Corruption in countries like the Seychelles has become something which people unfortunately accept as a given. When there is little oversight, those that are in power take advantage. That doesn’t make it okay but it is expected. What people don’t anticipate is the extent to which those in power will go in order to shamelessly promote their own interests at the peoples’ expense.
Such was the case in a recent expose published by The People, according to which Chief Justice of the Seychelles Supreme Court Ronny Govinden, took advantage of his position of power and proximity to the Seychelles leadership in order to acquire for himself a property portfolio unrivalled by many in the country.
At first glance there is nothing wrong with acquiring properties. If you have the money and would like to invest in an extensive property portfolio, then of course it is your right. A problem arises however, when the price paid for the property is significantly below market value, raising questions regarding the conditions under which it is acquired.
Accusations have been levied according to which a series of parcels of government land were acquired by the Chief Justice at below market costs. Most recent was piece of government land (H8312) measuring 995 square meters that was acquired on April 6th 2022. Unlike the other land, which he reportedly procured on questionable terms, this parcel saw records leaked pointing fingers directly at the current government of Wavel Ramkalawan. It is important to remember that Ronny Govinden, over the course of the past more than a decade has always been in an official position of power in the Seychellois justice system, currently a Chief Justice and previously as Chief Prosecutor and Attorney. One might expect a member of the judiciary to hold himself to higher standards, however this does not appear to be the case with Ronny Govinden.
The corruption in relation to this most recent acquisition is all too apparent, having paid only SR 122,800 for a plot easily valued at SR1.2 million. It looks like the position of Chief Justice comes with the added benefit of being able to purchase state land at 1/10 of the price. Had he kept the land for himself and built a home we might have been able to excuse this and look the other way. A man who gave his whole life to the justice system may be entitled to certain benefits although it’s not clear why buying multiple parcels of land would be necessary.
Govinden’s greed unfortunately knows no boundaries and prior to his acquisition of the most recent piece of land in April of this year, the Chief Justice sold all of his shares in his other properties to his former spouse for SR4.5 million. This means not only did he acquire land at an undervalued price in his capacity as an official of state, something which very obviously screams corruption, but he also enriched himself with the help of these properties.
The Minister for Lands & Housing, Billy Rangasamy, has been providing excuses for Ronny Govinden, saying that the sale of the land at far below market-price was approved on “compassionate grounds”. Specifically, this was due to Ronny Govinden’s sale of all his previous land to his ex-wife following their divorce. However, getting divorced and subsequent sympathy is not a good enough reason to approve the sale of government land to a public servant at such a discount, especially considering his ownership of quite a few other properties which he similarly purchased at below market terms.
If the government will do anything to concretely address this corruption is doubtful. This is simply one of surely many cases of corruption that was uncovered by investigative journalists. If anything, we can anticipate that this expose will simply encourage those in power to cover their tracks better. Regardless, we will continue to investigate and expose such instances of corruption because without clean and trustworthy government, the future of any country is doomed.