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My bond with Masisi is no more – Khama

Former President Lt. General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama says the only relationship he previously had with the current President, Mokgweetsi Masisi was that of a president and his vice, “and that relationship is no more”.

Khama’s remarks come at the height of talks that his successor, Masisi has failed him, since many believe he was appointed to the power seat through an arrangement that Khama would continue to run the show from behind the scenes. Many are of the belief that there was a secret agreement that once appointed, President Masisi, who once confessed publicly that he was Lt. Khama’s bootlicker would continue to appease Khama by fulfilling his wishes.

Lately, Masisi has been seen to be reversing a lot of Khama’s initiatives. His current changes are seen as a total reverse of the ‘Khama administration.’ While many have praised Masisi’s changing of some of the initiatives for the benefit of the nation, they posit that Khama has been caught off guard.

“I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t want the current president to change this and that. Of course there are things I wouldn’t want him to change, but I will not go public about it,” Former President Lt. Khama told WeekendPost in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Among the changes is the axing of former DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi who is an ally of Khama’s. The Masisi administration is also reviewing the alcohol levy, with a view of scraping it altogether or lowering the levy.

When asked if he had expected Kgosi’s removal from the security agency, Lt. Khama’s response was that, “Whether one expects it or not is not really an issue. What I expect is that he will make changes the way he wants to make changes. So when he makes changes, we must all expect that changes will be made.” When pressed further to comment specifically on Kgosi’s case, he said, “Kana I’m dodging your question.”

In the interview, which was his first since leaving office, Lt. Khama kept on stressing that he would not want to comment on the current administration, saying in his view it is not appropriate to do so. He noted that in the United States there is some kind of an agreement between the incumbent president and his predecessor that they don’t criticize one another’s administration. “But I’m not here talking about criticism. I’m talking about commenting on an administration. And I think that has worked well for them until Donald Trump came.

And of course being the chaotic president that he is, he has spent all his time criticizing President Barak Obama.” I don’t undermine Masisi’s administration
Recently, there have been allegations that Khama was undermining Masisi’s administration. This notwithstanding, the former president this week refuted the allegations. There have been at least three incidents that have been pointed out as a way of undermining the current president.

This publication is alive to the fact that during the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) day in April, the former president did not stand up with everyone else as is norm during the passing of the flag at the end of the parade. However, in his own defence Khama says, “The procedure is that when the parade ends, only the president stands up with the commander, the rest of the crowd remained seated. After the flags have passed the president, everybody should sit down and the president and the commander remain standing until the rest of the parade has passed.”

He stated, “I do not recall that whatsoever. When the flags passed on every occasion I stood up. Why wouldn’t I stand for the flags? He questioned. “That’s the procedure which I introduced. So I know when to stand up and when not to stand up. And even if I had not stood up, which I say I did, it would have nothing to do with the president, it would be me not recognizing or honouring our national symbols, the flags. It would have nothing to do with him but more to do with the flags.” He is also said to have left the stadium before the current president.

On the issue of leaving before the current president, he admitted that he left before Masisi as he had explained to the commander that he had two engagements in Palapye at the time, and he “would want to sit at the back so I could sneak out before the final display”. “How can I undermine somebody when I’m not in a position to undermine him? I’m not in government or any formal party structure. I’m just a member of the party,” said the former president. 

THE KHAWA INCIDENT

Another incident that Khama is said to have shown disrespect towards Masisi was at Khawa where he arrived after the current president. “If he arrived first, I remember that the evening before they were discussing the time when the race will start. There was a discussion around the fact that the race should start at 9am. So, I arrived for the race to begin at 9am, akere I was racing. So as a racer I knew that I would be starting at 9am. I think what happened on that occasion, is that they had not told him that there was a change in the time that the race was going to start. So, he probably got there before us. “

KHAMA AND POLITICS

Lt. Khama says he is very active in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) campaign for 2019. He noted that he has already offered to the BDP that he is prepared to engage in campaigning for them. “And that would really come about dependent on the central committee if it wants to engage me in any formal campaign structure or it could be as I would expect and as I already have requested that candidates for each constituency would come and ask me to engage with them in their campaigns in those constituencies,” he said.

He said some have already been coming forward. ”As you are probably aware, BDP held some primary elections in some of the constituencies already. And the rest are going to happen later this year.  So, those who have already emerged as candidates have already asked me to assist them. So that’s what I have done.”

He also stated that recently he also took part in a pledging exercise where they were asked to raise money for the party campaign, where he pledged that he would raise by the end of the year around P1m. “But I just want to say that some have chosen to misunderstand the pledge thinking that I’m going to be giving the million pula myself.

But it’s not the case that one would have P1m to donate. I said I would raise the P1m from donors,” he emphasized, adding that before he left office, there were some donors who had indicated that they were prepared to donate towards the party’s campaign towards 2019 as they had done in 2014.

RETIREMENT ROAD MAP

Lt. Khama noted that he was a very busy man, saying he has been tasked with a number of things to do. “I have not retired. I have just stepped down as the constitution provides,” he said. He noted quite a number of things like being given the tittle of the Champion of 2036 vision where he has already started attending meetings with the council as they put together their plans.

He is also tourism Ambassador for the country; the patron of Arts and Culture where he will continue to promote the Arts and Culture and major sporting codes. Further, he is board member of an international conservation organisation called Conservation International based in Washington. He continues his involvement with charitable organisations like the housing appeal.

He has since stepping down two months ago, been invited to countries like South Africa, and Mozambique where the president had invited him as a keynote speaker during an international event: And he will be visiting Gabon soon. Asked whether he has received any formal invitation from President Masisi, Lt. Khama said, “President Masisi said he would, so it really depends on him- what the issue is, whether he wants to do that or that. The thing is he was a vice for a long time. So, things are not new to me. So I don’t really expect him to be calling on me, but if he does, we will wait for that day to happen.”

ON ALCOHOL

“That is one issue I will never relax on. Facts are out there, it’s not me inventing stories of how alcohol destroys people’s lives.  At the rate that Batswana drink, we are heading for a train smash.”

ADVICE TO BATSWANA

Khama stressed that he has always appealed to Batswana to be patriotic, which is their dedication to the nation. And not to do anything or say anything which undermines nation building. “For me that is very important. We only have one country.” The former president said he was not happy about some of the things that people say on social Media.  He said it was highly disappointing that people engage themselves in some cases in a negative way like they do. He pointed out that social media should be used in a positive manner.

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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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