In a potentially telling twist, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is abuzz with reports that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has requested his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi not to contest for the ruling party’s chairman position at the party’s elective congress expected next year July.
Masisi had made it clear to his inner circle that he intends to defend his position next year. His reasoning oscillated around cementing his stature as the future president, a need to put to bed doubts over his influence in the party, and plain need to demonstrate his character and strength to his detractors. The Vice President continues to be very active within the BDP structures, recruiting hordes of disgruntled opposition figures and is at the forefront of a campaign to paint a resurgent ruling party after the grueling 2014 general election.
But word that Khama has asked him not to defend his position of chairman could throw the spanner into the works, with Masisi’s backers scratching their heads beyond normal, what could be up Khama’s sleeves – if these reports are true? Officially, Masisi’s supporters learn that the Vice President has been asked to focus ‘on the bigger picture’, push more of official government business, and prepare for the transition. Masisi has been tasked with the task of job creation among his many assignments within government. The country is currently experiencing exponential job losses in parastatals and the private sector.
What irks those who are already discussing the latest development is the suggestion that President Khama has indicated that his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama could run for chairmanship instead. There is confusion within the Masisi camp, with some who are determined to block Tshekedi already working around the clock to find a ‘confident and robust’ opponent to stand in the way of the potential candidature of the younger Khama.
BDP insiders say Vice President Masisi finds himself without many options; he is at the mercy of President Khama at the moment. “He has no choice but to step aside and focus on government business. He has a job to do, regardless of the unofficial or postulated reasons as to why he should make way for Tshekedi or any other candidate,” said a BDP senior figure.
NKATE RETURNS END OF THIS MONTH
Those who want to block Tshekedi are running short of options, but their most attractive route could be Jacob Nkate who is returning from his ambassadorial role in Japan at the end of this month. Nkate has made it clear that he will return to stake a claim in the party presidency, launching his bid with a quest for chairmanship.
But with the latest turn of events, insiders say Nkate will have to ask himself a few questions before taking the bait – is he ready to take on a candidate who has the backing of President Khama? What is in it for him if he wins or loses the chairmanship race? Will he ever ascend to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency? And what would be Vice President Masisi’s attitude and or role in his (Nkate)’s campaign for chairmanship? Insiders continue to point out that the road will be bumpy for Nkate because most of his lobbyists could decide to be hidden because they are not ready to oppose an influential President Khama.
Indications are that President Khama still commands a very strong influence within the BDP. Compared to his predecessor, Dr Festus Mogae, at the same stage towards his retirement in 2007, the latter was a ‘lame duck’ President with little influence. It is well known that Khama was already influential at this point. BDP MPs who spoke to this publication concede that the President Khama addressed BDP caucuses are the most attended and definitive; when compared to those addressed by Vice President Masisi. “Who would dare not toe the line?” one MP asked rhetorically.
Hypothetical suggestions are already on the table on how Khama could have already moved to neutralize Nkate. The elevation of Thato Kwerepe to the position of Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Basic Education is seen as a strategy to gloss Kwerepe and insulate him against an anticipated onslaught from Nkate in the forthcoming BDP primary elections in preparation for the 2019 general election. The former Minister of Education has made it clear to his supporters back at the constituency (Ngami) that he is coming back to claim a constituency he once represented before he was outdone by his political nemesis in the 2013 primary elections.
Before Khama’s reported intervention in the BDP congress puzzle, Nkate was being coerced to take on Botsalo Ntuane for the position of secretary general. However Nkate was not keen because the position of secretary general spells out nothing for him in terms of his bigger picture of eyeing the high office. The 2017 BDP elective congress is potentially seen as a platform that will make and break kings and queens – and the succession issue within the ruling party could be settled for good in July next year.
The anti-Tshekedi battalion has reportedly rushed to Nkate because of their view that another potential person of interest, Minister Nonofo Molefhi does not appear to be willing to publicly express his interest. They also fear that his family ties with the Khamas will dissuade him against contesting. Those who question Molefhi’s confidence to take on Tshekedi also point out that he is a man who believes too much in the ‘order of things’, “he believes that if something is destined to be his, it will come to him. He does not want to fight for anything hence it will be a risk to bank on him,” said one of the BDP seniors.
While Molefhi is seen as having the goodwill within the BDP and across the party divide, those who doubt his readiness question his fighting spirit and his grasp and presence at party structures. They believe that he cannot be compared to Masisi, who they believe will put up a good fight against Tshekedi. While Tshekedi himself is not a strong party person, they believe Khama’s clout could carry him through and help him cross the bridge. Molefhi, who has been likened to South Africa and African National Congress (ANC)’s Kgalema Motantlhe, is expected to throw his weight behind Tshekedi if the reports on Masisi’s position come out to be true. Motantlhe’s loss to President Jacob Zuma in the race for ANC presidency was put squarely on the former’s indecisiveness and late declaration of interest.
