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Boko pours petrol on Masisi/Khama battle

Leader of the Opposition, Advocate Duma Boko this week challenged President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s refusal to appoint former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS), Isaac Kgosi, as former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s Private Secretary, a reason which he said among others qualifies parliament to move a motion of no confidence against Masisi and his government.

In a shock development, Boko spoke on the side of ex-president Khama and Kgosi, a few months after declaring that he will take the latter to court and have him prosecuted for his involvement in the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal. The motion of confidence failed after 35 legislators voted against it, while only 11 supported the motion and three abstained.

When presenting the motion, Boko argued that there is a serious uncertainty and anxiety in the security sector as certain personnel in that sector seem singled out and targeted for termination or removal without being afforded proper and fair hearing. “This poses an imminent and present danger to the security of the country,” argued Boko. “This is a matter of a grave nature and of utmost public importance is patently clear and that it must therefore admit the most swift and urgent attention by this parliament is required in order to give certainty to the citizenry.”

Boko also expressed detestation of Masisi’s decision to bring back officer who were fired by Khama back into the civil service to replace those who are associated with Khama’s administration. A month after assuming office, Masisi expelled the controversial DIS director from office, replacing him with Khama’s foe, Brigadier Peter Magosi. Brig Magosi had been removed from office while serving in the BDF by then president, Khama under cloudy circumstances.

Although Masisi’s decision was hailed as a good move, by among others leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the decision was considered a poke in the eye of the former president. Masisi recently refused to re-appoint Kgosi back into the civil service following a request by his predecessor.  Khama had submitted Kgosi’s name to Masisi for consideration as his Private Secretary following the retirement of Brigadier George Tlhalerwa.

Boko indicated that Kgosi had since sought legal opinion from his office, a revelation that was startling. Despite Boko having initiated a motion that expresses his sympathy for Khama and his lieutenants, a few days after Masisi’s appointment, the leader of the opposition expressed that Masisi will be a better president than his predecessor.

“Masisi will be much slightly better than Khama, at least at the level of engagement and being able to talk and listening to each other, and respecting certain protocols. For example appreciating that the LOO does not imply writing him (LOO) telling him what to do but consulting him and engaging with him robustly,” the UDC leader told WeekendPost in April.

Boko contended in his motion of no confidence against Masisi that the latter has since assumption of office, in his approach to national issues as well as key appointment into the public service, excluded certain competent, and qualified individuals ostensibly on the basis of their regional and ethnic origins. “The recent appointments of Chief Justice as well as the appointment of the Director of Intelligence and his Deputy are cases in point,” contended Boko.“In the case of the latter two, the current President has appointed individuals who were facing certain accusations or allegations of impropriety on the basis of which the former President of Botswana had taken decisions to retire or remove them from public office.”  

BDP RESPONSE TO MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE

There are reports indicating that there are scores of MPs who are not happy with Masisi’s leadership. This has been expressed in different ways, something which Masisi is aware of. This week, while addressing members of the press, Masisi conceded that there is a talk of a potential challenger to his throne during next year’s special congress, convened specifically for the purpose of electing party president during the election year.  

Prior to the press conference, Masisi had presided over a joint meeting between his cabinet as well as backbenchers. The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the mood, solicit for support as well as to engage the MPs and hear their concerns. Information known by this publication indicates that Masisi’s rule is not yet safe and he still has more to do to consolidate his power. “I have asked them if they were [challenging him] and they said they were not. Do not think I asked like a novice; am a politician and asked knowing with full knowledge of what he is going on,” he said.

Masisi said that in the event that one democrat wants to challenge him, there are free to do so as per the constitution. Masisi also expressed his readiness for such eventuality, even though he is convinced that what seems to be party tradition will obtain at the end of the day. No sitting BDP president has ever been challenged since independence, something which has helped to maintain unity and continuity for the ruling party.  


BDP MPs ACCUSSE BOKO OF BEING A HIRED GUN

Meanwhile in parliament, Boko’s motion was rejected, as BDP legislators rallied in favour of Masisi.  The debate also expressed how many in the BDP feel about the relationship between Khama led administration against that of Masisi. “I suspect the mover [Boko] is a hired gun that came to this house under the disguise of moving a motion of national importance while he is being fuelled to come to this house and rubble rouse for certain people,” said Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Fidelis Molao.

“He is doing the bidding for certain people and it is dangerous. It is fortunate that he has shown his colours this early so that Batswana should see him for who he really is towards 2019.” Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi also dismissed Boko, indicating that Boko has never loved Khama, and would never be the best placed person to talk about the subject. Other MPs who debated the motion include Dorcas Makgato, Nonofo Molefhi, Dr Tlamelo Mmatli, Kgosi Tawana Moremi II and Vice President Slumber Tsogwane. BDP prevailed in the vote that ensued.

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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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