By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – Five anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa formed an alliance to fight against corruption which claimed its dominance in the society. To ensure that justice prevails against all odds, the agencies from five countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding to officiate the working relationship and new found friendship.

Corruption remains arguably the worst enemy to development. And so, fighting corruption effectively requires strong political will by all concerned, public, private and civil society.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which aims at enhancing awareness and combating corruption between Lesotho’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), Botswana’s Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Eswatini’s Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The purpose was to provide a broad base of co-operation between the countries and their directorates, with the intention of combating corruption and economic crime. Henceforth, the history making collaboration of anti-corruption agencies intends to; afford each other technical assistance through research and training in areas to be identified jointly; assist each other with expertise and staff attachments; establish channels of communication to facilitate secure and rapid exchange of information concerning corruption and economic crimes as well as specific best practices on prevention together with implementation of corruption prevention programmes in both public and private intuitions; conduct collaborative investigations and assist each other with the interviewing of suspects and witnesses as well as recording statements when carrying out investigations in each respective country; providing each other with mutual assistance regarding the identification of and tracking of individuals and proceeds derived from transactions of corruptions and economic crimes and property, equipment or other instrumentalities used or intended to be used in the commission of corruptions and economic crimes and others.

This comes after the countries’ anti-corruption agencies became concerned about the seriousness of threats posed by corruption to the security and stability of the society. Corruption has been said to undermine the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development, social and economic prosperity and the rule of law. Therefore, they are determined to restore hope and justice by seeking new approaches and strategies in the fight against corruption.

Mr. Lekhotla Selia, explaining where the initiative had begun, said the countries have established great friendship and showed commitment by working together. He enlightened that it was through games and sporting activities between agencies, in informal settings that BOLESWA began their acquaintance. It was in 2016 when they officially begun hosting and engaging in games and as the years moved, the other countries joined in. He declared it was just before COVID when they as anti-corruption agencies deemed it wise to establish a working relationships. They therefore had an Expo and educational tour which was rather put on hold by the pandemic. “It was this year that Lesotho had to revive the games so this is what brings us here today. In evolving the games, this year we escalated the initiative to translate into the MOU we are signing today. We are moving to where we can now engage even beyond the games to put more work because corruption has taken its toll. We also intend to have executions and knowledge sharing”, he said.

The Director General of DCEO Advocate Knox Molelle emphasized it was important that the countries join forces against the currently prevailing high rate of crime as it has proven to be another pandemic which prevents Africa from progressing and blossoming. “This day marks a milestone and quite a significant event because we often talk over the phone requesting for information but hardly see faces. And now we get a moment to reconnect in a much more relaxed environment, share best practices, talk about our challenges and find a way forward as a collective” he said.

Molelle enlightened that this also marks the renewal of their commitment as agencies in the fight against corruption, the ethical values that they need to uphold and the integrity which needs to be restored. “It needs to be a reminder that we cannot say we are fighting corruption yet our very own steps are wrong. This is a call to why we are here and are doing this job”, he said.

Botswana DCEC Representative, mentioned it was due to the fact that their Director General is relatively new, they need a bit of time to allure her the chance and benefit to internalize the prepared MOU and give it her blessings before Botswana could give her signature. “Nevertheless, we were part of the drafting and are in total agreement with its context as it pushes to the fight against corruption. Please rest assured knowing that Botswana is fully committed to this endeavour and will definitely join the others in actualizing the MOU”, she said.

She further extended gratitude to Lesotho’s DCEO for pledging to revive the anti-corruption agencies and Expo and educational tour. She also declared the current calamity is depression as it has claimed many lives. “Therefore, as anti-corruption officers, it is our role and responsibility to assist in restoring dignity by fighting corruption in all its forms. It is my belief that an initiative such as the anti-corruption expo and educational tour will go a long way in rejuvenating and refreshing our officers so that they are fit to face all the possible hazards that may go through in their line of duty to fight corruption”, she expressed, declaring how this initiative had long been awaited in Botswana.

Representing South Africa, The Principal Forensic and Investigative unit Jerry Lefu, declared South Africa is equally excited to be part of the collaboration as the country is also committed to bring forth the ends of justice to its nation and beyond. “As different agencies we needed to network amongst ourselves and collaborate because corruption is a societal problem, it cuts across all the countries. But when that happens, as law enforcement agencies, we cannot close our eyes. Indeed this is a one of a kind partnership and as South Africa we take it seriously. We believe that it shall help eliminate corruption across this countries”, he said.

Collaboration was said to lead to more innovation, efficient processes and increased success as well as improved communication and all these have potential to combat corruption. The Deputy Director Security Risk Management from Namibia stated that they as a country joined the initiative and are in agreement to join the pledge of fighting against corruption in all its forms, from the public to the private sector alike without favour. “We also indicate that we acknowledge and are committed to the signage of the MOU. From Namibia, I have got a team of delegates from competent authorities, who will assist with training sessions and we are ready for this collaboration”, he said.

The aforementioned agencies, recognizing that they have a legal mandate to combat corruption, collect and analyse relevant information to evaluate loopholes in the law on anti-corruption measures and coordinate corruption prevention systems, have the overall aim of promoting good governance in their respective countries. In agreement, they hope to strengthen co-operation in the techniques of investigation and prevention of corruption, corruption risk assessment and management, intelligence and public education with specific focus on marking corruption as high-risk.