The recent nomination of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) has also pushed some BDP activists over the edge hence realigning allegiances in the process. Some felt that they have been overlooked for new comers into the party. It is expected that Nkate’s return this month could mark the beginning of a spirited campaign within the party – a journey that will leave hind causalities because of the ongoing succession talk.
Tshekedi Khama has made it publicly known that he wants to be BDP chairman and President and should an opportunity arise he will gladly take it. Those around Masisi are asking themselves plenty of questions such as – what could Tshekedi aspire next should he win the chairmanship next year?
They speculate that for Tshekedi to become President at least in the foreseeable future under the current automatic succession plan, he must hope that Masisi makes him Vice President when he takes over as President in April 2018. But there are no guarantees in politics, BDP insiders say. They point out that there will be nothing compelling Masisi to make Tshekedi his Vice President. Further, they speculate that there is nothing incentivizing Tshekedi not to go for the jugular and this could force him (Tshekedi) to act on his affinity early by challenging Masisi for the party presidency.
CAN THE KHAMAS WAIT ANOTHER 18 YEARS?
There is also a school of thought that questions the prospect of Tshekedi waiting until 2019 congress to challenge Masisi for the party presidency. They point out that it will be risky for the party to change the leadership four months before the general elections in 2019. Some BDP insiders believe that the succession issue will be concluded by next year after congress. The Khamas have had to wait for 18 years to come back into power after the death founding President Sir Seretse Khama.
Lt Gen Ian Khama was Commander of the BDF during the time at the goodwill of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. Another former President, Dr Festus Mogae had to use his influence and goodwill to make President Khama his Vice President. “I am of the view that they are tired of being at the mercy of other people, they may decide to control their destiny this time around, with Tshekedi challenging for positions at party level,” reasoned a seasoned BDP politician. He points out that he does not see Tshekedi waiting on the wings and hoping for another Good Samaritan to bring them back into the thick of things. “There is so much at stake, interests and political control,” says a BDP insider.
KHAMA MAGIC STAYS ON
Meanwhile President Khama has indicated that he is retiring from the Presidency but he will not be retiring from the party. He has made his next move very clear at three platforms of the BDP. At a regional meeting in Tutume in the north east, President Khama told his listeners that he will lead the BDP campaign in the 2019 general election. He also communicated that he has raised a lot of funds for the elections and the figures have already surpassed those of the 2014 general election.
He repeated the same message at a meeting of the BDP held in Kanye last month. At a recent BDP Members of Parliament caucus President Khama made the same proclamation, something which party insiders say points only in one direction – President Khama is not going anyway far, and he is interested in the next course or direction the party takes.
(Note that we have spoken to four BDP MPs, two ministers, six senior party figures who all indicated that they are aware of this development. It remains as we reported it, reports and a debate within the BDP.)
The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.
Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.
In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made. “Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.
Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25
They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.
In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations. The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.
The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.
The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.
The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public “Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.
Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.
The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.
“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).
The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.
Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.
A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service. Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.
A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.
He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.
Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.
Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates. “The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.
This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.
That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”
Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.
“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.
The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.
According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu
For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”
The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.
Gabane-Mmankgodi Member of Parliament Kagiso Mmusi, who is also the Minister of Justice looks set to retain his place as ruling party, Botswana democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate for the constituency after his team triumphed at the party’s branch congress held recently.
Mmusi’s team, as expected sailed through by claiming all executive positions of chairperson, secretary, treasurer, vice chairman, and vice treasurer.
Despite reports doing rounds that Mmusi’s team was defeated, the victorious chairperson of the Women Wing branch, Pinkie Mmusi confirmed that they stand with the area Member of Parliament.
For the position of branch chairperson, Baby Chalengwa defeated Tshepo Thobega with 51 votes to 44 votes. On the other hand the branch chairperson, Chalegwa also confirmed their solidarity with the area Member of Parliament.
The anti-Mmusi’s camp has been working hard to prepare for his dethronement in the run-up to the 2024 general election, but it appears the Minister of Justice is holding his ground and will be a tough opponent to dispose at the party primary elections.
Since Minister Mmusi’s name is regularly linked with the Vice Presidency for the future, some within the party use this against him to label him as a power hungry politician. However, Mmusi’s supporters have pointed out that the MP has never spoken on the subject and is only focused on delivering as a legislator and Minister.