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Modubule blasts UDC over delayed talks

BMD Chairman, Nehemiah Modubule

Nineteen constituencies have written to party Secretary General, Gilbert Mangole to trigger convention of a special congress, to among other things dissolve its current leadership.

Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Chairman, Nehemiah Modubule told this publication that the two major reasons in the letters he has seen pivot on the dissolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and constitutional amendment.

The constituencies’ reason is that the NEC is dysfunctional and they therefore want to remedy that impasse through dissolution. The dissolution of the NEC would mean that fresh elections be immediately called to elect new party leadership.

He said that another reason stated in the letters is amendment of BMD constitution to give the president more powers.
Modubule however said that the constitution was drawn up intentionally to avoid misuse of power by avoiding centralising power on one individual.

The BMD constitution was liberalised at inception of the party in hindsight of the troubles that its founders went through at Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).It currently vests more powers on the NEC.

Mangole reportedly has acknowledged receiving 19 letters from constituencies requesting a special congress.

Notwithstanding, Modubule said that preparations for holding a special congress is not a walk in the park as some seem to think and that it is unlikely that it will be held next month. He further said that it is an unwise move because UDC congress is slated for October 2016.

He further said that the NEC has scheduled a meeting for the 6th of August to assess the letters and if all is in order, the NEC will cobble a Preparatory Committee to oversee congress logistics.

He further said that preparations include making ballot papers, holding constituencies’ congresses, and confirmation of presence of structures by the Secretary General.
Modubule also said that it will also require mammoth pooling of funds to bus members to the special congress as well as P500 payments to the NEC by assembling constituencies.

The party is also not in a good position to hold two congresses in the space of about 12 months, according to Modubule. In fact, he says, resources are spread too thin that even holding next year’s ordinary congress will be a struggle as they are having a hard time paying rental for party offices.

He said that above all he does not see reason in calling for a special congress while the path of mediation has not been explored and further while the party is set to descend for an ordinary congress next year in July.

Modubule also said that BMD president Ndaba Gaolathe flouted the constitution by holding regional tours without consultation with the NEC. He said that proper procedure involves Gaolathe briefing the NEC, with valid reasons and the Secretary General arranging the tour’s logistics.

“The SG must not hear on the street that the president is on tour,” Modubule said.

Modubule also said that his team is scheduled to meet with Botswana National Front (BNF) president Duma Boko in two weeks with the hope of saving BMD from the ensuing factional kerfuffle.

He further said that despite the party’s current position in the eye of the storm, he does not understand what the fight is about.

He said that he does not see assumption that Sydney Pilane harboured intentions to challenge Gaolathe and Boko for BMD and UDC leadership positions respectively, as reason enough as it is based on conjecture.

He said that Pilane should be given party membership and if truly he is unwanted by the party he will be rejected at the ballot.

He also said that Pilane also has the right to associate and should not be hauled over the coals for his lawyer-client relationship with Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) boss, Isaac Kgosi.

Modubule further explained that the Kgosi connection came as a result of Kgosi’s prosecution by Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and that Kgosi’s lawyers only roped in Pilane as an advocate.

“What type of government are we going to run that rules based on seeing the political colour bar first?” posed Modubule.

He continued to say that he feels that both factions should come to the table and talk, even if the special congress move should prevail further highlighting that they should go to special congress in talking terms.

He said that careering to special congress in the current manner risks haemorrhaging the party because everyone will maintain their position to the very last moment.

“Firstly we must find one another, once we have done that then we can prepare for any party activity.”

He however said that Gaolathe’s main aim is to supplant the Modubule-Mangole axis and instate his own men in the resulting vacuum, and dismissed the Pilane issue as a smokescreen for the task.

“He is trying his chance again; it’s about people who lost in Gantsi, Sydney is just a scapegoat to put those he wants. That’s the aim. In fact he will be happy if we abandon our positions, he would even cancel the special congress,” the former Lobatse legislator said.

According to him, Gaolathe and his team were backing Phenyo Butale and Pius Mokgware in Gantsi and after he and Mangole won their positions Gaolathe never congratulated them.

MODUBULE BLASTS BMD FAULTFINDERS

Meanwhile Modubule has expressed displeasure at those who accuse the BMD of delaying opposition cooperation talks. He said the BMD has submitted a full list of names of people to represent the party at the talks and it is unfair for the UDC to point a finger at BMD for the delayed talks.

He said the UDC has no right to vet any person from contracting partners when it comes to negotiators. “We have long submitted our names; we have gone for training; we have passed the training. We are as worried as everybody else as to why the talks are being delayed,” he said. He said the differences at BMD have nothing to do with the talks, “BMD internal squabbles may last until next year, so the UDC will still be waiting?” According to Modubule those who are calling for a special congress at the BMD have a right to do so but they must follow process. “I am concerned that they seem to misinterpret the constitution, there will be no congress in August,” he said.

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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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