Some of the Cabinet Ministers who were appointed in November last year, might soon find themselves as mere back-benchers while others may have to acclimatize under new roles. Not only that, some back-benchers may also get promoted.
This comes as President Mokgweetsi Masisi is set to make the first cabinet reshuffle after winning elections last October, as well as increasing new Ministries, Weekendpost has established. Masisi first announced during the 2019 State of Nation Address (SONA), that in order to improve public service efficiency, Government has embarked on a rationalisation exercise of ministerial portfolio responsibilities and functions.
“Government is considering the rationalisation of Government Ministries to improve service delivery, eliminating any duplication and overlaps of responsibilities across sectors, closing any existing structural gaps as well as identifying obsolete functions,” Masisi said. “Moreover, Government will consider a re-labelling exercise of Government Ministries to make their names, easy, relevant and more meaningful to people.”
While information is still sketchy regarding the developments, informants tell this publication that the country’s leadership wants to merge Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development with that of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The former is headed by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi, while the other is held by Anna Mokgethi-the lady who dethroned main opposition leader Duma Boko from Gaborone Bonnington North seat in the last elections.
Despite merging the two ministries, President Masisi is still forging ahead with the creation of two other new Ministries. It is expected that while pronouncing cabinet reshuffle in two months’ time, Masisi will also split both Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry as well as Ministry of Transport and Communications. The development is said to be geared towards fulfilling the aspirations of Vision 2036 and improve ease of doing business in Botswana.
Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry will be divided into two ministries, one of which would focus on investment and trade, while the other fragment was to focus on Small Businesses. The new ministry of Small Business Enterprises would house all the consolidated government programmes. The changes in the ministries are aimed at cultivating the culture of entrepreneurship among the locals, which is currently lacking especially in an era where unemployment continues to rocket high.
The ministry will house incubation programmes that would be intensified and land acquisition process eased. Further, this ministry will ensure the citizenry will not be denied opportunities to utilise land in beneficial ways aimed at reviving the economy. Consequently, the government wants all programmes that were aimed at providing the people with funding and technical know-how in running successful enterprises such as CEDA, LEA, YDF, LIMID including cooperatives would be reviewed, aligned to Vision 2036 and be housed under one ministry.
WeekendPost is reliably informed that Kanye North legislature Thapelo Letsholo is poised to appoint into cabinet the resultant process. “Initially he was in President’s cabinet books but then after some hiccups (known to this publication) Masisi dropped him. But his brightness and passion when it comes to entrepreneurial issues has won the heart of the leadership and he is going to lead the Ministry,” says a source close to this publication on Thursday evening.
The expectation is the Ministry will be catered for during the current financial season. As for the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ split, it is envisaged that there would be Ministry of Communications, which would be housed under the Office of the President. The resuscitation of Transport and Communications ministry is necessitated by the critical role of infrastructure development, transportation and telecommunication networks in a working business environment, Masisi has said. It is said the major focus of the proposed changes would be to encourage local communities to work hard and own all the initiatives aimed at growing the economy.
However, six months after making the pronouncements, Masisi could be somehow contradicting himself as he is also merging two other ministries (Employment and Nationality). Sources say, the government cannot afford to increase the ministries due to financial constraints. “There is no money to accommodate more ministries and as a result the plan is to merge some of the ministries especially that of Balopi and Mokgethi, as a financial prudency tool.
The idea is to take Labour Ministry to that of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The two that will be created will also not have a specific budget but will rather get their share from the already parent ministries.” This now leaves the two Ministers, Balopi and Mokgethi tittering on the edge, as one of them- should Masisi’s plan succeed- will now be an ordinary Member of Parliament.
Things however are looking glamorous for Balopi as there are reports suggesting that after the merger, he will be given a more senior position for ministry of Communications. This, if it is anything to go by, this would mean that Balopi is likely to pave way for Mokgethi at the consolidated ministry.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.