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Tshekedi reads malice in Guma’s actions

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, who is the younger brother to the country’s sitting President, Ian Khama, has accused the Parliamentary committee and its Chairperson, Samson Guma, of conniving to hurt his political ambitions.


Guma, who is the Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises (PCSBE), had summoned minister Tshekedi this week to appear for the second time before the committee to answer for his alleged maladministration at the Ministry. This was on the back of developing events at the beleaguered Botswana Tourism Board (BTO where Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Brian Dithebe was instructed to cut his stay at the organisation short without any reasonable explanation. Dithebe’s work contract was abruptly terminated, allegedly at the instruction of the Minister.  


“We know here it may look like the committee is doing its job, which I do not have a problem with. But me and you [Guma] know beyond the parameters of this wall there is politics behind it,” Tshekedi levelled the accusation.
His point was that, in as much as he admitted that his Ministry wasted huge sums of tax payers’ money, other Ministries had done the same and squandered billions of government money and yet they were not being grilled as his Ministry was.   
“I also want this [probing] extended to other institutions that have wasted billions of government money. And I’m glad my ministry has not wasted as much.”


Tshekedi is said to have ordered Dithebe to implement a new organisational structure which will cost government an additional P22 Million in the current financial year. The Minister reportedly informed BTO that the shortfall will be financed through a supplementary budget request. Meanwhile he was flouting the BTO regulations by allowing it to run without a board for sometime while he called all the shots. Tshekedi said, although he admits guilt and takes full responsibility of what happened in the aftermath, his actions were carried out in good faith.


“Of course I agree that it took a long time to appoint BTO board, but there was a reason behind it because I wanted to appoint the right people,” he said.
“We have your BCL, BDC (Botswana Development Corporation), BMC (Botswana Meat Commission) and BPC (Botswana Power Cooperation) all of them had boards but cost government billions of pula. But they had the boards. That is why I wanted to be careful on who I appoint to the BTO board.”


Tshekedi informed the committee that he has since appointed the BTO board and it is expected to be operational effective 1st November 2016.
With the committee keeping Tshekedi on his toes with regards to the maladministration at BTO, which include possible nepotism, the hot tampered minister revealed that it was not only BTO facing some sort of trouble, and further revealed that many institutions are much worse but are not subject of interrogation.


“The reason why this committee exists is to indentify wrong doing in operations of government institutions, which it is doing now. My plea is that the committee should also look into other institutions as well, not just my ministry.”
Tshekedi did not mince his words as he told the committee he has been dealing with “liars” at his ministry, referring to his Permanent Secretary, Elias Magosi and BTO departed CEO, Dithebe.
“Most of the time I used to trust everything they said to me, including signing of the letters. But for all this time I was being misled,” he said.


The Serowe North West legislator conceded that the relationship between him and the duo had not been good in recent years, adding that he had tried to rekindle the relationship but failed.
Tshekedi even told Guma that, as a former Assistant Minister, he should be privy to how public officials can easily mislead cabinet ministers.


“When you [Guma] were the Assistant Minister of Finance [Finance and Development Planning] you were misled into approving the P4 billion request by BPC which later turned out to be a bad decision,” he said and added,  “It is happening across all the ministries.”
However, Guma insisted that the committee should recommend for a forensic audit at BTO in a report which is scheduled to be submitted to parliament.
Although Tshekedi was half hearted about accepting the suggestion of forensic audit, he gave it a lee way if it is for the good purpose of the committee.


PRESIDENTIAL AMBITIONS


Tshekedi spoke authoritatively about the political ill-motive of seeking to discredit him using the committee. Although Guma instructed Tshekedi not to give the media interviews with regards to the proceedings of the committee, it is obvious that Tshekedi views the recent developments having a lot to do with his presidential ambitions. Tshekedi, who is the younger brother of President Ian Khama, has declared his presidential ambitions ahead of the 2019 general elections.


With conspiracy theories becoming common, it is believed the power struggle between incumbent Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is the apparent heir to the throne and other possible challengers, is gaining momentum.
Reports were rife recently that the closure of BCL was also politically motivated, something which Masisi dismissed as ‘mischievous’.  One of the two Selibe Phikwe constituencies belongs to Nonofo Molefhi who is a rival of Masisi.


It is reported that Molefhi and Kitso Mokaila were some of the cabinet members who opposed the decision to put BCL on provisional liquidation, which might ultimately lead to the permanent closure of the company. Mokaila has since been transferred to Ministry of Transport and Communications.

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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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