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BDP poised to win 2019 polls – report

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is poised to win the upcoming general elections despite a fading public support. If the current rift in the party fails to shake the foundations the party will capitalise on a disjointed opposition to retain power.

The party, according to African Monitor Report, published by United Kingdom based, Business Monitor International, will capitalise from stronger economic growth and fragmented opposition. The report which was released this week focusing on the political and socio-economic atmosphere of African Nations, says the BDP win will be due to a series of interlocking factors which will play out ahead of the elections.

 “The appointment of Masisi in April 2018 seems likely to help restore public confidence in the BDP,” states the report. Former president Ian Khama suffered from weak approval ratings toward the end of his term, which it is believed was a key factor weighing on the popular perception of the BDP.

 “The former president's tendency to avoid the national press and his seeming unwillingness to address the concerns of labour unions after major public sector strikes in 2011 and 2015 fuelled the image of a disengaged leader, especially among the country's large youth population.” By contrast, the report explains that Masisi has already distanced himself from his predecessor, acknowledging the crucial role media plays as a vehicle for politicians' messages.

Moreover, it is said Masisi’s nomination of the youngest minister in Botswana's history – 30-year old Bogolo Joy Kenewendo – at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, is enough evidence of his commitment to engaging the large youth population. In addition, broad-based economic recovery will bolster public sentiment in the coming months, helping to curb some of the longstanding public discontent over continued economic inequality. “We expect Botswana to maintain its investor-friendly policy trajectory after the upcoming presidential elections in October 2019,” it says.

REPORT DISMISSES UDC

African Monitor report believes that the UDC coalition, BDP's main political rival, will struggle to maintain cohesion. The opposition parties including the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana People's Party (BPP) – traditional members of the UDC – and the BCP, which recently joined managed to agree on presenting Duma Boko, the leader of the BNF party, as their presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.

However, it is by no means guaranteed that the parties will maintain a united front going into the 2019 polls, says the report. “At its first major congress in February last year, the different parties of the UDC were unable to agree on candidates to run in local constituencies, an issue which is yet to be resolved. This is largely owing to the BCP demanding to run as the coalition's candidate in a larger number of constituencies relative to the other members of the coalition and the nomination of Dumelang Saleshando, the BCP's leader, as Boko's presidential running mate,” a hypothesis looking at a number of African nations suggests.

The report strongly believes chances of the UDC winning power sits at dispiriting 15 percent.  In the event of a victory for the main opposition coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), it is said centrist policy positions will prevail; “the majority of the coalition is seemingly in favour of the centrist policies proposed by leader Duma Boko”.

BCP COULD SCARE AWAY INVESTORS
 


Should the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) party obtain greater-than-expected influence in the UDC coalition in the run-up to the 2019 election and the opposition coalition wins, the newly elected government could implement reforms focused on protecting national industries and empowering national citizens, which would threaten foreign investment in the diamond sector, says the report paper. “The rapid implementation of such policies would threaten to undercut foreign investment in Botswana,” cautions the paper.

The economy's diamond industry already faces serious competition from China, the leading producer of synthetic diamonds, as well as India, which has positioned itself as the largest diamond beneficiation Centre through a large and low-cost workforce. “It is key for Botswana's long-term development to continue attracting investment in diamond polishing and cutting, which will be linked to the government engaging with labour unions to tie wages to productivity and cut down on red tape,” it recommends. This does not seem likely to happen if the BCP manages to secure a stronger role in the forthcoming government, as its reforms will be mainly focused on increasing wages and employment while reducing competition from foreign firms in the country.

LIFE AFTER ELECTIONS

Post the elections the report maintains that political stability will remain unscathed in Botswana, with a victory by Masisi likely to see the incumbent continue to push ahead with the Doing Business Reforms Roadmap introduced in 2015. “We believe President Masisi will also focus on the re-negotiation of a long-term agreement with De Beers – Botswana's biggest miner – for the use of the country's resources,” predicts the report. The current agreement is due to expire in 2020. Negotiations will be primarily centered on increasing the country's polishing and cutting operations in order to boost employment in high value added segments of the economy, generating employment opportunities and more sustainable economic growth.

Moreover, the governments will likely increase investment in infrastructure development projects under its 11th National Development Plan (NDP11) in order to address the shortcomings in Botswana's transportation network. The lack of extensive road and rail connections, particularly in the western regions, notably increases trade costs and inhibits investment in the landlocked country. The construction of numerous dry ports and ongoing investment in road and rail capabilities will reduce these costs.

While this will ensure the country continues to run moderate fiscal deficits, this is not seen as suggestive of any significant threat to the county's debt sustainability, given the relatively modest size of the country's overall debt burden. “We expect public debt to reach just 14.9% of GDP by the end of 2018 – a relatively low level by regional standards – which will leave plenty of scope for further borrowing, both domestically and from foreign creditors, to finance the execution of the NDP11 until its end in 2023,” it is said.

A business-friendly reform agenda will continue to support growth in manufacturing and retail trade in Botswana, which will ensure stronger long-term economic growth and keep the country as one of the most attractive investment destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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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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