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Tshekedi activated judges, Khama ceasefire

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama is said to be the long time architecture of a reconciliation reached this week between President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama and the four suspended Judges of the High Court.

It is understood that Tshekedi was doing it out of interest for the legacy of his brother, President Khama. President Khama and the suspended judges being Justices Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Justice Mercy Garekwe and Justice Ranier Busang reached an out of court settlement agreement after heated long negotiations bridled with pride, arrogance and principle.


Some of the conditions of the agreement include withdrawing the noxious letter they wrote to Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo in which they called him to resign citing that he is unfit for office, and they later said it was never the intention to undermine the authority and duly apologized. They also withdrew the petition that they have signed dated 17th August 2015 addressed to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) together with the letter of the 12th of August 2015, with serious allegations to the Chief Justice, which was copied to all other judges.


They also agreed to repay the outstanding housing allowances and other legal costs of the Government of Botswana, as taxed or agreed, in litigation under MAHGB-000783-15, all previous costs orders, as well as costs in the review application currently pending in the High Court and not to further proceed with it in future.


“In the interests of our country and the judiciary, I am desirous of resolving this matter that has been running for too long. To that extent I am happy to accept unequivocally all the conditions contained therein,” Justice Key Dingake is said to have written to Khama. In the settlement President Khama also said he shall lift their suspension from duty and recall the tribunal which he has set up. He added that The CJ Dibotelo will direct them (suspended four judges) when to report to work.


It is understood that Tshekedi, was later joined by the Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi, both of who are said to have been instrumental in bringing Khama and the suspended Judges together. Kgathi is related to Key Dingake, a presumed leader of the suspended judges who was said to be the main target of the suspensions. Speaking to this publication on Thursday, Kgathi said he welcomes the move insisting that it’s for the good of the judiciary.


“It’s a very progressive move in the sense that for the judges to have done what they have done in the interest of the judiciary and smoked the peace pipe with the president and let bygones be bygones – is a sense of patriotism on their part,” Kgathi pointed out. The Defense, Justice and Security Minister maintained that after long 2 years, the settlement is a healthy situation for the judiciary and is commendable.


“I am impressed by the willingness of both President Khama and the suspended four to forgive and forget. Both are merciful and they are a true example of eldership,” Kgathi said. When asked if the police criminal investigations against the four judges will be dropped, he said it is obvious since the president has recalled the tribunal investigating them and re-instated them.  Law Society on the controversial Khama, Judges agreement


For its part, Law Society of Botswana asserted that they believe that the four (4) Judges have, given the immense moral support they received, let down the legal fraternity, the Judiciary and the nation at large. “They have especially let down and compromised the three Judges who to date have refused to apologise for signing the Petition by the four (4) Judges.” The Society believes that the credibility of the Judiciary has no doubt suffered immensely and will take time and men and women of character, maturity and courage to heal.


“There will always be suspicion as to why there was this sudden change in approach by the Judges to apologise after they had withstood pressure to do so for about two (2) years. There will be a perception out there that the four (4) Judges are now beholden to the President and that their independence from the Executive is compromised. That is a natural consequence of their actions.”


It is however also important to note that, Law Society insisted that the whole matter raises some very critical Constitutional issues; can the President lawfully make a prima facie determination that the Judges are not fit and proper, establish a Tribunal to consider such a determination and on his own again revoke the decision to establish the Tribunal based solely on an apology to him and the Chief Justice.


“It emerged there from that the four (4) suspended Judges had apologised to His Excellency the President and the Chief Justice (CJ). It was reported that they further withdrew the letter containing their concerns on the leadership of the CJ and subsequent Petition to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Whilst it may be possible that the Judges’ meeting with the President to discuss settlement was on invitation and not on the Judges’ own volition, what is however important is that there is truth in the Government’s statement that they have apologised,” Law Society pointed out.


The Society said they are surprised by this action since the Judges have repeatedly stated that they committed no wrong in bringing their concerns on the leadership of the CJ to the JSC. They continued to highlight that it cannot be an excuse that the apology was justified since the case was patently being manipulated against them and that the costs associated with this were heavy.


They maintained in their statement that therefore they are disappointed by the settlement agreement between Khama and the 4 suspended judges particularly the conditions thereof. “Law Society of Botswana has noted the events of the 28th March 2017 with disbelief, disappointment and a deep sense of foreboding,” they said.


They reminisced that although the Chairman of the Law Society in his address at the Ceremony of the Opening of the Legal Year encouraged all parties to the dispute relating to the four (4) suspended Judges to smoke the peace pipe and amicably resolve the matter he said they were prior excited but were disappointed by such details of the settlement.


He stated then that this was necessary for the good of the integrity and credibility of the Judiciary and ultimately for Botswana. He poignantly pointed out that if that were to happen, there would be no losers and the undeniable winner would be the Judiciary, litigants and Botswana.


 “The Judges knew, or at best ought to have known, that the case was going to be long, fraught with pitfalls and one of attrition. Their plan therefore would have anticipated this.” According to the law Society, to even suggest that the public has some blame for the apology by not assisting with funding as it seems to be suggested is unacceptable. “How was the public to know that funds were required? They asked while also wondering why the public was not to think all was well given the moral public support given by the public, civil society, business and International Organisations.”


The announcement that settlement had been reached was initially received with excitement, the Society said while adding that for a moment thought that the parties had displayed the strength of character and maturity that it had recommended. But as the saying goes, they stated that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In no time the Government published a detailed account of the settlement process and the details of such settlement were disappointing to say the least.

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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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