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Mokaila scatters Khama’s 9 year old CAAB Board

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila has read the riot act to the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) board this week and appointed a new one, ending a nine year reign of conflict of interest among some board members.

Mokaila is no stranger to revolutionary decisions, he has already dismantled board at Botswana Railways, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), Botswana Post, and the minister has gone further and removed former permanent secretary Neil Fitt when he took over the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The former CAAB board, which was chaired by Mark Samson, a personal pilot of former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama directed proceedings at the troubled CAAB for almost a decade with almost a zero achievement. Mokaila did not have the patience to allow for the board members term to expire next year.

One aspect that tainted the outgoing board was that some of them were operators and regulators at the same. An issue that was raised during former President Khama’s tenure but to no avail.  At one point the Ministry of Transport and Communications had removed Mark Samson as the CAAB Board chairman, but President Khama vetoed their decision and reinstated him.

The decision had made some observers to conclude that the Ministry of Transport and Communications was not actually in control at the Aviation body. It was not the first time that the Ministry had attempted to remove Mark Samson as Board chairman. In the first attempt they were only allowed to remove other ordinary members of the Board but not the chairman.

This week Minister Mokaila, under new President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi moved swiftly and appointed Ms Dimpho Dimbungu, who served as an additional member in the previous board to chair the Aviation Authority. Dimbungu has worked for Air Botswana before and is now in private business. Another who has survived Mokaila’s axe is Themba Johnson, who will serve as an additional member in the new board.

Kemoitse Mosupukwa, a former Director of the then Department of Civil Aviation, who was recently serving at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has also been roped into the board. Mosupukwa had recently been interviewed for the position of Chief Executive Officer of the CAAB, a position that will fall vacant at the end of the December following a decision not to renew the contract of the 70 year old Geoffrey P. Mashabesha who will be heading back to his native Lesotho.

Captain Sakhila Nyoni, a pilot; Basimane Bogopa, a Gaborone based senior  attorney; and Mojaphoko, a deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications are also new board members of the CAAB. Monty Tlagae is tipped as the possible new Chief Executive Officer of the organisation should the new board agree with his credentials. He is currently Director of Air Transport within the CAAB. He is highly qualified in terms of experience and qualification, holds a Masters in Aviation management in addition to his other sound academic qualifications.

At management level there is already activity as two directors have already been dismissed for allegations that they misled the outgoing CEO. Director of Airport Services and Director of Human Capital have been shown the door. Meanwhile a number of Human Resources personnel have resigned because of alleged flawed implementation of the proposed new pay structure.  

BOARD INHERITS PLETHORA OF CHALLENGES

A senior staff member of the CAAB told this publication this week that Air Traffic Controllers at the CAAB were granted more than 340 percent salary increase in 2014, a move that divided the workforce. He points out that the new Board may have to deal with the issue of a disgruntled staff.   

The move to increase Air Traffic Controllers salaries heavily had angered some cadres within the Civil Aviation industry who viewed the salary increase as unreasonable and potentially divisive. The Air Traffic Controllers have an Association called the Air Traffic Controllers Association and it was chaired by former President Lt General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

A directive from the Office of the President at the time had instructed CAAB Acting CEO to increase salaries of Air Traffic Controllers and their assistants from P3600 to P12250 and in addition they should be given a 20 percent per month and so on. Some employees blamed the Board for delaying the implementation of a proposed new organisational structure which had led to this selective salary increases. Mark Sampson and his then Board had their proposed structure rejected on numerous occasions by stakeholders including the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The technical side but lower bands are accusing those on the Human Resources and Administration bands of coming up with a self-serving structure albeit undermining the “core” cadres of aviation. Aircraft marshals who deal with flight safety on the ground and those in the Fire Department have complained of ill-treatment because the new structure has undermined them

The new board should be prepared to deal with unhappy Air Traffic Controllers, Aviation Security Officers, Aviation Firemen, and Air craft marshals among others. These cadres have been notched at lower bands of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 in the CAAB pay structure but they are convinced that they should have been capped at a better scale. Meanwhile public sector union BOPEU is handling a court case in which CAAB staff is demanding a 3 percent salary increase following a then government decision to increase salaries but they were not granted one.

CAAB FINANCIAL STABILITY

In the past the CAAB management has blasted the Ministry of Transport and Communications for underestimated funding of the CAAB. They accused the Ministry of equating them to the former Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) which operated under a small budget.
While the CAAB complains of a small budget However the Ministry expects the organisation to partly generate its own revenue with the cash receipts from services provided.

Main costs at CAAB are labour and maintenance. The CAAB had at some stage vowed to generate over P500 million in its business plan which was shared with the media last year, this remains a pie in the sky. The Aviation Authority management feels that the lack of review of the funding level of the provision of aviation services following the creation of CAAB as a parastatal and the lack of escalation of the funding with the increase in inflation has caused CAAB serious financial challenges. The new Board may have to deal with the issue of revenue generation at the organisation.

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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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