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BOFEPUSU to release hit list before October

The Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will anytime from now call a congress ahead of the October polls at which it will draw a list of Parliamentary candidates who should not be elected by its members in this year’s general elections.

According to reports, the congress is likely to take place within the next few weeks following the conclusion of the ongoing radio debates which have been taking place at different constituencies by the National radio stations, Radio Botswana and Duma FM. BOFEPUSU president, Johannes Tshukudu confirmed this in an interview this week. “As the federation leadership we are about to meet to decide on which political party  to support come October 23rd as well as related issues like hit-lists of any politician against the workers. This will happen anytime from today. I may not be sure due to tight schedules of union leaders but very soon.”

In the past elections BOFEPUSU made it clear that their dreaded axe was specially designed for the ruling party and wanted most of its candidates to lose the elections. The consequences of the hit list were devastating for the ruling party as eight out of 13 targeted members lost elections starting with the primaries. Botswana Congress Party President, Dumelang Saleshando was the only opposition member who was targeted, and as fate would have it he went on to lose to Dr Phenyo Butale, then of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

For now the union is still assessing and it is highly likely that more of the opposition members could be included in the hit list. BOFEPUSU in 2014 emphasized its support for UDC, a party which was formed at the height of a three-month long national public service strike in April 2011. BOFEPUSU then agreed to work with the party as a revolutionary force against the BDP regime with at aim to help UDC to power. In turn the UDC promised to respect worker’s rights at all times.

However this time the union is still not sure as to which party to throw their support behind. “2019 polls will be different from those of 2014. Political parties have increased and political guards have changed with some political parties. All these are some of the issues that need to be considered in deciding which party to support,” Tshukudu told this publication.

The government’s failure to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) as well as a court case in which the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) was seeking to de-recognize trade unions among factors that shows that there is need for government to do more in order to win the hearts of the workers. Failure to implement the PEMANDU report recommendations is another area that might put the BDP and its candidates on the cliff as trade unions believe those suggestions by the consultants should have been implemented by now.

PEMANDU has recommended 20 percent increment for public servants on grade A and B; 10 percent for grade C and D; and 15 percent for grade E and F. It further states that in the absence of increments to civil servants on higher notches, of grades E and F, “we recommend the following: 15 percent for grades A and B; 10 percent for grades C and D.”

At their congress last year BOFEPUSU members mandated the leadership to review its relationship with the UDC and produce a report. Trade unionists met at a retreat in Mmathubudikwane late last year but could not complete the report. The report was expected to be completed sometimes in March but it is not yet out.

BOFEPUSU is an umbrella union for five civil service unions, comprising of; Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers union (BLLHWU), Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teacher’s Union (BTU), National Amalgamated Local, Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).

According to Johnson Motshwarakgole in the past elections the five unions with a membership of over 70 000 government employees agreed to oust Khama’s leadership through the Thaba Thula convention of 2011 when Khama and his Ministers failed to reasonably address the worker’s concerns.

“When workers demanded salary increment in 2011 and went on a strike, Khama did not care at all and said that even if we were to strike for five years, he did not care. Individual unions used to have bargaining structures. For instance NALCGPWU, had what was called the National joint industrial class coordinating committee, but such structures have long been replaced by the national bargaining Council which the President and his official do not respect anymore,” Motshwarakgole said then.

BFTU RELEASES WORKERS MANIFESTO

On the other hand Botswana Federation of Trade Union (BFTU) is maintaining their 2014 stance of being non-partisan. The union has nonetheless released a 22 paged manifesto in which they address issues of unemployment, labour migration, public safety education and human resource development. BFTU says any candidate or political party relishing their vote will have to address how he will tackle points they have in the manifesto. 

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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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