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Ndaba will be retained as President – Modubule

BMD President, Ndaba Gaolathe

“Even if we go for an election tomorrow we are still going to retain Ndaba as President of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)”, declared the chairman of the BMD, Nehemiah Modubule who is embroiled in a bitter war of words with his Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi and his President, Ndaba Gaolathe.

In a tell all interview Modubule said as the NEC they are very clear that Ndaba Gaolathe should remain President especially during this phase of negotiation talks within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

“We have never thought of removing Ndaba, what I am aware of is that at the last congress Wynter Mmolotsi had wanted to challenge the president and we shot his ambition down. It is surprising that today he claims to be Ndaba Gaolathe’s saviour,” reasons Modubule.  

The BMD chairman said they are very clear on the issue of the Special Congress – we do not support the idea but it is up to the party members to decide willingly without any coercing from the leadership.

SPECIAL CONGRESS OR NOT?

“You see when you start pushing for a special congress because you are angry at someone, it does not help. This kind of a special congress has the potential to divide the party. We are calling for reconciliation because in our view a special congress will not solve BMD problems, it can only worsen them,” he said.

Modubule continued:  Why not engage an arbitrator to help us reconcile? We have seen what the approach of special congresses does to political parties – we know of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) debacle of 1998; we know about the Kathleen Letshabo and Otsweletse Moupo developments after the Molepolole Botswana National Front (BNF) congress; We are alive to the Kenneth Koma and Woto splits. We should not act blind to obvious facts – said Modubule.  

“But if the members of the BMD want a special congress, we will give it to them. If anyone wants to challenge Gaolathe for the position of President of the BMD we will not stop them from doing so, we are a democratic party.”

Modubule explained that the party meets ordinarily every two years but a one third of existing constituencies can request for a special congress. He emphasised that it is important to follow the process when demanding a special congress. He said he is against the idea of leaders touring the country urging people to demand a special congress.

The BMD NEC also has the powers to summon a special congress.

“No one has convinced me personally as to why the party needs a special congress. At one of the meetings, the vice president, Mmolotsi was complaining that decisions were being taken by the majority rule and consensus. I do not know how he wants decisions to be taken on a democratic set up,” said Modubule.  

THE HOT POTATO OF PILANE MEMBERSHIP

Modubule agrees that Sidney Pilane’s application for BMD membership was the genesis of the current hullaballoo and he is still surprised that it is the case. But he explained that the NEC has the power to revoke membership of any member if there are valid reasons to do so. He said as things stand nothing formal has come to the BMD office to nullify Pilane’s membership.

After Pilane pursuit for the position at the High Court bench as a Judge collapsed, he returned to the BMD and approached Gaborone North branch to apply for BMD membership and he was accepted after paying P1000 for his old membership number, explained Modubule. But after the application was accepted, Sennye Kono, the deputy secretary general returned the application demanding minutes of the meeting that accepted Pilane’s membership.

“Before the minutes were availed the branch members received a text message from the area Member of Parliament, Haskins Nkaigwa instructing them not to accept Pilane’s membership and he told them that he was instructed by secretary general, Wynter Mmolotsi,” Modubule said. The branch heeded the instruction and rejection Pilane on a second attempt, but when Pilane asked for minutes of the meeting that rejected him or the reasons advanced against him, they failed to avail them. According to Modubule, Pilane proceeded to apply for membership in Mochudi West where he was accepted.

There was a spring of sporadic protests against his membership and a three man team was dispatched to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pilane’s return to the BMD, they produced a preliminary report which was rejected on the basis that it was not endorsed by all the three, the NEC asked for a fully endorsed report but it has failed to come.  

In exploring the mysteries around Pilane’s membership application, Modubule recalls that some had argued that he should not have applied for membership in Mochudi West and that he should have waited for Gaborone North; others questioned his loyalty to the BMD because he had left it, but Modubule points out that this is not an issue because the BMD constitution allows members to take a break if they so wish.

The BMD chairperson said he is aware that there are those who poke at Pilane’s decision to represent Isaac Kgosi on one of the allegations that were levelled against the latter. He said he finds nothing wrong with Pilane – an advocate – offering his professional services to a client. “What kind of a democracy are we going to run if we will not allow people to make choices. If that is what we intend to do – then Batswana will have made a mistake of voting for us,” said Modubule.

On a separate matter, Modubule explained that Pilane is not representing Samson Guma Moyo in his suit against Haskins Nkaigwa. He said the lawyers engaged by Moyo had wanted to instruct Pilane as an advocate and he declined the offer.  He said he could not be pitted against his political colleague.  

According to Modubule, Pilane’s problems started when he challenged the late Gomolemo Motswaledi for the presidency of the BMD. He insisted that the party was democratic and there was nothing wrong with contesting for leadership.

“After he lost the presidency he continued to be close to Motswaledi and the latter had no problem with him because he continued to seek advice from him even after Pilane left the party to pursue the position of a judge,” said Modubule.

Modubule is of the view that some people are not comfortable with Pilane’s return because they think he wants to challenge Ndaba Gaolathe because he once challenged Motswaledi.  

ON WYNTER MMOLOTSI BEING FIRED

There was a meeting on Monday which was convened by people who were angry at reports that there are plans to expel some members of the Executive Committee from the party. They wanted to know if such reports were true and what we were doing about the situation. The party members said Mmolotsi should be fired from the party and they blame him for all the troubles in the BMD. They further instructed us to go on a countrywide tour to meet up with members and lobby for support.

WHY MODUBULE JOINED BMD

The BMD chairman said he joined the party because of its pragmatic approach to issues – it was not aligned to any existing ideologies, he said. “The BMD professed that all ideas will be taken on board and they came up with a very liberal constitution which gave power to the collective and not an individual.” Modubule indicated that the BMD’s late leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi was one of the main reasons he joined the party because he was a loving and intelligent person. He has been courting me from my BNF days, he engaged me as if I was one of their own, that is when he was still at the ruling BDP.

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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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