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From OP to DPP: Keetshabe’s new role quizzed

Abram Merryweather Keetshabe

President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama’s decision to appoint current Office of the President (OP) and his legal advisor Abram Merryweather Keetshabe to the position of Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) effective 1st of March 2016 has been received with less enthusiasm by some in the law fraternity.

Keetshabe replaces former Director in the Public Prosecution Leornard Sechele who served in the portfolio for five years until his resignation in June last year which was followed by his untimely passing 3 months later. Sechele succeeded Leatile Dambe who was appointed High Court Judge.

“I can confirm that indeed Merryweather Keetshabe has been appointed to the position of Director of Public Prosecutions at the Attorney General’s Chambers with effect 1st of next month (March),” Government Chief Jeff Ramsay confirmed to WeekendPost in an interview on Thursday. He fills the shoes of the late Sechele, Ramsay continued.

A renowned local attorney Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole Attorneys has stated categorically that “I think there are more deserving people who have dedicated their lives to the DPP in the likes of Matlhogonolo Phuthego, Kabo Leinaeng, Wesson Manchwe,” who could have been considered for the position.

Motswagole continued: “all those gentlemen are career prosecutors. So to reward them with an external boss really says a lot about the current administration.” The notorious attorney emphasizes that to transplant someone from OP undermines their efforts.

According to Ramsay, Keetshabe has accepted the offer and it is a given that he will occupy the lucrative position. The reasons for the appointment are that there was an opening at the DPP and the government had confidence in only Keetshabe to take it up.

“Keetshabe deserves the portfolio as he is a qualified legal Counsel and he has won many cases in favour of government including the infamous CKGR case which rutted government against Basarwa,” he said.

Having acquired a Bachelor of law Degree from University of Botswana, in incorporation with Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, Keetshabe has before the position of General Counsel at OP, also served as; deputy Attorney General (AG) (Civil Litigation), he was also at one point a Master of the High Court, a Deputy Registrar and also a magistrate.

It is understood that, while as deputy AG, he allegedly threatened to abruptly resign from the position following his failed bid to be considered for judge-man-ship at the High Court failed -after trying his luck. However he later made a u-turn on the move and incongruously almost a month later was selected legal advisor to OP.

Prior to that, a position almost similar – special advisor to the president – was occupied by Sydney Pilane under the Mogae administration and when Khama ascended to the office he dropped him, and after sometime appointed Keetshabe. Since then, Pilane and Khama have not seen eye to eye.

However in many instances Ramsay has emphasized that Keetshabe’s position was a General Counsel for the entire OP and not only special advisor to President Khama.

Keetshabe leaves the latter position at OP vacant and Ramsay states that he is “not sure who replaces him at OP as it has not yet been announced or let alone appointment made.”

Another top notch attorney Joram Matomela of JJ Matomela Attorneys also expressed disappointment at the appointment. “Keetshabe’s appointment with regard to more qualifying officers who had applied for the job, who have more experience with prosecutions, is a vote of no confidence on those officers and will further kill the little morale, if there has been anything left since the departure of Leatile Dambe, in that department,” he asserted.

Matomela stressed that the appointment further undermines the independence of the office as Keetshabe has been working directly under the president and the appointment is more like a secondment.

“There is likely to be a perception that the OP is placing officers who are loyal to the regime in view of the fact that even the late Sechele was from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). Some may ask ‘what orders are they being given when handed this post’the celebrated lawyer wondered rhetorically.

However Government mouthpiece emphasized to this publication that, Keetshabe, who will go down in history as the first Motswana to be appointed Chief magistrate, is an experienced and highly respected legal Counsel.

However Ramsay would not be drawn to discuss why some inside cadres were not considered for the top post when probed on the issue by WeekendPost.

“The office of the DPP requires an Independent minded; fearless; sober minded; with high ethical standards must have the attributes of a judge. Knowledgeable in criminal law and evidence,” eminent lawyer Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners also pointed out.

He said the interface of the Constitutional architect of the office of the Attorney General and the DPP ‘‘is a source of great concern for me’’. The Constitution requires that the DPP consult the AG in cases of public importance and we are not told the criteria for determining cases of public importance, he observed.

According to Dingake: “we do not know who must make that determination. It's unclear what the consultation involves, whether it's for information purposes or for decision making as to prosecute or not. Whatever the case that is an encroachment in the prosecutorial functions of the DPP and the exercise of the said powers.”

The office of the Attorney General, he said is advisorial to the Executive and a member thereof. “In this regard it appears to be a strategic and tactical deployee of the Executive arm to thwart prosecutions of matters which the Executive may have interests on.”

The shrewd lawyer indicated that over the years there has been subtle suggestions that matters of national importance be whatever they are, cannot be prosecuted without the consent of the AG. ‘‘This is inimical to the independence of the office of the DPP which lies at the heart of its efficiency,’’ he said.

“The recruitment of the DPP, from the advert, is done by the AG. Why should that be the case if not to influence the appointment of an otherwise compliant person?” In my respectful view there is always a danger of populating independent institutions with people with an executive culture – these are people who professionally grew or appear to have grown within the executive branch or have a long and strong association with the executive, Dingake stated.  

Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi also confirmed Keetshabe’s new role in government this week: “I am pleased to announce the following appointments of Senior Public officers; Advocate Abraham M. Keetshabe is appointed to the office of Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General’s Chambers with effect from date of assumption of duty.”

Meanwhile Carter also announced the appointment of Mr. Shabani S. Chikanda who is appointed on promotion to the position of Parliamentary Council with effect from 01st March, 2016.

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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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