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Boko confident UDC will win in 2019

With just a little over a year before the much awaited crucial 2019 General Elections, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Duma Boko seems unfazed about the state of affairs within the coalition and is as adamant as ever they will win.

This is notwithstanding the fact that like in 2014, a part of the coalition has pulled out. In 2014, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) pulled out of the conglomerate of opposition parties under UDC; and this year, the coalition bore a splinter party of the Botswana Movement of Democracy dubbed Alliance for Progressives (AP).  AP seems set to face UDC and ruling Botswana Democratic Change (BDP) at the polls.  

The UDC President told WeekendPost in an exclusive interview in Gaborone this week that “there is absolutely no doubt, we are going to win the next 2019 General Elections”. Boko however maintained that, “not alone but together with others because ultimately it’s about coming together and winning (which we are going to win) – hell or high waters.  Make no mistake about that.”

According to Boko, “UDC is rolling at the moment and it is unstoppable. That’s what I can say. I don’t want to pronounce on any other person. And when I talk about the UDC I mean everyone.” So, the question of whether “I will step down as promised if the UDC doesn’t win,” he says about losing elections in 2019, “does not arise but in any case I have already made a pronouncement on that (to step down after then).” “We are winning elections in 2019 so we will be serving this country in different capacities,” he said confidently.  

However Boko also told this publication that there will be challenges along the way; as they expect that to happen, and so when these challenges come or people differ and disagree it doesn’t mean there is or will be disintegration in the party. In his alleged difference with some BNF Central Executive Committee members in the mold of party Vice President Prince Dibeela, Gantsi North legislator Noah Salakae whom it is understood accuses the BNF leader of running the party almost like a remote control and having no regard for process and procedure, he clarified that he strictly follows the constitution as is.

“There are no differences whatsoever. BNF President exercises certain powers given or vested to him by the constitution of the party and he uses those powers judiciously,” Boko justified. He then went on to point out that he is a thinker and thrives on engagement. “I am a thinker. I am by habit, training and practice, a lawyer and a jurist. I thrive on engagement. That’s my life blood. So when I get engaged by whomever and you think this man in under siege, no, I am actually having fun.

That’s when am at my best when I enjoy myself the most. Because I know, either the views I hold will prevail or as I would have assessed them or engage with anybody on them because I know I will prevail. I know I have the skills to prevail, the temperament to prevail. But also if my views turn out to be weak, I embrace the stronger view points and life moves on.”

Boko gave an example of BNF having experienced turmoil during his tenure. So he said at the time BNF had to go through a process of refinement and cleansing for it to be in the UDC – “it had to shed some baggage.” According to Boko, the BNF did that otherwise they could not have entered this process. It had to purify itself and go through a process of propagation on a grander scale and that’s what’s going through at the UDC, he highlighted.  

Boko emphasised that the matter has to be about the substance of what “we are offering and not the personalities”. “People come and go. Principles must abide. That’s what matters. I can go, anytime. But the principles from which I stood will inform those who come after. It’s not about Boko.” He also stressed that opposition in Botswana is not bewitched. “It is just fine. Contradiction is the very essence of things. It’s about refinement,” he said.

So, UDC does not need AP?

According to Boko, AP should consider joining the UDC because opposition parties are currently under one umbrella. “If AP is an opposition in Botswana, they are enforced by the circumstances we find ourselves in, to join other opposition parties under the Umbrella (UDC). UDC is a conglomeration of opposition parties. Any serious opposition party must become part of the UDC. That one is not in doubt.”

The Leader of Opposition in parliament continued: “but as I said they (AP) have only just set up so they are still trying to find their bearing as well, so as soon as they have done, they will engage us as we are always open as UDC. For them to be admitted into the UDC there has to be motivation, we are ever ready to receive and embrace.”

In terms of whether UDC was ready to give out some constituencies to AP if they opted to join it, Boko said he was not ready to give out any information to that effect because the time had not yet come. However, he said when issues presented themselves they will examine them at that time, considering the prevailing circumstances at the time as well as the best interest of the organisation.  

“These are what will determine how we react. So I cannot stand here now and say to you that this is what we will do. I don’t pre-judge. I am always open minded. I am always adaptable. When matters present themselves I look at the prevailing circumstances at the time and then make a call.”

The Gaborone Bonnington North legislator however said that since AP was just establishing itself, he could not fairly assess whether they are strong or not, and whether they will be a threat to them, should they decide to remain outside the UDC. “I’m waiting to see what they are made of,” he said.  

On journalists…

The UDC leader opines that journalists are highly sensitive and says they must not think they are immune to criticism. “You journalists must subject yourselves to the most critical self examination because when we subject you to that rigorous examination you will then appreciate that we are not malicious. We don’t want any mediocrity in a journalist or anyone including politicians,” he pointed out.

He said this country will be better served by cutting edge journalists, “not people who masquerade to tell us their views and sentiments and have no regard for journalists who doesn’t respect the craft and ethics of journalists. If you a strong journalist who deals in facts, figures, ask pertinent questions, probes every leader you are my man.”

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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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