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Motswaledi speaks on BMD split

The former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) nominee for Gaborone Central constituency, Gape Motswaledi has addressed new twists in the power struggle roiling the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

BMD, the newest political formation in the country, is on the brink of an ill-timed split which imperils the integrity of the opposition coalition, on the last mile to the 2019 general election. BMD has two presidents and factions which are claiming legitimacy, one led by Advocate Sidney Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe. Gape is the younger brother to the late BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi, who died in a freak auto accident in 2014. His name was put forward as a possible candidate of UDC after the passing of his brother, alongside trade unionist Andrew Motsamai, cleric Thuso Tiego, lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and the now area parliamentarian, Phenyo Butale.

Motswaledi told this publication in an exclusive interview this week that it is his opinion that both factions should part ways before relations take any further sharp twist and also for the interest of time: “I think quite expeditiously that UDC and the two camps should ascertain whether they can continue with the marriage. Can they mix together? They should ask themselves one question. Do you stay together when you have forsaken each other? (Do you stay together) when you are emotionally detached? Or do you separate while you still have mutual respect and you can work together as separate entities.”

He further said that even in matrimony, there comes a time when a couple has to ruminate over fact that it has become emotionally detached.  “You rather not share space and care about each other that not caring about each other and sharing space. It doesn’t safeguard the expectations of Batswana that their destiny is delayed. You don’t expect your aspirations to be realised during the lifetime of your great grandchildren.” He also said that while he is not in the BMD, he has observed that it has come to a point where the levels of mutual trust have tanked to lowermost depths; a prospect which will undermine genuine reconciliation.

Motswaledi, who is also a firm believer of scripture, expressed hope that regime change might still be possible in the 2019 general election, stating that, God willing, a lot of things can still take place in the interim. To buttress a point that working relations have become irretrievable between the two camps, he said it is impossible to imagine former sworn archenemies working together under a single roof.  

“As a Motswana, I was observing when Mr Pilane wanted to be readmitted into the party and others were circumspect. If he leads, will he forget that at some point he was looked upon with distrust? If Mr Ndaba (Gaolathe) leads, will he forget that these people at some point didn’t want me? That thing delays the journey. The two camps will spend their time closely eyeballing each other with distrust. I think one of the workable options is when others say, let’s secede and we will work together in a different arrangement. Other suggestions are but ordinary human yearnings that will not be feasible.”

Motswaledi further voiced his disagreement with the prolonged silence of UDC with regards to informing the nation on the progress of the report compiled on the death of his elder brother. He further said that his family never solicited any report or further investigation because it was resigned to the fact that it would not bring back their loved one. He also revealed that the Motswaledi family would have allowed any other political formation or organized body to execute a deeper investigation for national closure if it came in sincerity.

“What worries me is that when you take a long time without apprising the public, they develop their own perceptions and their perceptions become their truth. If an individual believes that the funds were pooled for other reasons than the report; that is their truth. One thing that neutralizes such speculation is when you bring forward facts on your progress, even if the job is not complete.”

He also appeared to take a swipe at Adv Pilane: “The other day I read in a newspaper that someone promised to produce the report. But you see, that individual in a way is peddling a perception that the report is neither nigh nor is there. That it is in someone’s pocket and at his behest it can be produced. It’s a perception that this person is creating and it is very dangerous. It tarnishes the credibility of a movement that came to us in sincerity. That kind of character, that person gets the power to do that because he is filling in the space that is left by those who were supposed to report duly to the nation,” he said.

Motswaledi also said that his father is not interested when it comes to the frivolity of politics
 “He is not concerned. He can only worry if someone claims that they can produce the report, as if he goes around carrying it in their pocket.” Furthermore he revealed that UDC has also not submitted the report to the family noting that they will receive it like other Batswana when it is finalised. “We are fine with it, but if they take their power and forfeit it to people who might tarnish their name by peddling a perception that this report is something you just pull out of a drawer, it will be a lapse of judgement on their side.”

Motswaledi who is also a chorister and educator, also told this publication that in the period preceding his death, Gomolemo had done something he had never done before in his political life. “I said at the funeral that he invited all the relatives to the launch of his candidature in Gaborone Central. He requested that I mobilise all the relatives. This was the first time that he had wanted his close relatives involved in his political expeditions because normally he kept them at bay from such.”

He continued to state that in retrospect his elder brother might have had witnessed a grand familial gathering in his sub-consciousness which he might have not wholly discerned. “In the spirit, he must have noticed relatives and friends converging at the launch of his candidacy, but he didn't know that it was a spiritual launch into heaven.” He also shed light for the first time why he turned down contesting with the UDC ticket in Gaborone Central noting that he wanted to independently make his own mark and realise his own individual potential, without a slight assistance from his sibling.

“I resisted inheriting anything from him for so long. I resisted at KTM (Choir) which he had founded and where I was based for some time, before I proceeded to join BTU (Botswana Teachers Union) choir because I was also into trade unionism.”
He also said that besides seeking to chart his own paths, he nevertheless had to acquaint himself with the especially broken political terrain of 2014 before making his leap. “I couldn't just step in because of him. I had to ask myself, do I know the needs of residents of that constituency?”

But above all, Motswaledi said that Gomolemo had already groomed Young Turks who were at the time equally refined to take up the assignment. He further noted that had he been one of them, he would have been happy to step up to the test. “He was a destiny bearer, but he didn't finish his mandate. He had to hand over the baton but it was only appropriate to do that to his mentees. If I was one of them, I would have accepted. Stepping up to the political challenge is not just assuming a position of power, there is much more to it,” he explained.

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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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