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Selibe Phikwe Cllrs block eviction of illegal churches

Councillors in Selebi Phikwe have opposed the eviction of churches both operating illegally and occupying land illegally in the former mining town.

Presenting a church squatters report at the recently ended full council meeting, Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) Chief Physical Planner, Samuel Aaron told councillors that a total of 60 churches were operating illegally in places not designated for worship and therefore should be evicted.

Councillors moved swiftly to block the recommendation to evict opting instead for consultation and liaising with the Department of Lands for expedition of allocation of plots for churches, notwithstanding the fact that out the 60 churches, only 19 of them are legally registered.
Aaron noted in his presentation that the Local Authority undertook a study to profile places of worship and the field survey revealed that there are a total of 60 places of worship operating in areas not designated for worship, 31 of which operate in residential areas while 29 operate in open spaces.

According to the Registrar of Societies, of the 60 places of worship, only 19 churches are registered whilst others have no record of registration and therefore not recognised by the Laws of Botswana. Of the 19 registered churches, only four indicated that they have a membership size of 150 or more and 13 of all the 60 interviewed churches claim to have a membership size of 150 which is the minimum required membership size for churches to register with the Registrar of Societies as per the Act.

All these churches including the 19 which are legally registered operate from areas not designated for church use and therefore contravene the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013. Aaron revealed that the same issue has also been raised by the Selebi Phikwe Planning Area (2011-2035) which advocates for adoption of sustainable measures to meet land demands for such religious establishments.

He pointed out that the identified places of worship exist in the physical form of temporary structures of IBR sheets, wood and plastic which are aesthetically unappealing and compromises the aesthetics and safety of the town. “There are either no or inadequate provision of public conveniences in these sites hence making the site prone to environmental pollution,” he said.

He added that issues relating to illegal occupation of land by churches include noise pollution, land use conflicts, change of character of the area, environmental pollution due to some religious practices, safety of the congregates as some churches worship in the bush and mountains, as well as criminal acts perpetrated by some churches on worshippers under religious deception.

The objective of the study was to undertake an in-depth assessment of the problem, determine its root cause and come up with possible solutions, to determine the general provision of places of worship in Selebi Phikwe in terms of adequacy, to establish their background; date founded, membership size, where they were worshipping before and if they have land elsewhere, to determine reasons why the churches have resorted to squatting in open spaces and operate in residential areas as well as to develop possible solutions to the problem and make recommendations.

Out of the 60 churches operating illegally and in illegal places, 24 had indicated that that they once approached Department of Lands and Council and were informed that the plots will be advertised. According to Aaron, they complained that it takes long for civic and community plots to be allocated in Selebi Phikwe. This is despite the fact that still; only 19 of these churches are legally registered with their only wrong being operating in places not designated for worship.

Aaron presented three recommendations with the first one being eviction of all churches operating in areas not designated for church use. He had pointed out that the eviction will be preceded by consultation with churches and subject to consideration of suggestions from the consultation. Councillors did not like the eviction recommendation, with all that debated the report choosing the third recommendation on the list being to liaise with the Department of Lands for speedy allocation of church plots.

Councillor Kago Motsemme of Botshabelo said that the church plays an important role in building people’s personalities, arguing that if churches are evicted, the people may go to places where they as leaders of the people do not want them to go to. Another Councillor, Lillian Sethula said the council should investigate whether the affected churches had been allocated plots and failed to develop them.

Legal framework for eviction

Aaron stated that the need and desire to control developments is borne out of a number of concerns which include health, safety, environment, social and aesthetics as well as efficiency concerns. The challenge therefore, he said lies on how to fashion out a Development control code that address all the concerns without compromising flexibility and discretion on the part of planning authorities nor limiting the ability of the code to offer choices and not being overly prescriptive.

He noted that presently, the legal form of physical and development control in the country falls under two categories being the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013 which serves as the apex Planning Legislation that provides the legal backing, as well as the Development Control Code which provide statutory basis.

He said the preparation of development plan shows how land should be utilised and how physical developments ought to be carried out as per the Act. He explained that the Development Control Code is a set of planning regulations for land use and the activities that take place on it which are mainly physical developments, emphasising that the control of how land is carried out and affected is one of the functions of Planning Authorities also guided by the urban development standards.

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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

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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