Following our tenth entry: MP Andrew Gwynne, who successfully introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act and worked long and hard to get justice for those who received contaminated blood through the NHS, we turn to Botswana, after reading an obituary by Emily Langer in the Independent. Her subject was Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.
A summary with added links and photographs
Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor and became a successful farmer.
He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari Desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.
After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.
The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.
He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’.
After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.
Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”
After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.
He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.”
A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia..
Anne sends a link to the ‘shameful’ news that the 50 biggest US companies have more money stashed offshore than the entire GDP of Spain, Mexico or Australia, collectively keeping about $1.3trn (£0.91trn) in territories where the money does not count towards US tax, according to a new report by Oxfam.
Several readers have sent material about the Panama Papers but until now they have not been mentioned on this site – because, as Žižek writes: “The only truly surprising thing about the Panama Papers leak is that there is no surprise in them:
“Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn from them?”
He highlights the ‘shameless cynicism’ of the existing global order and our shame for tolerating their power. In Vox.Com Tara Goshan elaborates:
“Corruption is not a contingent deviation of the global capitalist system, it is part of its basic functioning . . . The papers demonstrate how wealthy people live in a separate world in which different rules apply, in which legal system and police authority are heavily twisted and not only protect the rich, but are even ready to systematically bend the rule of law to accommodate them”.
She points out that, after many years of pressure on Swiss banks to reveal information about rich Americans who hide their money offshore, the U.S. is resisting new global disclosure standards; wealth management experts are now helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Goshan quotes Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at Anaford AG, a Zurich law firm, in a recent legal journal:
“How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour. That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.”
The Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the prime minister’s statement to the House of Commons about his tax affairs:
“I’m honestly not sure Mr Speaker that the Prime Minister fully appreciates the anger that is out there over this injustice.
“How can it be right that street cleaners, teaching assistants and nurses work and pay their taxes yet some of those at the top think the rules simply don’t apply to them.
“The truth is, is that the UK is at the heart of the global tax avoidance industry. It’s a national scandal and it’s got to end”.
Anne comments on the focus away from this international scandal, sending a link to the news that today the Security Council holds an open debate on counter-terrorism.
Will the attention of the 99% once again be successfully distracted by the political-corporate alliance?
In 2010 Ian Foxley (Lieutenant Colonel, British Army, retired) became a Saudi-based employee of GPT Special Project Management, a subsidiary of Airbus. GPT provided secure communications systems to the Saudi national guard under an agreement between the MoD and the Saudis.
Arabian Business reported way back in 2011 that a source at the SFO told the paper a preliminary investigation was underway into claims of corruption, noting that the £2bn ($3.2bn) communications contract was one of the largest awarded in recent years by Saudi Arabia.
In a report of evidence given to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards it was recorded that Mr Foxley had discovered documentary evidence of gross irregularities, and attempts to cover them up, within GPT and the SANGCOM Project which he reported to EADS Group Compliance, the UK MoD and the Serious Fraud Office. The Financial Times [April 28th] added that he discovered gifts to Saudi military officials and illicit payments routed through the Cayman Islands and provided evidence of the questionable transactions to an MoD official overseeing the project.
As the MoD informed his bosses at GPT that he had raised concerns, he left Saudi Arabia. In 2012 other MoD/Saudi irregularities were exposed. Though the UK Serious Fraud Office began a corruption investigation in 2012 and arrested and questioned six people in 2014 including current and former GPT employees and former MoD officials, no one has been charged.
The Ministry of Defence (housed above) decided to hold back parts of the material to be released to Richard Brooks, a journalist at Private Eye magazine, after his freedom of information request. Mr Brooks, who has reported on the alleged corrupt transactions related to a contract to equip Saudi Arabia’s national guard, told the three-judge panel on the tribunal that the refusal to reveal the information amounted to a cover-up.
Ian Foxley (FT May 18th) describes this as a battle between the correct implementation of UK law in exposing and fighting alleged corruption or the continued official concealment of “legacy commercial issues” in order to propagate overseas trade, writing, “It is a real contest between God and Mammon, morality or money, copper or conscience. At question are the values and principles of a number of government departments through a real litmus test of their integrity”.
He asks two questions:
- Should we allow civil servants to try to use UK law to favour overseas potentates and avoid offence to those who might otherwise offer us contracts, jobs and oil?
- Why should the law applied to individuals not apply also to corporates and government departments?
And ends: “We cannot, and must not, allow our government departments to be complicit in or wilfully blind to corporate corruption. So, if our new government maintains it is fighting for UK business, that’s great — but let it be honest business not dirty deals mired in a legacy of corruption”.
In 2012, Ian Foxley and Peter Gardiner, who blew the whistle on BAE a decade ago, formed Whistleblowers UK.
A ‘favour culture’ must be restricted to those at the top – shame on anyone from the minority communities who usurps the privilege of their betters
The Attorney General Dominic Grieve is alleged to have said that some minority communities “come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic . . . where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture . . . and it’s not acceptable”.
He is said to have continued: “As politicians these are issues we need to pay some attention to”.
But the tone is set at the top in this country, where:
- the revolving door regularly and shamefully swings between government and advisors and the corporate word – then vice-versa;
- politicians, their family members and friends, gain employment in this corporate world;
- politicians and corporate management are regularly rewarded and even promoted after failure and
- MPs and noble Lords have been videoed – more than once – offering to take money in return for influencing legislation?
Set an example at the top: dissolve the political-corporate alliance.
Today we read that police in India have detained Anna Hazare hours before a planned fast against a proposed new anti-corruption law. The BBC ‘s description of him as an ‘activist’ immensely underplays his longstanding work, and his fight against corruption is being supported by millions.
A brief account of an earlier fast was published on a sister site.
Mr Hazare had pledged to begin an indefinite hunger strike in the capital, Delhi, on Tuesday despite the police denying him permission to fast for more than three days.
Plainclothes police officers picked up Anna Hazare from a house in Delhi and drove him away in an unmarked car, fellow activist Akhil Gogoi told the AFP news agency.
Britain is also being immensely damaged by corruption [MPs, MEPs, Lords, police, media, as well as humbler folk] and polite recommendations for reform by parliamentary select committee have been ignored; do we have a strong and honest figure like Hazare to spearhead a movement for change?
Tariq Ali ?