerbate the problem in the Lesotho dispensation.
- Banks must report any suspicious transaction to the police.
Parliament to enact a law that forces the banks to report to the police any deposit, withdrawal or transfer that is suspicious. This law to apply to ALL citizens irrespective of their social/political standing.
- Contribution by private companies to political parties to be prohibited.
No company should be allowed to fund any political party. Parties to be funded by their own members. In this way, no government administration will be indebted to any company or criminal. Party funding should also be audited.
- End impunity and disregard of court orders.
The only thing working very well in Lesotho are the courts of law, at least up to now. If we let criminals conquer and manipulate courts of law by violating court orders with impunity, then God help us all! Violation of court orders must be dealt with, ruthlessly and without any mercy, otherwise we run a risk of our judges being infiltrated.
- Install CCTVs in most government conference halls and offices.
Chicanery and manipulation of senior government officials by criminals is done mostly in the government offices. Abusing offices as day rest will stop.
- New ministers must be empowered through workshops for their new responsibilities.
Parliamentarians are elected by the people at constituency level, and we all applaud that. But the fact is some of them, especially the academically challenged ones, have no clue how the civil service operates. This is the time when corruption peddlers take the opportunity and pretend to be advisors to the ignorant minister. Thereafter the poor minister becomes an unwilling partner in crime used as a tool of making money from the government coffers through blackmail. Training them in corruption awareness, criminals’ modus operandi and basic rule of law in the civil service can lead to less PSs committing suicide.
- His Majesty the King should be protected from criminals and fraudsters.
His Majesty the King is the most valuable and precious asset we have in the country. As such, it is the duty of the government to ensure that his safety and protection from the criminals is maximum all the time. His Majesty has no infrastructure to screen all people approaching him, some of whom masquerading as angels while in fact they are not. That function should squarely be the responsibility of the government. There is one thing that we must accept, an unrepentant criminal has nothing to lose, he is at the bottom of the social hierarchy being a thief; given an opportunity he will sink and embarrass the highest office in Lesotho. The King is our last hope, we can’t afford to have criminals fraternizing with him.
- Let there be a ruthless bi-annual PS peer review conference.
Let there be a PS of the year and mampara of the year, and the mampara to be shown the door. Incompetency and corruption tendencies to be exposed in this forum.
- Ministers not to choose and appoint their own PSs.
I hear Chief Leabua Jonathan didn’t allow his ministers to recruit their own PSs. That was a noble decision by the chief. No minister can be corrupt without corporation of at least one of his subordinates. We have recently seen two PSs shoot themselves to death instead of answering some embarrassing and difficult questions. The question is why did the poor souls kill themselves? Ostensibly, somebody could have pressurized them into a crime. You need to be extra tough, or a Thuli Madonsela to say “no” to your powerful boss. PSs must be professional, and politely tell the minister what he should hear, not what he wants to hear, without antagonizing him. Of course, this can only be done by an empowered and highly professional, ethical and confidant PS.
- Limit contract terms for the parastatals CEOs.
PSs and CEOs of the parastatals to serve two terms of three-year non-renewable contracts. They should quit before they develop a comfort zone and become a less creative deadwood, get bored and become corrupt; let them go out and acquire new skills and fresh ideas elsewhere. They can always come back later with added leadership skills.
- Limit PM’s tenure to two five-year terms.
After two terms, the PM should call it quits. The longer he stays, the more he is exposing himself to manipulation by corruption peddlers. What is it that he has forgotten to implement in the last 10 years that he wants to implement in the 11th year?
- Impose strict control on the usage of state vehicles.
In Botswana senior government officers, including ministers, use their personal vehicles to and from work. Why can’t we do it in Lesotho?
- Ministers to apply/request for overseas trips to the PM.
Sometimes overseas trips could be abused to dishonestly transfer and hide the looted money. Overseas trips should not be taken unless it is VERY necessary.
- Mr Putsoane is suspended Lesotho Highlands Water Commission Chief Delegate for Lesotho. He wrote this article in his personal capacity.