Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi has admitted on Friday (yesterday) that government has gone overboard with regard to the law just to please former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Morupisi made this startling revelation at a media briefing in Gaborone which was aimed at discussing the pension and benefits of former presidents especially with regard to Khama. The public service chief said former presidents; the late Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae never wanted special treatment extended to them from government with regard to pensions and benefits, but Khama continues to expect preferential treatment.
“In all honesty I will be not fair and authentic to the late ex-president Masire if I state that he wanted the government to treat him with kids gloves and extended his benefits beyond what is in the rule book,” he stated. According to Morupisi, Masire never troubled government, even though he had many financial shortcoming and needs. In addition to Masire, the PSP also highlighted that even former president Mogae was welcoming and engaging.
“Most importantly he never wanted more than we can provide. When he had some displeasure over something he would rightly say it out to us without reaching such news into the public domain. We spoke in-house and resolved issues amicably in-house,” he pointed out. The PSP confirmed that there is absolutely nothing special out of the ordinary known benefits and privileges that government has done for both former president Masire and Mogae, unlike Khama, those of which they can speak of.
PSP confirmed that government has awarded former President Khama 13 additional home and office staff against the law. “In other words if he was supposed to have four, we have given him 13 additional staff which is against the law. We broke the law here. It was just to help to second Khama,” he explained. He added: “There is a senior catering officer, a chief catering officer, which ordinarily only should work in the State House. But since Masisi has not moved into the State House we borrowed the staff to Khama.”
According to Morupisi, the straw that broke the camel’s back is now when government asks the staff to return stressing, “that is why we are in disagreement with Khama.” At home, a former president is entitled to, in terms of the law, 2 maids, 1 gardener, and 1 bursary worker. So, it is understood that, with Mogae it is like that and its fine but for Khama, instead of having 2 maids, he was also awarded a chief catering officer sand senior catering officer on top of 2 bursary workers.
Morupisi tried to justify why he broke the law: “so, to avoid an out lash from tax payers and Batswana in general, I have employed a clause in the General Orders that speaks of secondment. I conferred the staff of the president to a secondment to office of the former President.” The PSP said they admit being wrong with regard to the fact that, they did this when Khama was still president. In other words, he added that, Khama took decisions concerning the office he was heading to, of former President, while he was still president.
“He took away the prerogative of the then incoming president, to take such decisions as the law provides for that. A sitting president now, is the one entitled to take such decisions with regard to the benefits of the retired president (office of the former president.) Morupisi emphasised that by then it was a very amicable understanding as they could not anticipate the hullabaloo that they are currently faced with regarding the fight between Khama and Masisi.
Even when he came into power, Morupisi stated that the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi also asked where the PSP was getting the powers to take such central decisions. “I failed to answer this key inquiry. And I said we were doing this with the then president to facilitate his exit, and acknowledged that we were wrong and asked the president for forgiveness and understanding,” Morupisi said.
“There is no one that we are going to sue. In fact, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is waiting to hold us accountable on this, in terms of who authorised the payment of additional staff that assists the former President Khama. That’s where they are going to catch us.” I advised Khama, Morupisi highlighted adding that but Khama did not take the advices and the buck stopped with him as president. That is why, Morupisi continued, am not divorcing myself from those decisions that were still taken under Khama. And to put more blame to him, the PSP admitted that the secondment was done as an advice from him as he wanted the staff to work for Khama and return them to their respective previous offices after 12 months.
Government also favoured Khama on overtime allowances
Despite admitting that the former presidents have to be treated equally, Morupisi conceded that with Khama it was not the case. We, he said, normally give overtime allowances to former president to use them on staff when circumstances requires to do so and they realised that, in 2018/19, Mogae’s office was reimbursed 160 000 for overtime while Khama’s was awarded 650 000 signalling the disparity between the former presidents.
“Out of that amount, Mogae only utilised 109 000 and Khama used a whopping 546 000. When you look at the records, Khama spent most money on villages to give away bread and soup as well as assisting his team, Super IV to play football. You be the judge on how this money is used,” he said.
Morupisi also broke the law to accommodate Khama’s Pvt Sec Tlhalerwa
In another turn of events, it appeared that Khama’s Private Secretary Brigadier George Tlhalerwa earned for a salary scale that he was not supposed to be earning. Morupisi explained that: “Khama’s Tlhalerwa was awarded a three-year contract on May 2016 running for three years. But in 1 April 2018, was redeployed to be a Senior Private Secretary to former President Khama but he still retained all his benefits.”
But in a normal case, he added that when one becomes a Senior Private Secretary to former president it is a lower position than a Senior Private Secretary to a sitting President. “The former is Deputy Permanent Secretary Scale and the latter is Permanent Secretary Scale. So Tlhalerwa was paid the way he was previously, although in June 2018 he resigned on unclear grounds and we accepted,” he said.
Why government rejected Isaac Kgosi as Khama’s Pvt Sec
Tlhalerwa’s exit created a vacuum, and that is then that Khama asked government to hire for ex Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General, Colonel Isaac Kgosi as his Senior Private Secretary. “But it was turned down because Kgosi has been expelled by President Masisi on controversial circumstances so it was for government to re-hire him again and we explained. However the matter is currently before court.”
