As Botswana celebrates a new year, the political temperature will certainly increase as 2019 is the year for national elections. Never in the history of Botswana has there been so much tension leading to the elections.
Prior to the elections all political parties will be having congresses/conferences to in preparation for the elections. The national nlections are expected to be held in October as has been the tradition. And in 2019, the outcomes are not guaranteed for any political party. First it starts with the extension of voter registration by the Independent Electoral Commission to March 2019. A new voter registration window has been opened between January to March 2019.
IEC has set itself a target of a million voters and currently they are around 500 thousand registered voters. A key concern for the IEC still remains voter trafficking even with the extended registration. Some analysts have predicated there may be a further need for a supplementary voter registration later in the year if the IEC doesn’t reach its target.
Key political events to watch are the ongoing cooperation talks between the opposition parties; the winning back of AP to the Umbrella Movement; the BMD fight with the UDC taken to court; the anticipated BDP Congress were for the first time there will be a challenger to the Presidency of the Party; and the phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the courts.
Starting with the opposition, it is fairly safe to say the marriage between the Botswana National Front and Botswana Congress Party through the Umbrella for Democratic Change is intact. What may linger is the division of constituencies between the two mature political parties in the event that UDC succeeds in its full expulsion of BMD or if AP decides not to be part of the Umbrella Movement. Some constituencies became free after the UDC expelled the BMD. These were the constituencies that had been allocated to the BMD previously. For now, it would appear the BNF and BCP have some sort of a formula in the sharing of the freed-up constituencies.
What appears to be of immediate interest to the UDC though is not to hurry on sharing the spoils of the freed-up constituencies, but to seek further cooperation with other political parties. AP has been the primary target, but the effort to get them back to the UDC fold will prove to be a difficult task. AP is still sulking after feeling betrayed by the leadership of the UDC when they had a bruising fight with the BMD faction of Sydney Pilane.
They felt the leadership of the UDC could have done more to avert the destruction of the BMD by Sydney Pilane and his followers. Reached for comment, one political analyst said AP however also needs to introspect, “going it alone may not necessarily be a wise move”. Some serious soul searching needs to happen early in the year. The party hasn’t reached the heights of the “Mmono Fever” when there were still BMD.
Resources have been limited, likewise the penetration of the party to would be voters hasn’t been that exciting. So, at the end of the day, the party may find it more convenient to be with the UDC then to slug it out on their own. On the whole, it remains to be seen in 2019 if the opposition will rid itself of its curse of internal squabbles and approach the National Elections as one united front.
Not that things are any better at the BDP. Actually, they appear worse at this stage. The BDP had a difficult 2018 which is going to jeopardize their chances for an increased majority in parliament. Factionalism and elusive unity are the main challenges. It all started with the worst transition between the President Mogkwetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama. This has now brewed to an open out war between the two Heads of State. It has become so bad that nationally you are either a Masisi or a Khama person. This is the new ugly face of factionalism within the BDP. It has replaced “Barata Phati” versus “A-Team”.
From the transition, what followed was a complete kindergarten mess of what was Bulelwa Ditswe. Scores of Cabinet Ministers lost their constituencies to political minnows. All fingers pointed at Tsholetsa House, and in particular the Secretary General Mpho Balopi. Even at one stage the President bemoaned the quality of candidates Bulelwa Ditswe produced for the 2019 National Elections.
Put bluntly, one loosing Minister demeaning said “how could the BDP entrust the primary elections to Mpho Balopi, who is political lacking and one not fit even to lead a Borehole syndicate”. He even questioned if let alone he has ever been a class monitor before, thereby questioning his leadership qualities. The Secretary General of the BDP has not enjoying any peace. Apart from him being blamed for the poor showing of the BDP in the 2014 National Elections, he’s been seen as the Achilles heel of the Masisi Administration.
He has become unpopular with the democrats, with many seeing him as divisive and having a dangerous ambition to eventually succeed Masisi. He was accused in 2018 for dicampaigning Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, for posing conflict of interest in being party to International State Visits by President Masisi and using BDP donor money for his own use. Things got out of control towards at the end of the year were he was accused of assaulting a Party Member at Tsholetsa House. The matter was reported to the Police and is before the courts.
The phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the party became a common feature in 2018 and is still frustrating the party. Kamal Jacobs of Lobatse took President Masisi to court to challenge the constitutionality of Masisi being president of BDP. The matter is before court and a ruling is expected soon. In another case, Biggie Butale has also gone to court to challenge the BDP on his loss in the primary elections. Prior to that, Tshekedi Khama had approached the courts to bar Moemedi Dijeng to stand as a candidate in the Serowe North primary elections.
The highlight of 2018 for BDP is when out of the blue, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi announced she will be challenging President Masisi for the Party Presidency. This set the cat amongst the pigeons. But Pelonomi is no ordinary Pelonomi Venson. She has the full backing of former President Khama, and her candidacy is seen as a proxy for the Khama’s. Scores of Bangwato descended upon the main Kgotla before Christmas to what was originally deemed an ordinary Kgotla meeting to be addressed by Kgosi Kgolo Khama, but what then turned out to be an unofficial launch of Moitoi.
It became apparent at that meeting that Khama is going to deliver on his promise to take the fight to Masisi, and Moitoi is going to be the first foot soldier. Team Moitoi is going to rely on the Khama magic, and is also getting resourced by wealthy South Africans. A notable size of current ministers are going to be part of her team, so will be several other elders of the BDP.
The Serowe meeting makes for a difficult BDP National Council slated for March and an Elective Congress thereafter in July. Many in the BDP are predicting that Masisi is going to be first unelected President, and that his tenure will end in 2019. Unelected because he would have run through a mandate of succession but won’t have the votes within the BDP to seek his own fresh mandate at the Congress.
Those in support of Masisi say he needs to win an election as BDP President and there is a growing school of thought that he needs to be given a clear mandate to govern on his own terms. What is worrying for his supporters is that, “you cannot be president without carrying both the north and south of the country. Like in South Africa were you can’t win the leadership of the ANC without Kwazulu Natal, likewise you need the north and central of Botswana delegates to win the BDP leadership. That’s were the most candidates come from,” said a source.
“As for Moitoi the question remains, is Botswana ready for a female President? And how people view her as being used by the Khama’s to take back power to them? That’s the obstacle she has to overcome.” After all, Botswana enters the new year, electioneering by political parties is going to be intense. Each party has its fair share of challenges, but nonetheless expect long bruising battles ahead. There will be few winners especially with the BDP. The faction that wins will seek to extinguish the rival faction for good, politically and economically.
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.”