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Makgato contradicts Ministry on CKGR concessions

A few days after she was attacked for insulting the founding father of her party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the late Seretse Khama, during a political rally Chadibe, Minister of Transport and Communications Dorcas Makgato, took a swipe at former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, attacking him of favoring his foreign nationals and awarding them tenders within the CKGR.

Former President Ian Khama is a close friend of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, award- winning filmmakers from Botswana. Their mission is the conservation and understanding of the large predators and key African wildlife species that determine the course of all conservation in Africa. The couple allegedly leased two concessions in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and the current administration is reportedly considering chasing them out following fallout during the hunting ban saga sometime this year.

According to some local reports multiple sources from government enclave recently disclosed that the wildlife ministry was asked by Office of the President to present the status report on Joubert’s operations in Botswana. Sources say the report was to be used to look for possibilities of kicking him out of the tourism business because of his strong criticism of government with regards to the handling of the hunting.  

In June this year local newspaper Mmegi’s investigations on Joubert operations have uncovered that they operate from two concessions, namely NG16 and NG23. NG16 is held by the Linyanti Explorations (Pty) Ltd and has four tourist camps being Selinda, Zarafa, Motswiri and Explorer. The current lease is from 2010 and will expire at the end of 2025.

NG23 concession is held by the Okavango Community Trust (OCT), which represents five villages in the Okavango Pan-handle and was sublet to Banoxi (Pty) Ltd, a company owned by Dereck’s Duba Holdings and other partners. The concession has two camps Duba Plains and Duba Explorations Camp. Interestingly, the head lease for this concession expired in 2014. OCT had signed a sub- lease that had a duration exceeding that of the head lease and this led to the operator seeking a legal re-dress for breach of contract.

In her remarks Makgato said former President Ian Khama had interests in the CKGR concessions thus gave them to his ‘white’ friends during his tenure as President. However a response from the parent Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism through Botswana Tourism organization refuted the Minister’s remarks while responding to a questionnaire from WeekendPost.

In their response the ministry says Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) has always played a facilitatory role for land authorities to award tourism concessions. They said BTO does not award any concessions but has facilitated processes leading to recommendations for award to the relevant land authority.

“Between April 2008 and April 2018, BTO facilitated the award of thirty nine (39) tourism concessions around the Okavango Delta. The allocation of tourism concessions in the CKGR was facilitated by The Department of Wildlife and National Parks”. This is the period when former President Khama was in office.

Of these thirty nine (39) concessions awarded during this time period; thirteen (13) were allocated to 100% citizen owned companies, seven (7) were allocated to non- citizen owned companies, ten (10) were allocated to companies listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, while nine (9) were allocated to companies with varying combinations of citizen and non- citizen shareholding. The ministry also highlighted that concessions are awarded through open tender processes facilitated by BTO or any other method prescribed by the land authority.

In his response, former President Khama said Dorcas Makgato is a liar and accused her of trying to discredit him. Khama said anything to do with concessions is facilitated by BTO and the tender is put out there. “At the moment I don’t know how many Batswana or foreign nationals benefited because it was not in my jurisdiction”, said Khama.

Last year a saga involving tourism land allocation in the Okavango Delta to the British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson for tourism development, captured the attention of Batswana. The issue generated equally divided interest from the nation with many opining that government must jump at the once in a life time opportunity to have Sir Branson invest in the Okavango Delta. But to the Okavango Delta communities, the rich investors like Branson are often seen as a problem and not an opportunity.

Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, at the time Tshekedi Khama, who is the young brother to Ian Khama, confirmed that Sir Branson has applied for a tourism concession in the Okavango Delta. Khama revealed that Sir Branson’s application was still under consideration pending the advertisement of four lodge sites which were recently demarcated by Botswana Tourism Organisation. He said Branson applied through the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre for land in the Okavango Delta. The mandate of BITC is to drive Botswana’s economic growth through investment promotion and attraction; export promotion and development; and management of the national brand.

In 2014, all prime tourism concession areas in Botswana including the Okavango Delta were transferred from Tawana Land Board to the Ministry of Lands through a Ministerial Directive to create what has come to be known as the Tourism Land Bank. The Land Bank was set up by government to facilitate the development of the tourism sector through maintaining an adequate and constant supply of land for tourism activities.

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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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