Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) this week announced they have parted ways with their Managing Director Bashi Gaetsaloe. BDC Head of Strategy & Corporate Affairs, Boitshwarelo Lebang issued a brief statement confirming Gaetsaloe has left the organisation to pursue other opportunities.
“BDC confirms the departure of Bashi Gaetsaloe from the employ of BDC as Managing Director to pursue other opportunities with immediate effect, the Corporation wishes to thank Bashi for his contribution to BDC and wish him well in his future endeavours,” reads a statement from Ms Lebang. Gaetsaloe who was appointed to the helm of the Government investment arm in April 2014, then a cash strapped organization with a stake in liquidating companies and failed national investment projects.
Gaetsaloe developed a 5 year strategy to return the wholly state owned government entity to profitability. Just half way through into the strategy, the former KPMG boss announced an over P200 million profit as of June 2016, making 100% growth in profits compared to over P100 million registered in 2015. However fast forward towards the completion of his strategy the BDC shareholder, Botswana Government is of the view that in a nutshell Bashi’s leadership failed to support the national course of industrialization and generation of new jobs.
Weekend post has established that Bashi Gaetsaloe was asked to resign, terminating his stay at BDC just two months before his contracts ends in March this year. “It’s what you call constructive dismissal. They asked him to resign otherwise they were going to fire him,” shared a highly placed source this Thursday. This publication has established that contrary to public perception that the wholly owned government arm was making skyrocketing profits and satisfying its shareholder with dividend pay-out since Gaetsaloe’s takeover, Government is not convinced.
“His main undoing was that he had not made any money for BDC. He was just selling off what he termed non-performing assets and divesting from some minor industries then declaring revenue generated from these transactions as profits,” said a source close to the BDC Board.
DID HE RESIGN OR WAS HE PUSHED?
Gaetsaloe resigned from BDC on 14 January 2019 but was later slapped with a dismissal letter on 15 January 2019. He had written a resignation letter dated 14 January 2019 to Minister of Investment Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo but was asked to wait on the resignation.
In his letter Gaetsaloe indicated that, “I am proud of the work I have accomplished at BDC over the past 5 years. I have led my team to claw this business back from imminent collapse to the successful enterprise we are today. The business I inherited in 2014 had been losing about P100M a year for 5 years, was cashflow insolvent, with a heavily contaminated loan book, and had a reputation in tatters.
In 5 short years, I have built a strong, ethical and profitable business with cumulative profits of P784 Million, a fully funded pipeline, and over 1200 new jobs created. While there is still much to accomplish, I am proud of what has been accomplished to date and believe these successes belong to all of BDC’s stakeholders.”
He had wanted to serve a three (3) months’ notice period working closely with the Board to ensure a smooth transition and handover period. “I believe very much in the role that BDC can and should play in the future growth and success of this country. I am honored for the opportunity to lead this company and stand ready to assist in any way that I can to ensure its continued growth,” he said.
WHERE TO FOR GAETSALOE?
Bashi Gaetsaloe who couldn’t not be reached for comment is said to be heading for Barclays Bank top post, one of the country‘s leading money spinning corporate organisation. Though no statement released yet from the bank, Gaetsaloe is rumoured to be joining Barclays as Managing Director replacing Reinette Van Der Merwe whose contract is coming to an end.
Commercial banks have been under pressure from their regulator Bank of Botswana to localise their executive managerial positions, particularly CEO/MD positions. Observers submit that with Van de Merwe, a South African, leaving there is no way Barclays would replace her with another expatriate so they are under pressure to appoint a local.
“He didn’t make money for BDC, that’s why Public Accounts Committee rejected his P1 billion cash injection capital proposal, just disposing off some assets and declaring that as profits does not spark confidence, so government couldn’t risk that, Luckily for him he had already started negotiations with Barclays, of which we are yet to witness closing a deal,” said another source close to the echelons of power.
IN COMES LEKAUKAU?
Reports further suggest that the likely candidate to replace Gaetsaloe is former Standard Chartered Chief Executive Officer Moathodi Lekaukau. He joined BDC last year as Chief Investment Officer. A,t BDC‘s financial results presentation late last year Moathodi Lekaukau who is one Botswana‘s highly qualified and experienced corporate executives shared that the investment House has already closed in on 1 international deal, which entails acquiring a significant stake in a telecommunications company in Nigeria.
"This is a consumer based mobile operator business in a much bigger economy, the company is one of the top five in Nigeria, so we are looking at impressive returns here," shared Lekaukau. The former Standard Chartered Bank Chief Executive continued to reveal that his investment drive landed him in Ghana where BDC is closing in on another lucrative deal with a leading company in Ghana’s energy sector " the deal is almost 80 % complete, these are high revenue companies in bigger markets with vibrant economic activity, so we have no doubt we will get satisfactory return on investment".
He further shared that the state owned enterprise is also currently conducting some due diligence in Uganda with a view to invest in the country's emerging oil industry "we are in talks with a Businessman in Uganda who is looking at setting up an oil refinery plant" highlighted Lekaukau.
The former captain and Stanchart house resigned from Botswana’s oldest bank in 2017, he is viewed by commentators and observers as the most likely to take up the driving seat at Fairscape Precinct. Recent financial results for the year ended June 2018 indicate that BDC Group registered a 39 % increase in Profit before Tax after raking in P187 million compared to P135 million realised in 2017. The Group’s asset base grew by 5 % to P4.1 billion from P3.9 billion last year. At company level BDC gathered P244 million in Profit before Tax compared to P206 million recorded in 2017, mirroring 18 % increase.
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.
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.
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.”