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Soldiers assault Okavango residents ‘military style’

Botswana Defense Force (BDF) members have been accused of committing brutalities against the Okavango Delta communities of Ditshiping and Morutsha settlements. Some residents have complained of being tortured and beaten military style by officers stationed at satellite camp close to the two ungazetted settlements.

One of the victims, Kharathe Gorekwamang explained how he was beaten by army officers who left him for dead. He told this publication that the officers loaded him in to a van and drove away to beat and torture him. “They took turns beating and kicking me.  Then they put a bucket on my head, tied my hands and told me to run for my dear life. I was scared and tried to run but I tripped on something and fell down. Then they all laughed at me like I was some kind of a comedy show.”  

He said after they were finished with him they then drove him back to back to the settlement and dropped him at his fathers’ house. “My entire body was painful. I could not even walk. I urinated with difficulty as the officers had kicked me on my kidneys area.” Kharathe’s father, Gorekwamang Omane confirmed the incident explaining that he was present when the officers brought his son back. “He was in a bad state. We had to call for assistance from Okavango Kopano Mokoro Trust which services our settlement to help with a van to ferry him to the hospital sixty kilometers away in Maun.”

Gorekwamang works as a leader of the community led Mokoro poling (canoe) tours in the Okavango delta.  The service is mostly utilised by western tourists.  He revealed that in October 2018 together with a group of other polers, they took a group of western tourists for Mokoro trips in to the Okavango Delta.  After the completion of the trip, the tourists gave the polers about P 1,300 as a tip on top of the initial payment.

Gorekwamang said:  “The lead tour guide responsible for tourists group gave me the tip to distribute to other polers. However when we arrived at the village some members of my team started accusing me of stealing some of the tip money.” “Some of the women polers in our party said they saw some Euro notes from the money the lead guide gave me. I told them that there were no Euros.  An argument ensued and the matter was reported to the village headman for intervention. At the insistence of women the headman then called the army officers who came listened to the issue and decided to take me for punishment.”

Ditshiping headman, Galebuse Tshekonyana confirmed the case was reported to him. He however denied giving the army officers permission to assault Gorekwamang.  “The woman complainants are the ones who demanded that the army officers must take him to deal with the issue after I had tried to intervene and took the disputed money so that I could distribute it myself. I just heard that he had been assaulted and they never informed me,” he told this publication.

Another resident of the neighboring Morutsha, Onkabetse Wazimi told Weekend Post that in 2017 he had a misunderstanding with his girlfriend who reported him to the army officers. “When they came here they did not ask anything. They just started assaulting me.” Wazimi further stated that this year another resident was also beaten up who had been reported by a beer depot owner to the BDF as he had failed to pay beer money he owed. “Apparently he owed P180, 00. They beat him telling him he must go pay for the beers.”

Weekend Post is in possession of a letter from Makgobokgokgo area councilor, Luke Motlaleselelo, to the District Commissioner dated 17 October 2018 complaining about BDF officers’ behavior at Ditshiping. Part of the letter reads: “. I write this letter as the area councillor In relation to behavior of BDF soldiers where they beat community members, inflcting serious injuries on their bodies.” It further states that: “on the 5th October 2018, a community member was reported to the BDF base where they brutally beat him and left him unconscious and community trust vehicle had to be called from Maun to collect him in Ditshiping and rush to the hospital.”

In the letter, Motlaleselelo further makes damning allegation that there are suspicions that male residents are beaten severely because some of the solders have sexual relationships with girl friends of the affected in Ditshiping and Morutsa. Motlaleselelo wrote: “I am just quoting one incident but there are several similar incidents where people are just beaten without due diligence being carried out and what is hurting is that these soldiers seem to think our people are just a bunch of ignorants who live in the bush. “

The letter further questions whether the BDF is allowed to undertake duties of Botswana Police Services stating that the camp was set up for anti poaching operations when rhinos were introduced in the Okavango Delta but not to persecute the villagers. “I am appealing to you as the DC to engage BDF. “I am not trying to interfere on their duty but I feel they are encroaching outside their mandate.” Ngamiland District Commissioner, Keolopile Leipego has however denied receiving Motlaleselelo’s letter saying he has only informally heard about the matter.

 
Maun Police Station Commander Mothaba Ramabya further denied a case was reported to the police despite victim stating he reported to Maun police and the copy of medical exam showing the police had requested for the examination. In a response to Weekend Post questions, BDF spokesperson, Colonel Tebo Dikole said BDF does not have an official record of incidents of assault at Ditshiping settlement or any other area in the Okavango Delta. It says if exist such incidents would be reported to the Botswana Police who would then notify BDF. The letter says: “Once such a report is received, the BDF would then take appropriate action guided by BDF act.

Weekend Post has however learnt that recently, following our enquiry, BDF has instructed officers not to deal with crime issues in Ditshiping and instructed them to reduce interaction with members of the community. In 2017, former President Ian Khama visited Ditshiping where residents called on Khama to help declare the ungazetted settlement a village so that they could begin to enjoy government developments and services. The settlement is serviced by Shorobe police post. During the meeting, the residents said the settlement came in to existence in 1961 and was set up by people who were relocated by creation of Moremi Game Reserve.

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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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