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Outspoken church bodies join forces

Outspoken umbrella body of Para and Pentecostal churches which are popularly known as “fire churches” in Botswana, Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) has resolved to merge with other umbrella church bodies in the country, Weekend Post can reveal.

The contentious church movement will amalgamate with conservative Botswana Council of Churches (BCC) and little known Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) under the banner of a new network organisation called Botswana Network of Christian Communities (BONECCO).

Already, the Secretariat of the three Umbrella bodies has completed the task of working on the BONECCO constitution – which was drafted way back in 2011. There was also a high level powered meeting comprising of representatives from the 3 umbrella bodies which was consigned with the adoption of the said BONECCO constitution that will also provide policy direction.

According to a letter passed to Weekend Post dated 7 April 2017, from the Secretariat of the 3 bodies to its leadership, the move to unite the Christian umbrella bodies follows “7 long years” in which they have been working tirelessly towards formalising the “historic” cooperation. The said letter was signed by General Secretaries; Reverend Mosweu Simane (BCC), Pastor Gaolekwe Ndwapi (EFB) and Reverend Christopher Modikwa (OAIC).

Speaking on the merger, the convener of the 3 bodies Pastor Master Matlhaope of EFB, told Weekend Post that the new church network will not replace the individual organisations that have been existing (BCC, EFB,OAIC) but will be a platform where “commonalities are tackled together”. He stated: “But we will leave room for existing umbrella churches to continue as they have been so that their interests or inclinations and ideologue continue to exist unhindered. This one is just a platform to collaborate.”

He explained that way back before independence in 1966; churches played a pivotal role in the country as they held some sectors like health and education although government later came on board. Although even up to date, they still collaborate here and there, they believe churches can still do more, and that working together will be more ideal.

It is understood that in 2010 the leadership of the bodies came together to deliberate on their networking initiatives and this ushered in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2011 – which legitimised full participation, commitment and position in the process that would later lead to the formulation of the new umbrella network.

Matlhaope, who is also the EFB President stated that as the umbrella church movement they will be more collaborative adding that “we are initiating a transformation network, in it as the church we feel we can do more than we are currently doing.” In the past, EFB has never shied away from registering their position on key topical issues affecting the country.

They have continuously expressed its concern at the relentless campaign by Botswana Networks on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and other similar organisations whose aim is the legalisation of prostitution and homosexuality in Botswana which they repeatedly called “unholy.” They pointed out that homosexuality, fornication, adultery and incest are inappropriate expressions of sexuality since they are not just unbiblical but they are also not in consonance with Botswana national culture and traditions.

In that regard, the umbrella of fire churches has also taken a swipe at proponents of homosexuality, prostitution, abortion regardless of weighty voices who called for legalization of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion like that of former President Festus Mogae, renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and law maker representing Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso.

Another church umbrella body to be part of the network is BCC. The conventional church movement was put on the spot light last year after sending one of its leadership cadres Reverend Thabo Mampane to represent them at a local private radio show where he “colluded” with contentious and provocative Pastor Steve Anderson over “homosexuality.”

According to random listeners at the time, Mampane could not articulate his position with regard to homosexuality very well which led to the US Pastor humiliating him as he instead got angry and emotional during the interview. This made the BCC leader susceptible to heavy criticism afterwards.

Despite his (Mampane) remarks, the BCC General Secretary Reverend Mosweu Simane released a statement highlighting that BCC, as a network of Churches with different doctrinal positions, continues to engage its members towards formulating a common position on the issues of human sexuality with particular reference to homosexuality, which will represent the divergent views and positions held by members.

“The Council therefore does not have a position on the issue of homosexuality,” he said of BCC which is known for sitting on the fence with regard to many topical matters affecting the nation – the inclination which differs with that of EFB. Relatively less known OAIC represents homegrown African churches founded originally during the colonial period, that have developed indigenous forms of worship, theology and social organization, all deeply inspired by a vision that is both Christian and African. It is unclear as to what position they have taken before on various matters of national interest. The collaboration of the 3 church bodies under umbrella BONECCO will reveal how easy it is to work together as church umbrellas harboring different ideologue. 

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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

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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