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Ten out of Ten for Ten-Ten

Publishing Date : 05 September, 2017

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The newly released Ombudsman’s report on the complaint by Rev Dr Prince Dibeela against Botswana Television (Btv) indicates that the public protector is finally coming out of its shell to inspire confidence in the institution.  

The Office of Ombudsman was created in 1994 alongside Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) in the wake corruption scandals and maladministration that hit the country in the early 1990s. It was against this background that his institution was created; to investigate maladministration and abuse of public office.   Of recent, the public has written-off the importance of the Office of Ombudsman because they perceived it to be lacking spine and courage to tell off the executive of its office abuse practices.

The executive and its departments have been growing comfortable with abuse of state resources. The arrival of Augustine Mokganatsotlhe suggests that it will not be business as usual no more. Although it is not explicit on whether recommendations made by Ombusdman are binding, we should take solace in the fact that malpractices will be investigated and exposed. The notion that Ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding should also be challenged in the Courts like the South Africans did. In the case of Jacob Zuma, his administration claimed the report’s findings by the then Public Protector, Thuli Mandosela were not binding but the constitutional Court ruled otherwise.

In Dibeela’s complaint, Mokgonatsotlhe has found that Btv’s coverage of political parties’ activities does not meet the requirements of imbalance, equity and inclusiveness as set out under their mandate and guidelines. The findings of the Ombudsman on Dibeela’s complaint should be an embarrassment to the government for perverting the editorial guidelines of Botswana Television (Btv) to give BDP political mileage. The station, as Mokgonatsotse observed has been used as a propaganda machine for the BDP and the expense of other political parties.

 For the government which is known, at least by international ranking institutions, this is embarrassing, divisive and promotes intolerance. The success of our institutions depends on their legal status such as powers and autonomy given to them to execute their duties. Legislators should also look at reviewing the Ombudsman Act for the purpose of enhancing its mandate and independence. As it stands now, the Ombudsman reports to Office of the President, which compromises its autonomy. It will be ideal if the Ombudsman reports to parliament, and have its budget allocated directly from parliament, instead of through Office of the President.

For all our institutions critical to good governance and safe guarding democracy, to be resilient we need to ensure that there are independent. Their resilience will be the corner stone of our democracy and good governance. This applies to institutions like the judiciary, DCEC, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and even Btv as the Ombudsman recommended. The ombudsmen recommended that Btv which is not a statutory institution should be established by law or some instrument that will clearly spell out its mandate and governance structures. He further advised that they should be transparent in the discharge of their mandates and functions and also be accountable to the nation through parliament.

His recommendations were mostly guided by what obtains in other state owned broadcasters such as SABC (South Africa) and BBC (Britain). Makgonatsotle looks like a man on a mission. He inks himself as one who is knowledgeable of the office he holds. He is one set to redeem and protect the integrity of Ombudsman’s office. On a similar note, Rev Prince Dibeela also deserves credit for instituting the complaint, and we are waiting to see if there would be changes at Btv as per Ombudsman’s recommendations.



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