Every new president presents a Policy shift
According to Morupisi, every new president comes with agenda that should be respected and followed. It is lawful, he said that every new president may come with a policy shift while they ascends to power like President Masisi is currently doing. A leader of the Executive he directs the direction that a new government should take, the PSP emphasised.
As examples, “from 1982 to 2017, at Ministry of Agriculture there was ALDEP. It was later reformed to ARAP until 2008 when it became ISPAAD under Khama. Masisi will review it to improve it. There was also SLOCA 1982 – 1987 it gave birth to LIMID. In 1978 – 1994 there was Constituency Community Programe, LG 70 to LG 110, at Ministry of Local Government. So with every new president comes with new direction.”
Presidential Housing Appeal was started by Masire – PSP
The president housing appeal was started by not Khama, but former President Masire in 1994, and then it was named Small Borrowers Fund, Morupisi told the press adding that it assisted with a lot of things like school fees. “So the truth is Khama, you did not start this housing appeal,” he lashed out. According to Morupisi, Khama only made it to appeal to the private sector.
He justified: “the destitute housing programme, from 2006, it built 3336 houses and 1972 in some areas. We did these, from the Office of the President, even under Khama. But now we took an action, to avoid personalising programmes, that we started presidential housing appeal funds.”
Dalai Lama visit: Khama’s security personnel was unlawful
In 2017, the 14th Dalai Lama, the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India was invited to Botswana and cabinet discussed his visit 2 to 3 times in cabinet. Morupisi stated that they advised Khama against contravening one China policy and that as a sovereign state Botswana should meddle in other countries affairs “but Khama had the last word, as he wanted Lama to come saying he is human right activist.”
The PSP narrated that China assists Batswana with scholarships, they loan Botswana with little interests, send their specialist doctors to Botswana while paying for them. Most importantly, he revealed that as Debswana deputy Chair, 20% of Botswana diamonds are sold to China. “They also threated to close their Embassy. We urged Khama that the national interest far outweighs his interest. But Khama went ahead with his decision despite all these. He took security personnel with him.”
Morupisi confirmed that the security personnel that accompanied Khama to India, against governments order faces disciplinary hearing. “All security personnel must know that their allegiance is mostly to, nobody else but a sitting Commander In Chief. All the disciplinary forces, the ultimate responsibility and direction, they take them from the President. When he orders them they should take such orders without hesitation through his operatives. When he says go to war you go to war, when he says don’t you should not.”
Khama wants Morupisi to account for his retirement gifts
Against what he said at Serowe, Morupisi told the media that when Khama retired Batswana gave him gifts those gifts he said, Khama should ask Tlhalerwa and his team about them not him. Meanwhile on Khawa, the PSP also reminisced that Khama said they are refusing his team to play at Khawa. “I want to clarify that his team is not owned by government but is for him as an individual and therefore government can’t spend on it.”
On transport, Morupisi pointed out that there is where they disagree, as government believes that the law states that former president can be availed transport on a case by case scenario as determined by a sitting president and that it is the prerogative of the president. “Now Khama interprets it differently that it’s a must for transport to be availed to him upon request,” he said.
On transport, the PSP also confirmed that “out of 13 requests made by Khama, Masisi accepted 7 and rejected 4. Now all these issues are before court; Khama is using government.” When narrating this, the PSP wants the nation to make a sound judgement on whether they are on the right track or not treating Khama well – in terms of the law.
What the law says: benefits of former presidents
The Pensions and Retirement benefits Act provides that; a former President is, upon ceasing to hold office, entitled to receive a tax free monthly pension equivalent to the monthly basic salary attached to the office of President the time that he or she ceases to hold office, or 80 percent of the incumbent President’s salary, whichever is greater.“The President shall upon dissolution of Parliament, or immediately ceasing to hold office as such, be entitled to receive a gratuity equal to 30 percent of his or current monthly basic salary multiplied by the number of months completed by him or her as President,” it further provides.
The Act states, however, that the benefits will not be paid should the former leader of state pay allegiance to a foreign power or State. When they are sentenced to death or to serve a prison term and the sentence has not been wholly suspended, a sitting President may withhold the benefits if he sees it fit. The gratuity, pension and all other benefits will be stopped in case the former President dies, or in case of marriage of the surviving spouse or when their dependent child reaches the age of 21 years.
The bill also states that when the former President, spouse or their offspring is ruled to be bankrupt, the pension, other benefits and their value shall not form part of the assets of their insolvent estate. In addition, the former President is entitled to a number of security officers as determined by the sitting President, two drivers, one private secretary, one secretary and one office attendant. It states that first class air travel is extended to international trips up to a maximum of 4 trips per annum(including a spouse if accompanying)and per diem for each trip as may be determined by a sitting President.
For transport needs a former president receives one sedan (Mercedes Benz or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle), one 4 wheel drive station wagon and one pick-up van and they will be replaced as and when necessary, like other government vehicles, albeit being in the permanent disposal of the former President. Every former president also receives entertainment allowance determined by a sitting President, telephone expenses as well as water and electricity expenses for the office and residence.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.