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BOCONGO members furious over lack of AGM

The umbrella for local Non-Governmental Organisations, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has contravened its own constitution by not holding an Annual General Meeting (AGM).


Weekend Post has established that instead of holding the AGM as per the constitutional obligation, the organisation has moved swiftly to conduct a Special or Extraordinary General Meeting that includes AGM agenda in it. As the highest decision making body of the organisation it is provided that the AGM shall be held every year before October.


Article 7.1.2 of the organisation constitution states that “The AGM shall be held between the 1st of May and October 31st of every year at such a place and time as may be determined by the Executive Committee.” In a letter to BOCONGO members dated 1 November 2016, BOCONGO Chairman Oscar Motsumi also concedes that constitutionally the BOCONGO AGM cut-off time is the 31st October 2016.


The Chairman points out in the letter that, since they have missed the deadline for an AGM there will instead be a Special/Extraordinary General Meeting. This is despite the agenda for AGM and that of a Special meeting being dissimilar. According to a BOCONGO member in good standing, Kingston Mmolawa who is the Founder & Executive Director of Food Bank Botswana, item 1, 2, and 3 of the agenda as indicated are AGM business therefore they are “misplaced” and can never be part of the Special Extraordinary General Meeting agenda.


He stated that “should it be left unchanged it will constitute an insult to our collective intelligence as members”. The first three items in the agenda for proposed Special Meeting are; to discuss minutes of the BOCONGO 20th AGM, present audited financial report, as well as present the chairperson and secretariat reports to members – which are normally presented at the normal AGM as the constitution dictates.


The last item on the agenda is presentation and adoption of the final BOCONGO strategic plan and operational plan – which some members feel it is not misplaced. They say the special/extraordinary meetings should discuss such, but insist that it cannot match with AGM agenda.


“I wish to remind you and state that as per the constitution an AGM can never be held outside the stipulated dates as directed by it and its business cannot be discussed in any other meeting besides the AGM. Special /Extra General Meeting deals with urgent matters only and item 1, 2 and 3 as indicated above does not qualify in that category therefore they fall aside,” Mmolawa wrote on behalf of the disgruntled members to the board.


The BOCONGO members further threatened that if their interpretation of the constitution differs then they shall seek the intervention of the courts of law for interpretation. “May I indicate to you that constitutionally the AGM and Special/Extraordinary General Meeting are distinguishable and their mandates are different and clearly explained in the constitution,” the member stressed out to the current board.


In the letter, attention of the board is drawn to Article 7, 7.1.1 and 7.1.2 and Article 7.3 through to 7.3.8 which deals with the business of the AGM. They say the meeting scheduled for 24th of November is a Special Extra General Meeting and has to comply with Article 7.5 read with 7.5.1 through to 7.5.1.4.


Article 7.5.3 states that: “An ordinary or Special General Meeting shall be competent only with particular business of which due notice has been given.” In the letter, Mmolawa says the values of the constitution should be respected by all, even by the Board. “The constitution forms and is fundamentally the Councils chief governs manual. There is disconnection from the constitution because the Councils Leadership do not value the morals of the constitution,” he stated.


However when asked whether it is true BOCONGO is not or has not undertaken the normal Annual General Meeting (AGM), that’s constitutionally held between May and October every year, and reasons thereof, BOCONGO Chairman Oscar Motsumi said it is news to him.
“As far as I am concerned, BOCONGO is hosting an Extraordinary Meeting scheduled for November 24th as per Article 7.5 of the BOCONGO Constitution. Please make follow up to the same as I believe you have access to the same. Further, the reasons were communicated to our members and that is what we are working with,” he told Weekend Post on Thursday in a brief response.


Motion of no confidence on BOCONGO board


Some members of BOCONGO are mobilising each other to conduct a separate Special or extraordinary AGM to pass a motion of no confidence on the current board.


In a letter seen by Weekend Post, they state that in light of the one-fifth of the membership of BOCONGO they want the Special AGM to“declare the current board in conflict of its mandate from membership, preceded by motion of no confidence”.
They will also discuss and adopt the minutes of the 26th November 2015; resolve on way forward with regards to Sector Terms of reference and sector coordinators functions as well as resolve on the way forward with regards to the Newly Proposed Strategic Plan 2016 to 2019.


The BOCONGO members indicated that information shared with members through the former Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo has shown gaps in the governing of the organization that members need to urgently address, “lest we have our organization’s reputation publicly smeared”.


They maintain that the information highlights an un-addressed grievance by the former Executive Director dating back to July 2015 detailing a serious governance breach; and the conflict of interest in the awarding of a tender to effect an unauthorized change process as detailed in the minutes of the tender committee shared with members on the 19th August 2016.


“As an institution that coordinated NGOs in Botswana and formed to be a mouth piece of NGOs on various areas including governance of this country, the membership of BOCONGO cannot afford to have a poorly governed or managed organization where the board is not adhering to implementing its mandate as per the direction of the AGM,” they stressed.


They continued to state that members of BOCONGO have not yet sanctioned or approved the new controversial Strategic Plan 2016-2019, while adding that “therefore as members we do not expect any implementation or change management exercise to be taking place through the Secretariat.”


The new Strategic Plan seeks to change the organisation constitution, name, vision and mission, as well as objectives of the umbrella organisation. It has been embraced by some and met with resistance from certain quarters of BOCONGO members, partners and stakeholders.


On their part, BOCONGO board conceded that they are aware of ongoing attempts to get a petition signed that calls on the board to reverse certain decisions. “Indeed, the petition comes short of calling for the entire board to step down,” they confirmed in writing. The board said this call while within the rights of the interests of those working on it, is ill advised and ill-timed especially coming this close to the Special Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled for November 24th 2016 where outstanding issues (Relating to the New Strategic Direction) will be thrashed out.


They justified that “it costs close to P100, 000 to host one AGM session and BOCONGO does not have this money.”  “Given the cost consciousness and cost containment mind-set of the current Board, during the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organisational sustainability and therefore it makes economic sense to collapse the two Special AGM’s into one to achieve the same results.”


However according to the BOCONGO members the petition was warranted by what they say is visibly an attempt by the Board to shutdown BOCONGO. “If it is not shutting down BOCONGO then who in their right minds will fund an organization that has no regards for laid down processes and procedures. The current state of affairs obtaining at BOCONGO warrants a Special General Meeting,” they stated in the petition.


Amongst other things, the BOCONGO members explained that what was suggested in the meeting was that a neutral person be appointed to investigate what is going on between the board and the Secretariat and that the board makes further consultations with members on the proposed strategic plan.


Further to this, the BOCONGO members highlight that the board has been taking decisions without forming a quorum as it is required by the Constitution. “Therefore, it makes one wonder if resolutions emanating from such an arrangement could be considered legitimate.”

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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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