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Gov’t removal of Khumaga residents violates UN Statutes

The ongoing debacle between residents of Khumaga village and the government of Botswana could have far reaching effects on Botswana’s respect for human rights as government has reneged on its compensation promises.

The erection of the fence in Khumaga which will cost government P36 million will see residents losing part of their land, which they have occupied since the pre-independence era. The idea of erection of a fence was coined by government under the pretence of separating the people from wild animals.

Khumaga is adjacent to Makgadikgadi National Park, something which has seen residents involved in wildlife and human conflicts as well as engaging in tourism activities such as operating camp sites. Despite the proposition by government, that the fence is meant to benefit both the residents and government, there are suspicions that the erection of the new fence is a multi-million pula ploy by tourism magnates, including President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama, who is also Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, to advance their tourism interests.    

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, of which Botswana is a member, outlines principles to be pursued by government on issues regarding acquisition of land from indigenous people. The UNDRIP establishes in article 32(2) that states have a duty to consult indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”.

Such consultations, according to UNDRIP , should comply with a number of minimum requirements, including that:  “Consultations must be formal, full and exercised in good faith; there must be a genuine dialogue between governments and indigenous and tribal peoples characterized by communication and understanding, mutual respect, good faith and the sincere wish to reach an accord. UNDRIP also says that consultations have to be undertaken through indigenous and tribal peoples’ representative institutions; and also that consultations have to be “undertaken with the objective of reaching agreement or consent to the proposed measures”.

Despite Tshekedi making assuring statements in the past that he was determined to reach an amicable settlement decision with the residents, government gestures, such as continuing with installation of the fence suggests a different story. The Ngwande Trust, which is owned by the Khumaga community, has always believed that the decision to erect a new fence is a plan by the Tourism ministry to protect the interest of one of the leading tourism companies, Chobe Holdings which has numerous interests in tourism in Botswana, including in Boteti around Khumaga village. The Khamas have interests in Chobe Holdings with their nephew Dale Ter Haar serving as one of its directors.

Chobe Holdings, which is headquartered in Maun, is the mother company of Desert and Delta Safaris and Ker and Downey Botswana, which operates combined 19 luxury lodges and safaris in Botswana and Namibia.  The lodge and safaris are sparsely located in tourism rich areas including Okavango, Maun and Boteti (where Khumaga is situated). Some of the lodges owned by Chobe Holdings’ two companies include Chobe Game Lodge, Savute Safari Lodge, Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango, Xugana Island Lodge and Leroo La Tau among others.

In 2013 Chobe Holdings challenged the ownership of Gwaraga land, a wildlife rich area owned by the Ngwande Trust.  Chobe Holdings contended that Ngwande Trust’s acquisition of the land will conflict with its operations and argued that it was never consulted when the Land Board handed the land to the Trust. According to councillor for Khumaga/Moreomaoto Thomas Kgethenyane, the residents, though they opposed the government’s proposal, went into negotiation on “give and take basis” of which government agreed to some of their demands.

As per the initial agreement, government was to allow the community Trust and individuals who held camp site licences to continue having access to the other side of the fence and also to be allowed to operate their businesses freely. Recently, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Rule Jimmy Opelo accompanied by other officials from the ministry issued a directive that everybody should move to the other side of the fence contrary to the “give and take” preposition initially agreed on.

“We were informed the relocation affects everybody, and that there is no more space left on the other side of the fence for allocation of camp sites,” said Kgethenyane, “This is not what we agreed but government is going ahead with its plans.”
WeekendPost has been informed that the government’s ‘bullying’ approach will see residents losing the land, lucrative farming areas as well as their camp sites leases and licences. As the conflict between government and Khumaga resident grows thick, councillor Kgethenyane has promised to bring the matter to the attention of the international community, if government continues with its action.

“As we speak, government is hiding information on the entry points after erection of this new fence. Everybody is in the dark about it despite earlier assurance by government that residents would be allowed to have access to the river,” he said.
“The whole thing was a lie, people are being driven into poverty with no beneficiation in the tourism activities and people will lose their ploughing fields.”

KEY PLAYERS ON KHUMAGA SAGA

Slumber Tsogwane –Boteti West MP and Minister of Local Government “Consultation does not mean agreement, but Khumaga residents know what the Government wants to do as they were consulted, and Government continues to engage them. Of course not all people agree with the Government’s decision, and I am not aware of their intention to go to court. If it is something that they want to do, there is nothing wrong with it.” April 2016 Tshekedi Khama- Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism“I do not believe in imposing decisions. I try to reach consensus with people because if you impose decisions on them, you will face some sort of resistance. When things are done right, people will appreciate and there will be no criticism.” February 2016

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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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