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Over 10 000 direct job losses since 2015

The past two financial years have been rough for the country’s largest private sector employer and biggest foreign income earner, the Mining Sector. Before the nation woke up to shocking news of BCL shut down three weeks ago, Botswana had already  stomached the liquidation of African copper mines,  Khoemakhau and Boseto mines in a space of  less than two years.

This operational termination came with the hard reality of massive job losses. Just when it seemed the halt of operations at the economic engine in the eastern side of the country was harsh enough, reports emerged indicating that Lerala mine, located at the far south end of the SPEDU region in Tswapong District, is also heading for closure and consequently job losses.


Lerala mine will be adding thousands more job losses to the mining industry’s horror archives, making a total of over 10 000 direct mining sector job losses to be recorded from 2015 to date alone. BCL is to account for over 5000 job losses, its subsidiary Tati Nickel Mine over 700 and already over 2000 job losses were recorded at Boseto and African Copper mines.
More pressure has been piling on the government to accelerate economic diversification efforts and initiatives. Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) leadership has cautioned the nation, decision makers and all stakeholders against the over dependence on the mining sector for economic sustainability.


BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai, made this cautionary statement at a BOPEU Women & Youth Symposium held in Selibe Phikwe just after the announcement of provisional liquidation for BCL mine.
According to Motsamai a mineral sector dependent economy is an economy headed for a dead end. Motsamai indicated that lack of readiness for mining sector’s ultimate crush is blight on the country’s leadership.  “We knew that one day the copper and nickel deposits at the BCL will get depleted, but we did little to nothing as leaders of this country,” observed Motsamai.

He explained that BCL financial status and global market commodity prices are only short term problems, but the long term reality in all the Botswana mines is that mineral ore will get finished.
“The sad fact is that mineral  stones are not here forever, and if we don’t as a country prepare for the demise of this God given resource, we are heading for an economic crush, and we will have only ourselves to blame, not commodity prices,” said Motsamai.


The outspoken Union leader reinforced his sentiments by citing the example of Jwaneng mine which he termed as already in the afternoon of its lifespan. “if you analyze the situation at Jwaneng mine which currently pumps billions of pula into the government purse, you’ll realize that we need to diversify our economy as soon as yesterday. There will probably be no Jwaneng mine in 20 years and if we don’t ready ourselves, the knockout punch that hit Selibe Phikwe will hit Jwaneng.” The life span of Jwaneng mine, the world’s richest diamond pits (by value) is estimated to be just after 2030.


Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko, has called on President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama to take the blame and accept failure to run the economy. According to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President, Khama has abandoned economic diversification and concentrated more on humanitarian give outs which he labelled as popularity stunts.
Duma Boko told Weekendpost   this week that president Khama as the head of state needs to account for all this countless job losses “I invite President Khama for a debate on this tragedies that are befalling our country, I am ready to give alternative counter strategies to the current crisis in our mining sector and our economy at large,” said Boko.


Opposition members have also accused Khama’s second in command for abandoning his job creation and economic diversification mandate. “The vice president is incompetent with his assignment of creating jobs for our youth, he has rather as of  recent channeled his energy and state resources to recruiting opposition members to the ruling BDP, attracting them with lucrative offers,” said Dithapelo Keorapetse, Selibe Phikwe West MP, who is also the spokespersosn of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
This past week, Monday, the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo revealed in his opening speech at the legislators and stakeholders briefing on the proposed “long overdue” National Development Plan 11 before presenting the draft before parliament on Wednesday that the country will run at a deficit budget for the first three years of the NDP. Matambo further stressed the urgent need to find alternative means of generating income for the government as the current national main source of income is faced with challenges.

“We need to intense government revenues, and we need to do that with private sector based economic activities, totally independent from mineral revenue,” said Matambo.
The state purse bearer also noted that government expenditure needs to be monitored intensively as every pula counts. He further indicated that his government is worried and thus will be more careful. ‘’It is the three consecutive years of running at a budget deficit for NDP 11 that this government is most worried about,” he said.


For his part, Keith Jeffries, Managing Director at economic & finance policy analysis  firm, Ecosult Botswana, couldn’t agree more on the urgent need for economic diversification but insisted that he needs more time to analyse the National Development Plan. “Let’s wait for the unpacking of NDP 11, and analysis on government initiatives, there will be economic reviews coming up which will better inform our opinion and recommendations,” said Mr Jeffries who is former Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor and currently a renowned economic policy analyst.


The Chairman of Parliament Committee on Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies, Samson Guma Moyo emphasised the need to diversify the economy away from the mining sector, “If we don’t find other alternative means of economic sustainability and growth, and only rely on minerals, we will not go past middle income status, lest we even realize an economic crush in the near future,” noted Guma Moyo who is also MP for Tati East.


The government of Botswana is pinning its hopes of achieving a diversified, private sector driven and sustainable economy on current initiatives such as the Special Economic Zones, Economic Diversification Drive, ESP and various investment and business development arms like the BITC, Botswana Development Corporation, CEDA, National Development Bank to enhance and accelerate foreign & domestic investment as well as economic growth.

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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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