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We won’t go for congress rerun – Pilane

Embattled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Sidney Pilane has vowed not to allow any mediator in the party impasse to allow them to hold a congress re-run following the recent disputed Bobonong one.

The umbrella of opposition parties in Botswana, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is expected to mediate between the two after receiving communication from both parties claiming to be the legitimate National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, with one led by Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe.

In his inaugural press briefing this week after the disputed congress, Pilane maintained that they will not allow for a re-run of the congress as they won fair and square in line with the constitution of the BMD. “Let me make it clear that we had a lawful congress at Matshekge CJSS in Bobonong. It has been called in terms of the constitution of the BMD by the National Executive Committee. All was done in accordance with our constitution and so, we will not agree to any suggestion by anybody to call another congress,” the BMD leader insisted to journalists earlier this week.

He however said they are prepared to compromise in terms of matters regarding which they have power to compromise that are outside the ambit of the movement constitution. He thus emphasized that: “what we cannot do is give anybody anything that we do not have the power to do. And what we cannot agree is to anything that we do not have the power to agree to it, and so even others we agree that they are thinking about us and might want to assist and it will be grateful, but they must understand that we are limited by the constitution of the BMD.  We work within it, we stay within it, we live within it and we act in accordance with it at all times. It’s a matter we do not compromise.”

The Advocate asserted that they told Batswana that they would like to run this country and therefore should show to them that indeed they will run the country according to the law. The Constitution is never compromised, he stressed adding that Batswana need to know that when they elect them into government they will obey the law and run government affairs in terms of the law, and nobody should ask to compromise on the law to suit any party end.

In terms of suggestions that the UDC will intercede, Pilane said he does not recall UDC leader Duma Boko talking about two factions in the BMD. Instead, his recollection is that Boko pointed out that they have received two reports from two groups, both of whom claim to be BMD. And that he said they might call them. “The question now is; are we going to go there if the UDC calls? Yes, if the UDC calls we would go, to see what they would have called us for,” the highly decorated lawyer highlighted.
He however assured the briefing that no one will call BMD without its authority or blessing.

“We run this movement by a constitution. We have a constitution which governs the affairs of the movement. No other constitution does. And no other individual does. So anybody that wants to mediate between us obviously we would be very grateful. We will go wherever we are called. We shall hear whatever we will be called for. We have a discussion according as we might be invited. And we will state our position,” the controversial politician warned. Pilane also reiterated that in terms of the calls for a re-run of the congress, even if they are given money to hold the congress they will not hold that congress as they have already held one. “We have too much work to do to rebuild our movement,” he asserted.

Pilane discusses his association with DIS Director Isaac Kgosi

It is the Advocate’s contention that indeed he has relations with Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director Isaac Kgosi and he has represented him as a lawyer, and never did so for the DISS. “I practice law. I represent people who require representation. I do not care about your political affiliation or where you work, it is a matter which I have never compromised and I will never compromise,” he said of Isaac kgosi when quizzed by a pack of journalists who wanted the predicament explained. The quandary has mainly pitted him against some BMD members who despise his re-admission into the party citing his connections/relations with the notorious DISS.

Pilane also maintained that it was true that he had represented Isaac Kgosi and other BDP members when he was still a BDP member and added that he is still representing some BDP members, despite now being with the opposition. He stated that he can still represent the leader of the Secret Service, Kgosi should he need his services as a lawyer. He continued: “I can also represent President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama if he also requires legal representation even though he has destroyed our country.”

Says Ndaba faction approached a Judge to utilize for forum shopping

The Pilane faction has made speculations that the Ndaba led faction has approached a certain judge to place their case for forum shopping. However, Pilane has refused to name the said Judge. He said that the Ndaba faction had notified them of their intention to declare the recent congress nullified and call for a re-run of the elections. “In terms of the said Judge, we know the name of the Judge in question but we won’t reveal the name to you. But when they do go to court if they do go court we will know whether they got the judge they want or have failed to do so. And they should get the Judge who we know they want, we will act accordingly at the time,” Pilane told the press.

Pilane attacks opposition MPs in parliament for poor performance

The BMD leader expressed concern over the lack of vibrancy by the current crop of opposition legislators as opposed to the past. “There was a time when the opposition parliament was strong and vibrant. It was speaking for the people, expressing the feelings of Batswana, articulating them vibrantly in which they had an impact on the audience, Batswana in general. We need to hear you more. Perhaps we do not hear this or assess this issue the same way. But we don’t hear you comrades. We hear you too little,” he said.

The contentious politician also observed that “we need to hear you and see you make a difference. We need to be inspired. I am afraid I am little inspired. We want you to be as vibrant as the opposition parliament of Kenneth Koma, Paul Rantao, Maitshwarelo Dabhuta, Robert Molefabangwe, and others. They made noise and were vibrant, but were just a small number. But today, you are so much a larger number. Please be vibrant, with your intelligence, articulate issues that affect Batswana.”

The Advocate also weighed options of running for parliament in 2019

When asked on whether he has ambitions of running for parliament in the coming 2019 General Elections Pilane was cagey in his carefully articulated but loaded response. “Do I intend to run for parliament in 2019? I do not know. It’s not a matter I have thought about. It’s not a matter I have considered. I do not think the time for that decision has come. When the time comes, I will make it. I will see whether there is a constituency which I am interested in running. I will see whether people want me to run. And so, I have not yet made that decision. O mpotse tsa ko ke go tswang. Tsa ko ke yang ga di itse (I only know of my past but I cannot say the same about the future.)”

Other BMD issues…

He also warned that those other members from the other faction who are not entitled to call meetings, or call meetings without anyone’s authority will be dealt with when that time comes. “Those expelled also should re-apply into the party; I believe they will be re-admitted. But of course anyone joining the BMD, expelled or otherwise, has to commit their self to obey the constitution, and being disciplined. It goes without saying. They should always follow BMD constitution, rules and regulations as well as respect the structures.”

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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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