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Molefhi headlines BDP hit list

In a political battle that is seamlessly playing out, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) camps are plotting against each other – the divisions are nailed on the placards of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi. The most pronounced battle ground is supposedly the party primary elections which are just about to kick in ahead of the 2019 general election.


Already there is a plot to plant challengers for those on separate camps; top in the list is Nonofo Molefhi who will have to contest with a current central committee member, Ms Mmapula Phuduhudu for the Selibe East constituency. Molefhi stoked up fires when he expressed interest in the chairmanship of the BDP, hence initiating a contest with the Vice President, who wishes to defend the chairmanship. Masisi’s team is relentless and wants to see him cross the bridge. Molefhi also has to deal with the threat of Selibe Phikwe Mayor, Amogelang Mojuta, who is also interested in becoming a Member of Parliament for the constituency. Insiders point at the possibility of Molefhi being wiped off the political space should he lose the BDP chairmanship in July.


Assistant Minister if Trade Investment and Industry Development, Biggie Butale who doubles as Member of Parliament for Tati West is also under the radar. Masisi’s camp which recently demonstrated its ruthlessness and intent by during Jacob Nkate from their slate following his declaration of intent to challenge Masisi for Presidency next year, is said to have ploughed BDP Youth Wing chairperson, Simon Mavange as the possible candidate to replace the pastor legislator in the 2018 primary elections. Butale is said to be aware of the plot to sponsor Mavange to challenge him.


Women’s Wing Chairperson, who was recently returned unopposed from the congress in Maun also has to deal to with a challenge in 2018 primaries. The situation is a bit different in her case because the Masisi camp is aware of her strength and the candidate they have identified Moreetsi appears to be below the desired strength to rid of Makgato.

 

The Minister of Health and Wellness is seen as an anti-Masisi character because she has in the past voiced out against recruitment of opposition activists, especially those from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and they are given prominence ahead of long time BDP foot soldiers. She is seen as being too influential in pushing the candidacy of Molefhi in the race for chairmanship of the party.


Another constituency which is expected to produce interesting primary election battle is Serowe South. Under the assumption that current Member of Parliament, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi will not contest the 2019 election, former US based diplomat, Tebelelo Seretse will slag it out with another planted candidate in Dr Kolaatamo Malefho, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

 

Those trying to explain the equation indicate that Malefho sees himself as an antagonist to Mokgato because his departure from the Ministry was prompted at the arrival of the former at the Ministry when she was transferred from the Ministry of Trade and Investment. By inference this leaves Seretse as a pro-Makgato candidate. In any case Makgato has declared that she will support women candidates within the ruling BDP. She is worried that 2019 could see much lesser number of women Members of Parliament.


In Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane is seething with anger because he continues to uncover plots geared towards removing him from his position as Member of Parliament. A number of candidates appear ready to raise their hands to take the baton from Moswaane. Although it has not come out clear as what their allegiances are, former University of Botswana BDP Wing chairperson, Tebogo Toteng has declared his intention to challenge Moswaane. He is a strong Masisi supporter and he wants the party to support the Vice President unconditionally.
Buti Billy is also treading on thin ice in the Francistown East constituency. The Masisi camp believes he does not support the candidacy of the Vice President and they have included him in their hit list. However, Billy’s foot soldiers who spoke to this publication have indicated that he will survive the primary election battle because the Vice President’s battalion only bellows from Gaborone and it is not present on the ground.


Polson Majaha is also an endangered species. Surely he is viewed as an anti-Masisi candidate more so because of his spontaneous nature when it comes to debates. Youthful Lawrence Ookeditse is giving the traditionalist sleepless nights with his incursions into the youth base in the Nata-Gweta constituency. The Mosetse born lad, a known Masisi sympathizer, has whispered his intentions to friends and well wishers. Majaha has cried foul over the fact that Ookeditse is a civil servant and his political escapades must be curtailed.


Francistown South, which is currently under the Opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) under Wynter Mmolotsi will also pit the Masisi-Molefhi battalions against each other. The other is selling Andy Boatile as a potential candidate to challenge Mmolotsi; and the other is pushing Solly Reikeletseng as the real man for the job. Boatile is a former BDP Youth Wing chairperson and is serving as nominated Councillor in Francistown while Reikeletseng is the chairman of Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) and also a businessman.


However those in the Masisi camp and currently in Parliament will also face stern competition in the primary elections because there are a number of candidates lined up to challenge them. Minister of Defence Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi is one of the targets. Indications are that there is more than one challenger in Bobonong.

Kgathi is running for the position of deputy secretary general of the BDP at the July congress and he is fighting from Vice President, Masisi’s corner. Kgathi is fighting a two pronged battle because he is said to be interested in the Vice Presidency when Masisi ascends to the Presidency in April 2018. BDP is expected to conduct primary elections in opposition held constituencies in late 2017 and early 2018 and the rest in late 2018 and early 2019.

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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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