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BMD: The ailing man within UDC

When Chief Justice Julian Nganunu deliveried his judgement in favour of President Ian Khama in 2009 against Gomolemo Motswaledi, the judgement marked a new beginning which changed the course of Botswana’s politics forever.  For the past two years, BMD has been thrown in disarray, with the emergence of two factions threatening not only the existence of BMD as viable political party but also the prospects of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) attaining power in two years time, writes ALFRED MASOKOLA.


The formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate for many years to come. The political movement was conceived in the wake of the suspension of Gomolemo Motswaledi from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The rising political star had been recently elected secretary general when he collided with party president Lt Gen Ian Khama. In the build-up to the 2009 Kanye Congress, at which Motswaledi was elected the party secretary general, tensions were brewing within the party.

 

Factions had returned-the Barataphathi, which Motswaledi was a member of had wanted the party to hold central committee elections, meanwhile, Khama’s A-Team preferred a compromise arrangement in which women would be allowed to assume the position unchallenged.


Daniel Kwelagobe, who had retired his secretary general position from the previous congress after serving 27 years, had returned to the fold this time around to contest the party chairmanship. DK became the subject of humiliation from the A- Team faction because he reneged from his earlier promise that he had retired. However, the real battle was between Khama and Motswaledi, the Barataphathi prince. Khama had been at cross roads ever since the 2003 congress, in which against all the odds, Motswaledi, then a Youth Wing chairman, joined a small group of those who stood with Ponatshego Kedikilwe against Vice President Ian Khama for the party chairmanship.

 

Five years later, when Motswaledi wanted to succeed Khama in the Serowe North West constituency, the former was made to back down. Instead it was Tshekedi Khama, the president’s brother who took over the throne. The 2009 Kanye Congress was a continuation of the Motswaledi/Khama battle, but its aftermath left a ruin in the BDP and set in motion a chain of events which led to the formation of the BMD.


After the victory of the Barataphathi at Kanye, a series of events hastened the hostility in the party. Khama was in control of government, while Barataphathi were in control of the party.  The ultimate point came when Motswaledi, two months into his position was slapped with a suspension letter supposedly for defying president Khama’s authority. Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days from the party and re-called as party parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central.  The suspension came after Motswaledi had written to two law firms seeking clarification on whether the party president had powers to make unilateral appointment of sub-committee members without consulting the central committee.

 

Collins and Newman Law firm responded through newspapers, stating that Khama indeed had powers to do so. Motswaledi wrote back, rebuking Collins and Newman’s Parks Tafa for running the opinion in the newspapers. This ended Motswaledi’s political career at BDP.
A few months later, crowds of well wishers left the Court of Appeal with one resolution: to stand by Motswaledi through and through.  Immediately after the judgement, Botsalo Ntuane, then Motswaledi’s sympathiser-in-chief had convinced Motswaledi to form a political party. It was a decision taken in the benches of the court.

 

After a few months later, BMD was born; it was the new kid in the block and immediately assumed the position of main opposition in parliament. Many theories have been said about the party but, its break through transformed the politics of Botswana, either for better or for worse. Many have said the party would not survive the politics of opposition, but the party has stayed to live, for seven years now. Part of the BMD legacy, which will stay forever is that for the first time in the history of Botswana, BDP experienced a split which weakened the party.  BDP had been for years a major beneficiary of fragmented opposition parties.


EMERGENCE OF FACTIONS IN BMD


BMD is party which is a product of BDP factionalism. The suspension of Motswaledi from the party and barring him from contesting for parliamentary constituency was the turning point. Motswaledi’s court loss was met with a new five year suspension from the party. When announcing his resignation from the party in 2010, Motswaledi said he had to fight “what looked like a five-year sentence, while in fact was a 10 year sentence.” The five years suspension meant that Motswaledi would have not been eligible to participate in the 2013 party primary elections, ruling him out of the possibility of running for a parliament seat until 2019.


Ndaba Gaolathe, then Motswaledi’s campaign manager published an article in newspapers in which he condemned the party’s decision to suspend Motswaledi. Gaolathe said the decision was not in line with what the party stood for and that the decision was taken in bad faith. Meanwhile Botsalo Ntuane who chaired the committee which oversaw the formation of BMD, and later became its Vice President was of the view that after the 2009 Kanye Congress, the victory of democrats was sabotaged and undermined at every turn. He contended that the BDP had abandoned faith in democracy.


In the formative stages of BMD Ntuane never stopped insisting how BMD was important to the future politics of Botswana, and that if there was ever to be any change of government, BMD would be central to all the events. The former Gaborone South West legislator was then the leader of opposition.  Ntuane has since returned to BDP and is not part of the boiling pot currently brewing at the party.  


