The Tlokweng bye-election results signal that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has not endeared itself to the voters ever since the 2014 general elections in which the party performance reached its lowest in history. With the same approach, same policies and refusal to adopt reforms since 2014, incoming president Mokgweetsi Masisi has a huge burden to bear— writes ALFRED MASOKOLA.
Not only is Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faced with succession plan battles within its ranks but also, apparent signs indicate that the party has not introspected and geared to project itself better ahead of the crucial 2019 general elections. In less than 10 months from now, President Lt Gen Ian Khama will be leaving office marking end to 20 years era in the BDP.
A BDP stalwart recently confided to this publication that the results of the recent bye-election is a sign, though they may not publicly admit, that the party has lost touch with the masses. “It was an anti-BDP vote. We are unpopular and if we don’t stem the tide we will be out [of power] in 2019,” he said regarding the Tlokweng bye-election. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) won the constituency with 4635 votes against BDP’s 2156- a margin of 2479 votes.
A few months ago, former party secretary general, Jacob Nkate conceded that the BDP needed to change its approach in the manner that it does business with the electorates. “I think the BDP needs to reconnect with the people; to have a message that resonates with the people. I do not think people are hearing us; we need to re-message and recalibrate. We need to understand what the biggest concern of the people is. We need to hear the people and people should hear us,” he told this publication then.
“Unemployment: huge problem, we must be able to say to people what we are doing. Health; in a lot of hospitals in Botswana, people are sleeping on the floor and in passages. I am not criticising my party. I am saying let us talk about these issues.” Nkate had said the entire government machinery is engulfed by problems which people are not happy about, something which he said BDP should swiftly move to address if it is to endear itself to the voters again
The former Minister of Education had also advised that, BDP should start having an honest and open discussion with the unions. “A government that sits and sulks for five years against the workers of the country is not going to succeed, because if the workers themselves sulk the same way, then the government is not going to go forward,” he contended. Nkate was part and parcel of the BDP that withered the storm in 1999 having arrived in parliament in 1994.
Botsalo Ntune, the incumbent secretary general had also proposed political and electoral reforms with the hope of revitalising the party but the suggested reforms have been received with cold reception and suspicion rather. This is despite the fact that the idea of introducing reforms was adopted by delegates at the 2015 Mmadinare congress.
Not only has Ntuane sensed danger in the party continuing with business as usually recently, he made efforts to appease two factions into adopting a compromise in order to preserve party unity ahead of 2019. The suggestion has also been rejected by both factions.
The rejection of appealing reforms has however been met with self-defeating laws and policies. Recently, the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) collapsed owing to the perceived government bad will toward the civil service. Government and Botswana Federation of Public Service Union (BOFEPUSU) continue to fight, with the latter recently declaring political support for the opposition, UDC. Between 2014 and now, BDP has fared dismally in bye-elections, winning only two council seats out of 11 contested so far.
In the interim, BDP has pursued the same policies and used the same approach which saw its popularity falling to its lowest since independence. Meanwhile opposition has gained ground and advantage of BDP’s failure to reform and reposition itself. Amid rising unemployment and jaded economy, BDP is failing to attract new voters to its ranks.
The political climate has been changing ever since 2009 general elections. BDP effortlessly won the 2009 general election winning more constituencies compared to the previous general election. The crisis which BNF was engulfed in saw BDP making inroads in the former’s territory. For the first time since 1979, BNF found itself without a constituency in Gaborone. That year, BDP’s popular vote increased by two percent from the previous elections.
The watershed moment for opposition parties was 2010, the in which BDP split, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD); in that particularly year, Human Rights lawyer Duma Boko assumed the leadership of BNF while Dumelang Saleshando succeeded his father as leader of Botswana Congress Party (BCP). However, with opposition evidently gaining popularity at the expense of the ruling party, the BDP has remained antagonistic to prospects of introducing countering reforms.
Khama’s rise to the presidency came in the back of political and electoral reforms initiated by BDP following the 1994 general election. The year had thrown the party into a vulnerable state and for the first time since independence the prospect of BDP losing power became real. Botswana National Front (BNF), the only opposition party then had risen from three seats to 13 seats in parliament, an unprecedented growth in opposition ranks back then. The result meant, BNF needed only eight seats in the next general elections (1999) to dethrone BDP.
BDP 1995 POLITICAL AND ELECTORAL REFORMS
With the BDP dismal performance in 1994, came the reforms. The party was going through gravest crisis in the party owing two factional wars tearing the party asunder. President Quett Masire was expected to leave office after the 1994 general elections but the internal bickering in the party compelled him to stay longer. The arrival of a new batch of independent intellects and Young Turks in the party offered a new dimension to the party.
Many believed, owing to the 1994 general elections performance, Masire could not lead the party to the next general elections, but the battle of succession made it impossible for BDP to retain power in 1999 under those circumstances. In 1992, Festus Mogae had ascended to the Vice Presidency following the resignation of Peter Mmusi owing to his implication in a land corruption scandal.
Mogae’s succession was however not viewed as permanent and none of the two factions saw him as the ultimate successor to the throne. However, the 1995 Sebele Special Congress put that debate to rest. When the delegates dispersed, the party had agreed to key reforms; that the Vice President will ascend to the presidency automatically when the sitting president leaves office; and that a presidential term will only be limited to 10 years. These two key reforms were necessary to reinvigorate the party and reposition it ahead of the 1999 general election.
Ahead of 1999 general elections, BDP engaged South African based political consultant Lawrence Schlemmer to offer prognosis on the party. The Schlemmer report found out that BDP factions were tearing the party apart and would make it impossible for BDP to stay in power if the status quo remained. The report then recommended that the party brings within its fold someone who was respected and untainted to help unite the party.
That description fit the then Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander and popular chief of Bangwato Ian Khama. His arrival in the BDP galvanised and restored BDP’s popularity. The famous “Khama Magic” was the aura and charisma which Khama used in appealing to the masses and rallying votes to the BDP banner.
Masisi will become the third beneficiary of automatic succession constitutional dispensation next year when Khama leaves office. But his succession will not be a breeze in the park. First he has to ward-off the challenge from Nonofho Molefhi who is vying for the chairmanship and eventually the party presidency in 2019. Neither Festus Mogae nor Khama were challenged for the throne when they ascended, something which puts Masisi in a dark corner.
Secondly he will inherit a worn out BDP than the one which Ian Khama inherited from President Mogae. If he wins the battle to lead BDP he will take it to face a strong and united opposition for the first time in history. Opposition enjoyed a combined 53 percent from the 2014 general elections.
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.
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.
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.”