The woman must go

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We are no longer talking about ethics here. We all know where the president of the republic, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, stands when it comes to that. We are not even talking about upholding the dignity of the office. And we are not talking about decorum either. A president who accepts invitations from L’Oréal and Lovely Professional University and chases one award after another as if that was essential to defining who she is, has lost the page in her dictionary where the word ‘decorum’ appears. As for rising above politics, we have oft times quoted her showing her partiality to the rest of the world: “People were fed up with the way politics was run, and wanted change,” she told the Financial Times. “Before, they voted by caste and religion. For the first time, they voted instead for a party and its ideas.” “We were a small party… David against Goliath,” she had also told our colleagues on the continent. We are now talking about possible misconduct.

To know who Gurib-Fakim really is, one has to go back to her beginnings. She rose to fame through her contacts in the media and used every opportunity to work on her image. You will recall how journalists and press photographers used to find themselves in the vegetable market by sheer accident at the same time as a fully made-up woman who was about to become president. Photographs were taken of her stretching her arm to gracefully touch potatoes and ladies’ fingers.  Headlines about her modesty then followed, supplemented by nicely prepared shots of her making tea in her own kitchen – a great act of humility, it would seem. 

Her complaint to the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) about being discriminated against at the University of Mauritius because of her religion should have sent alarm bells ringing. Particularly when she later admitted that “I played on the ethnic aspect so that they [the university] had to account for rejecting my candidacy”! Then-Chairman of the EOC Brian Glover had to resort to calling for an amendment to the Equal Opportunities Act “to include that complaints have to be made in good faith… to decrease the number of groundless cases and stop wasting public money… prevent some people from using tactical strategies to try and achieve goals other than treating the case squarely and fairly within the framework of the EOA.” That should have disqualified her from holding any public office. It didn’t. And Gurib-Fakim waltzed into the State House eager to do more work on her image and chase more awards. It didn’t take long for her to discover how easy it is to jet around the world and at the same time benefit from the perks of the position. 

The revelations made by our sister publication l’express in yesterday’s edition – until proven otherwise – are not only about profiteering and disgracing her post. They are about how our president has benefited from the generosity of a suspected crook, using funds supposedly earmarked to finance the studies of 10 Mauritian students “at the best universities in the world”. We now know that the 10 students have shrunk to two – one was sent to the Kwame Nkrumeh University in Ghana and the other to the Nelson Mandela Institute in Tanzania. The others were carted off to the University of Mauritius. At the same time, our humble president was waking up to star couturiers, branded shoes and fine jewellery – something that she continued to deny, while avoiding the very accountability she was asking for.

For a while now, concerns have been raised about the use of Le Réduit. Were dinners at the State House paid for by our hard-earned money organised to host a controversial person by the name of Sobrinho?  Were receptions thrown to facilitate meetings with useful bankers? Who facilitated his access to the VIP lounge at the airport on so many occasions? 

The answers are not forthcoming. The latest revelations about the president’s expenses – irrespective of whether the money was paid back after the first headlines had hit the newspapers or not – are a national shame and constitute a gross act of misconduct. As things stand, the woman has to go. 

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Un nouveau scandale défraie la chronique depuis le mercredi 28 février à Maurice. Cette fois-ci cela concerne ni plus ni moins la garante de notre Constitution, son excellence Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, présidente de la République. Elle a dépensé plusieurs centaines de milliers de roupies pour des achats personnels, entre autres, sur une carte de crédit Platinum offerte par la Planet Earth Institute, la fondation d’Álvaro Sobrinho, homme d’affaires angolais hautement controversé. Retrouvez tous les articles concernant cette affaire dans notre dossier spécial : Platinum Card. Une enquête exclusive de l’express.

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