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BDP challengers worry Masisi

Main Threat; Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Nonofo Molefhi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chairman and Vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi this week expressed reservations about a myriad of party chums who have thrown their hats in the ring to challenge him for the presidency towards 2019, Weekend Post has learnt.

Masisi was speaking to Southern region party faithfuls at a secret in-house meeting at Sampi Lodge in Kanye on Sunday.

By virtue of his position, Masisi is expected to automatically rise to the position of President in 2018 when incumbent President Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s two terms – as dictated by the country’s constitution – come to a close. It has been the party norm and tradition that when the VP ascends to the presidency, he is also endorsed substantive at the next congress leading to the elections.

At the said meeting it is understood that Masisi, who was accompanied by party Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane and Member of Central Committee (MCC) for Southern region and Mahalapye East law maker Botlogile Tshireletso; once again took shots at those with intent of making the presidency out of his reach.

An immaculate BDP source in the region told WeekendPost after the meeting that the party Chairman spoke out against the “countless” contestants who want to challenge him and expressed his disappointment at the gesture.

“He told us that some want to split the party by contesting in numbers for the presidency saying it appeared like it was mostly the old BDP crop. He therefore – indicated that this may suggest that we are an opposition in our own,” the source who preferred anonymity for fear of being victimized pointed out.  

A sizable number of influential BDP figures like President Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s younger brother and Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama; Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Nonofo Molefhi; ex-cabinet Minister and Botswana ambassador to United States Tebelelo Seretse as well as corruption busting ex law maker Robert Masitara have all confirmed to this publication before, of their “interest” in the BDP presidential race.

In addition former cabinet Minister Boyce Sebetela has also hinted of a possible run for the party’s top office while Botswana’s ambassador to Japan Jacob Nkate is also fingered in the race, and the list may balloon if a compromise which was previously the subject of discussion is not reached.

Mindful of the weight the presidential contesters carry, the BDP insider said the Vice President was concerned that there are some people who influence others to stand for impending party presidential elections with the aim of ‘de-stabilising’ the BDP. “He believed that the presidency should be left to him for purposes of stability of the party.”

It is understood that Masisi also conceded that they need not do anything that may cause instability in the party as they may be on the verge of losing elections to opposition parties – which are likely to form a united front in 2019 – and therefore given that they have to tread carefully.

In the meeting, it is also understood that they also drew a plan and formula to try to win the next elections again, which are likely to be tightly contested.
Masisi also split Kweneng, Southern region   

In his bid to the state house post 2019 General Elections, the Vice president announced at the Kanye meeting that they have decided to split the Southern region into two separate regions.

Southern region will now be made up of only Lobatse, Goodhope/Mabule, and Mmathethe/Molapowabojang constituencies while the other new region will benamed South West which comprises Kanye North, Kanye South, Moshupa/Manyana and Jwaneng/Mabutsane.

The move to increase regions – particularly in the South is seen as Masisi’s strategy to lure votes from the south of the country and take regions by the scruff of the neck – to enable him to be president. Regional Chairpersons and Secretaries have the leverage to nominate and endorse their preferred candidates for presidency when the party gathers at a special congress.

According to the source inside the BDP, “the issue is about numbers, as you know the regions’ Chairpersons and Secretaries elect the president and Masisi wanted to make sure that there are more regions in the South and that the regional leaders are on his side. It’s his strategy to win elections by increasing the regions. He is strong in the South so he wants to increase his base first,” he stressed.

Prior to paying a visit to the Southern region, it is understood that Masisi was at Kweneng region a fortnight ago where he also hinted that the region needs to be divided to increase regions’ effectiveness as they were seen as wide and huge.

There has been 12 regions for the party namely North West, North East, Western, Francistown, Central, Letswapo, Bomase, Shoma, South East, Gaborone, Southern and Kweneng. The new region is South West and others are expected to be announced soon and therefore will increase from the initial 12.

It is understood that for his part the BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane highlighted to ma-domkrag who were present that the party is considering increasing the number of constituencies especially in the North where BDP’s presence is very strong.

Another high profile member at the meeting, Tshireletso is also said to have raised concern about Specially Elected Councilors and Legislators who have to vigorously sell the party, which she says is currently not the case. She also said as the MCC, nobody never approached her with the evaluation of recent bye elections in the Southern region which she says concerns her.

BDP SG Ntuane confirms the meeting

When reached for comment, Ntuane, in a carefully worded response confirmed to this publication that indeed they met over the weekend in Kanye although he was cagey with the details of such a meeting while emphasizing that- it was ‘in house’.

Ntuane declined to comment on the words allegedly uttered by BDP chairman when he aired his uneasiness on the high number of BDP members eyeing the presidency instead of smoothly endorsing him as has been the party tradition.

He however stated that: “there are certain processes which we follow internally, which in the case of Southern region culminated in the meeting held over the weekend. With Kweneng region the internal process is still ongoing and we will make an announcement only when it’s completed.”

He emphasized that the gathering in Southern region was an in-house meeting and in such instances they don’t disseminate anything publicly unless it’s on a need to know basis. “Note that we have been holding many such meetings across the country as the party leadership,” he told this publication.

According to the ever diplomatic Ntuane, the only thing they can share from this particular in-house meeting which is of critical importance to democrats in “Southern region is that their region will be realigned into 2 new regions comprising of a Southern region which will be made up of Lobatse, Goodhope/Mabule, and Mmathethe/Molapowabojang constituencies.”

The other new region he said is South West which comprises Kanye North, Kanye South, Moshupa and Jwaneng/Mabutsane. “So the 7 constituencies which previously made up the Southern region have now been split into 3 and 4 constituencies respectively. We hope the realignment will improve administrative efficiencies and assist in mobilization efforts as we prepare for 2019.”

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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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