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BCP wants BOPEU, BOFEPUSU to smoke peace pipe

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) partner, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has taken a position on the on the perceived rivalry between Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).


Things heated up when BOPEU was represented in one of the court cases by the BCP Presidential spokesperson, Martin Dingake. BCP underscores that BOFEPUSU and BOPEU cordial relations are key to good industrial relations amongst Botswana‘s workforce. In an interview this week, BCP spokesperson, who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse observed with concern the ensuing volatile industrial relations especially in the public service.


“We have noted particularly the rivalry between BOFEPUSU affiliated unions and BOPEU which culminated in protracted court battles about the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and 3%/4% salary increment,” he said. According to Keorapetse, the BCP seeks to make it clear that it has resolved not to take a side of either BOFEPUSU or BOPEU. “We are of the view that it is in the best interest of the public service industrial relations that the two formations work together for purposes of collective bargaining.”


According to BCP, only the employer, being the government, stands to benefit from the stand off and the animosity that exists between BOFEPUSU and BOPEU. “Just as the BCP has heeded the call from trade unions to cooperate with other opposition parties in the interest of democracy and Batswana, we encourage not only BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to work together but we also employ the two big federations, being BOFEPUSU and BFTU to join forces for better working conditions of the workers,” said Keorapetse.


“Labour Unions and federations cooperation is just as important as opposition cooperation. It is not helping for BOFEPUSU and BOPEU to be fighting at the door of the PSBC, the duo and other recognized public sector unions should dialogue and engage the government on an inclusive and workable mechanism of participation at the PSBC,” he added. Keorapetse said the BCP believes the current PSBC Constitution has to be reviewed in the interests of civil servants and their unions and federations.


“The government has undermined the PSBC and collective bargaining efforts and has therefore abetted acerbic industrial relations. An ordinary worker in Botswana under the BDP government is worse off; hostile labour laws are passed by parliament regularly, the President and his ministers issue repressive instruments like directives, rules and regulations and policy decisions and the government refuses to sign, ratify and domesticate some ILO Conventions,” emphasized the BCP spokesperson.


“Workers in the public service haven't received any meaningful salary increment for nearly a decade, except for inadequate inflationary adjustments. Against this backdrop, the organization and or unity is the weapon of the workers against a strong government and employers. Without unity and cooperation Labour unions and federations would be weakened and consequently unable to pursue the interests of their members,” said Keorapetse.


KEORAPETSE, RICHARD DEBATE DINGAKE’s PRINCIPLES


In the ongoing court cases between BOFEPUSU, BOPEU, and Government, BCP Presidential Spokesperson, Martin Dingake, a renowned Gaborone attorney, represented BOPEU in a case against BOFEPUSU, who supported the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the 2014 general election.


To emphasise relations between BOFEPUSU and UDC, Advocate Duma Boko, the leader of opposition represented the Federation in the stay of execution case, which was ultimately awarded in favour of BOPEU. According to UDC members, Dingake defied principle when he represented BOPEU in a case whose intention is oppress the workers, take sides with government against BOFEPUSU.


According to the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) President (on sabbatical leave), Khumoekae Richard, opposition cadres, regardless of profession have a duty bound to defend the principle of bargaining. “It can't be right that we support any case whatsoever that undermines thousands of worker's industrial democracy, which is fulfilled through bargaining,” he says.


Motsabakedi as he is popularly known across political corridors argues that It can't be correct to have top known activists, closer to top leadership in opposition, supporting a case that would see the bargaining principle collapse of which case might have far reaching political consequences in our polity.


“In that case we creating a situation where the BDP regime would be allowed to unilaterally increase workers salaries outside bargaining council, thereby killing legitimate democratic institutions. In the future such must be avoided, and pushed away from leadership position,” said Richard.


“It will be hypocrisy and self-defeating for the opposition to condemn BDP and Khama for announcing salary increments at Moiyabana kgotla meeting, but support such a fundamentally detrimental case that would see all our efforts quashed: now wearing a different musk called profession.” But the BCP spokesperson, Keorapetse told Weekendpost that Richard’s argument does not hold water.


“That is not the issue, we’ve doctors, mechanics, shops attendants, lawyers among others who are never bothered about who their clients are. Why should a private lawyer running a practice and with professional obligation be bothered about who they represent? People raising this issue are extremely hypocritical; they conveniently forget to ask about their own party members who are either employed by BOPEU or are engaged as professionals or are doing business with BOPEU. Dingake is a private lawyer running a law firm; he's bound by the legal practitioners Act and professional ethics to represent his clients,” said Keorapetse.

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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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