At the centre of the controversy lies party chairman Nehemiah Modubule and secretary general Gilbert Mangole while the other side of the divide is party president Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi.  The two factions have failed to reconcile. The fire was stoked by the presence of former party spokesperson; Sidney Pilane who has since self declared his return to the party, defying an earlier resolution by party president, Gaolathe that his membership will only be dealt with at next year’s party congress. A liberal BMD constitution, which vests more powers on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), has made it difficult for the party to resolve the impasse as NEC members remain divided.


The adoption of a liberal constitution by BMD at the 2011 Inaugural Congress was motivated by the manner in which the late party leader, Motswaledi was suspended by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama Seretse Khama from his position as BDP Secretary General in 2009, a few weeks after being elected into the position at the party congress.  Pilane is the chief architect of BMD’s constitution. Gaolathe, who formed part of the inaugural NEC as National Policy Director became party president following the untimely death of Motswaledi in July 2014. Prior to assuming the presidency, Gaolathe had served as Motswaledi’s deputy. Pilane quit the party in 2012, a year after being defeated by Motswaledi for the party leadership at the party’s inaugural congress.


BMD president, Gaolathe had insisted previously that the process which was adopted to grant Pilane membership was unconstitutional since his earlier application at Gaborone North was rejected. Pilane would later be granted membership at Mochudi West branch after being abetted by party secretary general, Gilbert Mangole to do so. Pilane’s BMD return talks started making rounds in 2015 ahead of the BMD Youth League congress held in Mochudi where it was reported that he had funded the team which emerged victorious.  


It was also reported that the BMD founding member was on the verge of return to the party and also eyeing the party presidency. Pilane however ruled out the possibilities of him returning to politics, only to announce his arrival later. Pilane was later listed as one of the negotiators representing BMD at the cooperation talks, something which Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction opposed. The Gaolathe faction pushed for a special congress last year, despite winning support in 29 branches, the Modubule/Mangole faction controlled NEC rejected special congress on the basis that due process was not properly done. The Gaolathe faction is of the view that the Modubule/Mangole faction feared facing the wrath of party members are playing delaying tactics.


Last week, at the eleventh hour, the part NEC took a decision to postpone the Youth League elections billed for that weekend in Ramotswa. In another factional bout, the Mangole/Modubule faction diverted another contest but reasoned that the decision was taken after fears that the youth league would not have enough delegates to form a quorum. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction did not buy that reason and insisted that, again it was another ploy to avoid defeat by the team. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi team went ahead and held the congress where the new youth league was elected. However, the Modubule/ Mangole faction had insisted the congress was unconstitutional, referring to it “a wasteful gathering of friends.” Modubule has threatened to suspend those who attended the congress for bringing the party into disrepute.


IMPLICATIONS ON OPPOSITION COOPERATION


BMD forms a vital cog in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). After the 2014 general elections, of the 17 elected UDC MPs, nine of them belonged to BMD (that was before Kgosi Tawana Moremi tendered his resignation). The UDC project is mainly attributed to hard work of Duma Boko, the Botswana National Front (BNF) President and Motswaledi who passed away a few months ahead of the 2014 general elections.  In the run up to those elections, Gaolathe was Boko’s vice presidential candidate and also party secretary general.


One school of thought opines that the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction is also not happy with the gains of the BMD in the new UDC set-up following the arrival of Botswana Congress Party (BCP). They have since rubbished those claims. Meanwhile on the side of factional divide, Pilane and co are content with the gains of the BMD. A new deal insists that the position held at UDC was given to parties not individuals, which means, Gaolathe’s vice presidency is subject to him retaining the BMD presidency in July. Mangole and Modubule have announced at a press briefing earlier this week that they have lost confidence in Gaolathe.


Earlier last year, BNF senior figure and legislator for Molepolole North, Mohammed Khan warned UDC that BDP is alive to the fact that opposition parties are in pole position to take over power in the next general elections, and therefore will do everything to frustrate them.
Khan was vying for the party vice presidency when he told this publication last year that already there were efforts made to infiltrate opposition parties and cause some sort of instability including by luring members with attractive packages to have them dump their parties.
The Molepolole North legislator expressed that the UDC leadership should intervene in the ongoing BMD internal wars for the sake of protecting the mother party.


“At leadership level UDC should intervene with the bigger picture in mind. We are all UDC, people don’t care about BNF, BMD, BPP (Botswana Peoples Party) or BCP (Botswana Congress Party) because they will be voting UDC,” he said. “If the leadership does not intervene, the matter might get out of control and as a result hurting the UDC electoral success in 2019. I have experienced this situation before and I will be able to help.” However Boko has chosen not to intervene in the matter preferring to allow the party to sort itself out. Boko has said BMD is going through a normal process like any party and will pass through that phase.


On the other side, BOFEPUSU have been on the receiving end of the Modubule/Mangole faction, who said their appearance at BMD YL congress in Ramotswa over the weekend was interference in the internal affairs of the BMD.  BOFEPUSU Secretary for Labour, Johnson Motshwarakgole and Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa were present at the congress. It is reported that BOFEPUSU has pledged to support Gaolathe and his team.

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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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