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Ndaba speaks out on BMD future

Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Ndaba Gaolathe on Thursday evening told multitudes of BMD supporters at the Maitisong Hall, Maruapula School in Gaborone that they have since decided to leave the BMD impasse in the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), to mediate on.

Multitudes of supporters had thronged the hall clad in party regalia to lend solidarity to their “calm and collected” leader. Gaolathe won the parallel controversial party congress recently at Bobonong Community Junior Secondary School while the other was won by Sidney Pilane at Matshekge Junior Secondary School both at Bobonong village.

The meeting was the first he addressed as BMD president. Evidently, he had the support of party elders who graced the event, including former Speaker of the National Assembly Margaret Nasha, counterparts in the UDC and Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Vice President Takula Lenyatso and renowned pastors in the likes of Dumi Mmualefhe and Cosmos Moenga.

Other key people who were also present include Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) leadership consisting of its leaders Johnson Motshwarakgole, Tobokani Rari and Ketlhalefile Motshegwa among others. When he took to the podium, amid applause and cheering, Ndaba said they respect the UDC as a mother body and will duly allocate them a chance and time to intervene in the matter between his faction and that of Pilane. “We need to wait for the UDC. We need to respect the UDC processes and hope that those charged with responsibility will offer guidance accordingly,” Ndaba pointed out to the audience in the fully packed hall in Maruapula, Gaborone.

Ndaba calls for a re-run of a free and fair congress

According to the charming leader, the party should go for a re-run of the national congress to elect a new leadership through fair and fair elections. “We can’t demand at the national level free and fair elections if we are not able at the party level to demand and conduct free and fair elections,” he told the gathering. He also noted that BMD members who support his cause are not convinced about the faction taking the court route in resolving the impasse. He stated: “they do not believe that the court route is viable. They believe that the time and material and cost entail will take away whatever energy we need to offer to Botswana.”

Ndaba faction weighs options of a new political party

According to Ndaba, forming a new party may be an option, as party devotees suggest, but it should however not be the first option. He highlighted: “I know that there is talk about a new political party, and I have to be honest with you. There is pressure yes, there is pressure mounted from different directions to embark on the option. Proponents of this option advance reasons for its course and amongst them they say perhaps we need a fresh home. We need a dwelling home to this consciousness of change.”

He added that “but this should not be our first option, be patient. We need to give the UDC the opportunity to intervene before we consider all other options.” In terms of the new party, Ndaba also observed that many decisions will be taken and some of these decisions will be painful. “This is a consciousness that was inspired by activists, by ordinary people from across different needs. If this consciousness sits with discomfort, as it seems to do right now, then the current configuration, we need to be decisive about how best to transfigure ourselves so that the consciousness could change and thrive towards the kind of Botswana we all want. We will never be defeated,” he maintained on his address.

I am not returning to the BDP – Ndaba becomes emotional

The non conformist BMD leader continued his address to the multitudes of his supporters and quashed rumours about his alleged move back to BDP. “I have also heard a rumour that I want to decamp to the ruling party. I just want to say to you that I am a servant of the people. I serve at the pleasure of the people. And as long as the people think they need me to assist them in the journey that is theirs I cannot walk away from them,” the clearly emotional young leader set the record straight. He further added, whilst holding back tears: “I don’t walk away from people who prayed for me and made me who I am. And should the people say to me at some point that I have done my part, and that they need a new set of leaders, then I will be happy to bow out.”

The BMD leader takes blame for Bobonong violence

The Gaborone Bonnington South law maker further apologised to the families whose children were injured at Bobonong; and to the students of Matshekge CJSS for contaminating their school’s reputation. “It is not who to blame. The buck always stops with the leader. And this is why I take full responsibility for events leading to and after the BMD congress.” He informed the gathering that in the past week, he travelled to Bobonong to see the Kgosi to apologise to him; and to the school to tender his apology; and also visited the police to thank them for being such gallant protectors.

Ndaba also stated that he is aware of the alarm his party caused to many citizens, especially that the party as part of the UDC carries much hope for them. He conceded that he is embarrassed that the party returned from the elective Congress in Bobonong last month with two parallel sets of leadership committees. “Many of you know that that’s uncalled for, they are embarrassed by this. In fact I am embarrassed myself. Some of you have listened to radio talk shows and witnessed and wondering how this great movement of ours has become the skunk of this nation.”

According to Ndaba, their actions and conduct have represented everything that can go wrong in a democratic experiment. He explained that “the perceptions and circumstances that surround BMD have generated confusion. They have generated the disillusionment. They have generated mistrust, and have generated doubts about whether our nation can achieve the change that we also yearn for and desire.”

Further, the maverick leader pointed out that the unfolding of events, tactics and behaviour of the BMD have revealed that they have in their midst, men and women who do not believe in this change that they all see this country needs; “we have men and women whose lack of belief causes them to work against every little effort to present to this country the type of choice of leaders and political formation that our citizens can choose from on an election day,” he quipped.

“This, alone, is a travesty; it is a tragedy, for this is part of the vision that we have shared with so many of our citizens, that our movement is a movement that should be a meeting of great leaders of men and women that ordinary people can choose from in this nation,” he added. He also mentioned that “the current impasse in the BMD is not a traditional difference of opinion. It is not a contest of ideas or a contest of ideology. It is not a traditional competition among leaders for traditional leadership. The current situation in the BMD is much deeper than what meets the eye.”

He takes a swipe at BDP government for poor governance

Ndaba did not spare the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for its misdeeds. He started by pointing out that Botswana needs a government because they are tired of a government that buys Fighter Jets and Gripens at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) at the expense of financing projects that could transform the lives of the people. He added that the country needs a new government because the current one cannot account for major public expenditure saying it’s for security reasons.

“We need government because the current government is not able to manage large national potentially transformational projects. We need a new government because the current one doesn’t believe in the talent of their citizens choking their creativity including their own. We need a new government because the current one is suspicious of everybody, its suspicious of investors, and degrades the workers.”

The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker said BDP government conceals injustices, and that it is a government which has a secret service that runs the government behind the scenes with fear mongering and intimidation. “We need a government that takes care of all its affairs, and cultivates the minds of people that they too can become anything behind the sun. We are that government. And we will become that government. We have so many competent people to transform the lives of our people.”

 “We will fight for what Motswaledi stood for”

According to the son of ex and late Minister of Finance and Development Planning, “some in our midst say we are fighting for some power in the high echelons of the party, they say there is place of dominance in this fighting, they say we are fighting for a high place in a high seat in the government of 2019 should we win election.”

However Ndaba thinks otherwise: “no, this is not our fight or our war. We fight for a new Botswana. We fight for our nation the same vision by our great leader Gomolemo Motswaledi, the great vision of all fair minded citizens of this country.”
“It is always good to fight for something, even if you are wrong, and indeed we might be wrong,” he highlighted.

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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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