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Inside the confidential Matsha students accident report

A confidential report on the horrific truck accident that killed seven form 5 students of Matsha College and left over one Hundred others injured last month was presented before the Kweneng District’s full Council meeting this week.

The report which is said to have been destined to the Office of the President suggests that the accident came about as a result of gross negligence of disgruntled Council staff.

“The welfare officers seem demotivated and mostly have a negative attitude towards their work. It is observed that of those who are supposed to provide care to orphans and the needy are sick in spirits, those meant to benefit from them are thus at risk,” reads part of the report’s preliminary investigation findings.

According to the report, when the Council sent a truck to collect Matsha students, a 65-seater Letlhakeng Sub District bus was in good running condition and could have been used to ferry the students, but was instead diverted to pick Moeding College students.

“The department (Social Welfare) indicated that they only had one bus with 65 seats available at the time of making arrangement for the trip to collect students, this is the bus they set aside to transport Moeding College Students contrary to Letlhakeng Sub Council committee resolution. The mini bus was said to have been at the garage for service,” further revealed the report.

Although the truck was carrying at least 118 students at the time of the accident on the 13th November 2015, the students who were supposed to have been inside the truck were the 74 disadvantaged students who are cared for by the Council’s social welfare department. However since the truck driver maintained that he did not have a list of the students that he was to collect and there was no teacher in sight to supervise the boarding, he had to improvise and carry a load of 123 students together with their belongings in a single truck.

“On the 13th November 2015, the driver was by the school premises of Matsha around 9 o’clock to collect the students. When the driver went to collect the students it is unfortunate that he did not have a list or number of the students that he was to collect. The students boarded the truck and there was no teacher around when they boarded. Upon realising that the students who were boarding the truck were many, the driver attempted to call the office to alert them but could not get hold of the caretaker who was responsible for coordinating the trip. But nonetheless, he states that he left a message with some officer that he got hold of to relay to the Caretaker and advise her that another truck was needed,” further narrated the report.

It further indicated that, the driver then decided to drive slowly with a view and hope that he would meet the other truck along the way to carry some of the students and reduce the load because student were “overcrowded and standing.”

“The truck reached Tshwaane still without any relief vehicle on site. The truck delivered about four students in Tshwaane and proceeded to Letlhakeng. Unfortunately two kilometres before Dutlwe the truck had a tyre burst and overturned injuring 111 students and as a result about 7 students died,” the report explained further.

According to the report, the four students who were left at Tshwaane corroborated the driver’s story that it was him and the lorry attendant who supervised the boarding in the absence of teachers.

However the school head teacher’s defence is that the driver and the lorry driver never presented themselves to the school administration that morning.

The investigators found that there is also too much undue pressure exerted on the Council by Schools to collect students the same day that they close schools as if they are being chased away.

“There is no cordial relations that recognise that students are both the school and the Council’s responsibility,” the investigators observed.

Further, it is revealed that there is poor planning or no planning at all, in that the social welfare department did not have a plan nor had they made any arrangement on time on how to collect the students.

“The S and CD (Social welfare) office did not know that their form 5 students were due to close on the 13th November 2015. The S and CD department only reacted to a letter from Gantsi Senior Secondary School on the 12th November 2015 when the students were due to close on the 13 November 2015,” the report further reveals.

In fact the report states that the coordination of the trips for collection of students has been relegated to a junior officer, a caretaker on B scale, whose assessment of risk and problem solving of situations seems wanting.

“Form 5 RADs students trips was not planned for in advance and was coordinated by a very junior officer at B scale who does not have a voice of authority in line with levels of responsibility,” the report suggests.

On the 5th of March 2015, Letlhakeng Sub Committee resolved that Matsha College and Kang Students be collected by bus while other students are given bus fares. However it was found that this resolution was not communicated to all Council staff.

“Decisions of committee and Council are not communicated to all officers. It is noted specifically that there was a decision by Letlhakeng Sub Committee of the 5th March 2015 which resolved that Matsha students be transported by bus while others be given bus fares. This was not implemented at all and everything done ran contrary to this decision because same was not adequately cascaded,” further states the report.

Nonetheless, the same report further contends that difficult terrains in that part of the country informed the use of trucks to collect students from Matsha College. It states that when the current buses were purchased, due attention was not given to the existing terrains and therefore buses not adapted for such difficult terrains were not purchased.

The report recommended that students should be collected by buses from now onwards and that Councils should purchase and convert trucks into trucking buses in order to access difficult terrains.

“Luggage should never be put together with students in the same vehicle where an assessment indicates that it would pose a risk factor,” the report recommended.

At the time of going to print, at least one student was still under intensive care (ICU) at the Princess Marina hospital in Gaborone when two had been flown to the neighbouring South Africa hospital for further intensive medical procedures.

The Ministry of Health stated this week that in all, seven students were still hospitalised. As of this week according to the Ministry, twenty-nine students have been discharged from Princess Marina hospital.

Initially the hospital is said to have admitted thirty-one (31) students and received seven more from Bokamoso and Gaborone private hospitals. The students were admitted with various injuries including bruises, head injuries, laceration, fractures and others. Over the past few weeks, some have been discharged from hospital.

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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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