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How BNF YL election was won and lost

MAHALAPYE: Richard ‘Motsabakedi’ Khumoekae came out the man on top in the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNF YL) election, ending months of simmering tension, fears of a factional haemorrhage and anxiety over what will become of the youth wing.

Khumoekae was contesting BNF YL Presidency against Kago Mokotedi.

Congress proceedings which were billed to start Saturday morning went about in the most erratic of ways.

By 7PM Saturday, delegates had not eaten breakfast, official congress rites such as solidarity messages were done evening Saturday while delivery of treasurer’s report and passing of resolutions never saw the light of day.

There were even doubts as to whether the previous BNF YL committee had been formally and properly dissolved.

The abdication of responsibility by those in charge also appeared to continue after BNF leader Duma Boko had officially opened congress.

After Boko had opened Congress, voting, which was supposed to continue after evening meals, at around 7PM never took off.

Previous league president Kemmonye Makatane was nowhere to be seen and was said to not be taking calls on his mobile phone. His then deputy who is also Gaborone City Mayor Kagiso Thutlwe had also ‘disappeared’, leaving a power vacuum that left delegates hung in confusion.

The Khumoekae lobby group smelled a rat. They suspected that the Mokotedi lobby which was dominated and pushed by previous Youth League committee members was seeking to either cause the election to be suspended to a later date, buy time to register delegates at a time when elections were supposed to be commencing and that they were in cohorts with the delegate registering committee as well as the BNF National Executive Committee (NEC), appointed election board.

At 2am Sunday; in the ensuing power vacuum, where the election hall had turned into a dance party of sorts, lobbyists associated with Khumoekae sought to give election overseeing powers to congress. They took charge of the podium and engaged in a selection of individuals from the floor to oversee the election.

The two lobby groups had reached deadlock. Khumoekae had wanted election board member Kwenantle Gaseitsewe to withdraw, reasoning that he was a conflicted man. It emerged the reason was Khumoekae had ‘quarrelled’ with Gaseitsewe a few weeks before the election and the latter had penned a letter threatening to sue the former as he felt that he had been slandered.

Attempts to bring together the two factions were botched in a background of tight rope walking tension. Mokotedi and Khumoekae could not agree on what was to be done next.

The former wanted congress to continue with the presiding election board as he felt that it’s scrapping would be undermining the powers of the NEC while the latter felt that power was now in the hands of Congress. He wanted election overseers to be selected from Congress as he felt the system was littered with Mokotedi sympathisers.

Members from the two lobby groups were now at each other’s throats and sporadic fist fights which at this point did not involve lobby group members, but nevertheless undermined Congress security, would occasionally erupt in the voting hall.

In the ensuing chaos, it was then decided that elections will commence Sunday morning at 6am.

All the while, by all accounts, the Khumoekae lobby was formidable on the ground, shored up by the militating and all powerful Kgalagadi/Gantsi regions’ delegates while the Mokotedi lobby lacked a strong show on the ground, perhaps because a mass of his people had camped at a different venue.

Many felt the Mokotedi group was scheming to steal a mandate. A combination of botched Congress arrangements including lodging for delegates, timely serving of meals and the continued dilly dallying, which left delegates in the lurch, at the height of winter tilted delegate sympathy to the side of Khumoekae.

Some believed that Khumoekae was encircled, as a large chunk of recognisable previous youth league members were openly allied to the Mokotedi lobby while others were seeking re-election in his lobby. They also felt that if elected the Mokotedi lobby will be an extension of the previous Youth League committee, whose unpopularity out rightly emerged at the Congress.

Also, the fact that Khumoekae was said to be a perpetual victim of the opposing lobby, said to have been defeated in dubious ways in the 2012 Thamaga Congress and  subsequently ‘pushed out’  of contesting the Village Council ward in Gaborone Central which was contested and won by Kagiso Thutlwe, in the 2014 general election did not help matters.

Furthermore, the Mokotedi lobby had hogged an image of flamboyance and ostentation. They had lodged at a separate venue from the rest of Congress goers. Their camp at Flowertown Primary School had quickly earned the moniker, ‘Dubai’.

They had also hired services of identically branded coaches from a local transportation magnate and they were generally believed to have been well-heeled and their delegates well-fed, who added to the indignation as meals Congress provided meals were scarce.

Khumoekae however had the blessings of Gantsi North and South, Kgalagadi North and South Constituencies and Jwaneng-Mabutsane constituencies; a powerful and militating swing bloc of constituencies that is feared for determining the direction of elections in the BNF.

The region had previously bestowed one of their own; Kemmonye Makatane in the BNF youth league Presidency in the 2012 Thamaga Congress. A youth from the region was also being given a Sports and Culture post in the Khumoekae lobby.

Voting proceedings had not started by 6AM Sunday morning as promised. At 10AM both lobbies and Congress agreed that two individuals be selected from both lobby groups while another two will come from the election board and some calm momentarily prevailed while tension, suspicion and extra alertness never left.

At around noon Sunday, fist fights ensued over ballot box stuffing accusations, with the suspicious Khumoekae lobby leading the charge. In the ensuing furore, a confrontational Khumoekae sympathiser stormed the election door manned by two strongmen, lunging at election officers.

Afterwards both Mokotedi and Khumoekae settled to call their lobbies to order and a decision to bring in the Botswana Police was reached while the militating and song singing Khumoekae lobby group was restrained.

At one point the melee, a passing Khumoekae was celebrated by the crowd while Mokotedi was jeered and heckled.

Voting started Sunday afternoon and by then delegates from both camps had left without casting their votes. Voting continued into the night without further incident.

By early Monday morning when election results trickled in, they confirmed many congress goers’ opinion that Khumoekae will emerge victorious. The Khumoekae lobby members were winning positions without break, all with a safe margin of over 200 votes while Khumoekae himself defeated Mokotedi with 457 to 240 votes.

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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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