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Isaac Kgosi ready to fight

The clash involving the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS) and Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism is far from over, as this week the intelligence chief Isaac Kgosi insisted before Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that it is the mandate of DIS to pursue anti-poaching mission.


Last week, Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary, Jimmy Opelo informed the committee that the Wildlife anti-poaching unit was capable of pursuing its mission given the resources at its disposal. He informed PAC that the wildlife department has eight aircrafts and eight special vehicles used in combating poaching in Botswana.  


PAC member, Mephato Reatile had inquired as to whether Members of Parliament should support or ignore supplementary budgets that frequently come from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and the DISS under the disguise of anti-poaching mission. This week the DISS boss differed significantly with the permanent secretary when legislator Reatile presented the issue before him. Kgosi said although the Wildlife anti-poaching unit has the aircrafts and specialised vehicles to combat poachers, they (Wildlife Unit) need the presence of the intelligence if they are to succeed.


“In Setswana were say: “moroto wa o esi ga o ele,” said the DIS boss. Kgosi contended that as a security organ, there is no way they are going to stay away from pursuing poachers because the task remains one of its major priorities. “We are not in competition with them [Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit]. The role of the DIS is to gather intelligence for its consumers. We are not only limited to our country as we even go international to gather intelligence,” he said.


“Not long ago, we found a stash of elephant tusks from Botswana in one country. Ours is not about having specialised vehicles or aircrafts but gathering intelligence.” Kgosi said not only is the DIS role in the anti-poaching complementary, its anti-poaching missions are also sanctioned by the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC). “All operations of the DIS are sanctioned by the CIC, which the DIS report to,” he said. “Because anything can happen, people may lose lives during the operation.”

ON DIS/TSHEKEDI KHAMA TENSION


The DIS boss said as far as he is concerned there is no bad blood between the DIS and the Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit or the Minister of Tourism, Tshekedi Khama. Guma Moyo, Tati East Member of Parliament and also a PAC member had raised concern in relation to reports playing out in public with regard to the animosity between intelligence organs.   


“Perception is stronger than reality. What is happening in the national security community is a cause for concern; because nobody is coming out publicly to state the record straight, citizens are worried; they are beginning to wonder if they are really safe,” said the Tati East lawmaker.


Reatile also raised the same concerns and asked whether the DIS boss could be hiding important information in regard to the current state of affairs. Reatile said the tendency to deny reality will end up landing the DIS boss in trouble as evidenced by incidents in other countries, giving example of disgraced former intelligence chief in Angola. Kgosi informed the committee that the DIS is scheduled to address its first press conference alongside the concerned parties to finally put the matter to bed.


The DISS’s first planned press conference was aborted at the last minute a month ago, with the DISS hierarchy resolute on refuting the damning story which appeared in the Sunday Standard newspaper about DISS’s illegal involvement in the smuggling of ivory out of the country.


The planned press conference was aborted after the intervention of President Lt Gen Ian Khama, to save face and prevent a situation where government departments could appear to be at war with each other’s throats. DISS has never held a press conference before and does not have public relations unit at the moment in its ranks.  It is understood that Kgosi was prepared to name and shame at the said press conference.


While Kgosi continued to downplay the gravity of differences with the Wildlife Anti-Poaching unit, Tshekedi Khama has opted to make his position known about the DISS involvement in anti-poaching missions. Earlier this year he refused to support the DISS supplementary funding, insisting that it was a misplaced request. He pointed out that for the good of the country, the government should get its priorities right.  


Tshekedi’s  reasons for rejecting DISS request for additional funding was that the money that his ministry always requests to compensate Batswana who lose lives and livestock due to wild animal attacks is always lower than what they require and it has been so for many years.


“I become surprised that for the DISS, P15 million can be passed to fix the computers. What are we saying to Batswana? Are we telling them that we cannot compensate them for the damages caused by wildlife or when they have lost a family member yet we can afford to fix computers?” he told parliament then.


On other issues raised by the PAC, Kgosi revealed that the DIS operations are in line with world best practices. He noted that the intelligence community reports to oversight organs such as the National Intelligence Committee (NIC), Central Intelligence Committee (CIC), the Auditor General as well as the PAC. Ndaba Gaolathe had wanted to know if the DIS chief considers the organs’ operations to be in line with the world best practices.


Kgosi further confirmed to the committee that DIS is responsible for VISA and permits vetting and noted that the intelligence however takes only four days to process that. He noted that the vetting is based solely on security reasons and there are no other criterions used. Bogolo Kenewendo wanted to know if the assessment of VISA and permits was points based or solely on “Security threat /Not security threat.”


The committee was also informed that the drug dealings and smuggling were growing at an alarming rate, with new kinds of drugs entering Botswana on daily basis. Kgosi revealed that on average 10-15 people are found in possession of drugs on a daily basis. He said the culprits are not only the unemployed youth but even professionals. He shared with the committee that recently a practicing medical doctor was arrested after being found in possession of drugs.   


BATSWANA ARE GOSSIPERS AND COWARDS


Kgosi could not spare the character of Batswana when appearing before the committee as he expressed that they are “cowards” and “gossipers.”  He said a lot of negative talk said about the DIS is far from the truth. He said when some government department are unable to do their job, they shift the blame to the DIS, pointing to a case in particular involving the Department of Immigration who he said are fond of accusing DIS of delaying issuance of VISAs and permits when in fact DIS only takes four days to do the assessments. He said others who accuse him of wrong doings do not have the temerity to seek audience with him because they are cowards.

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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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