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Unmoved Saleshando speaks

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando

The leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has blasted the ruling party for coming up ‘last ditch efforts’ aimed at keeping it in power. He however warned that potential joint effort between his party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change remains the only hope for this country.

Opposition Unity

The BCP leader said his party has always committed itself to cooperation with other opposition parties.  He said they have in the past cooperated with formations such as the New Democratic Front, Botswana Alliance Movement and MELS, and some of the efforts culminated in a total merger.  

He stated that when the Umbrella 1 talks collapsed, they restated their commitment to engage the other parties post 2014 elections.  “Our membership recently mandated the leadership to engage the UDC.  

“It must be understood that the mandate is for the BCP to negotiate a mutually acceptable cooperation arrangement between the two formations.  Such cooperation may be of any form.  It is wrong to conclude that the BCP is just on a mission to secure UDC membership.  We need to allow those who will be mandated to lead the talks the space they need to broadly reflect on the possible options and persuade each other on the best steps to take in order for us to deliver a new viable and stable government in 2019.”

Saleshando said what is clear, is that only a joint effort between BCP and UDC will deliver a new government.  He said once an agreement that is acceptable to the two parties is reached, the BDP would not be able to face the might of our combined efforts.

“I am however alive to the fact that there will be doubting Thomases within our ranks on the viability of opposition cooperation.  It is in the nature of lively human beings that differences of opinion will always accompany new ideas.  Only an organization domiciled in a graveyard can hope for total convergence of views on topical issues.  We are an organization composed of divergent skills and viewpoints.  It is this diversity that if well managed, will propel the BCP to greater heights,” said Saleshando.
Parliament

Saleshando said losing his seat in the 2014 general elections was a setback for the BCP.  He said it is always desirable that the party leader should be in Parliament to lead in articulating the views of the party.  

“As they say, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  My period outside Parliament accords me more time to focus on party specific issues.  For the four years (2010 – 2014) that I served as both MP and party leader, the BCP was not as active as it used to be on extra parliamentary activities.  Such activities are essential in a democracy as they reach out to the larger populace.  The Democracy Alerts that used to be regular were informative and also brought international attention to issues that matter.”

Saleshando said he chooses not to comment on suggestions that his performance in Parliament was superior to the current crop of opposition MPs.  He said there is need to allow more time for the new opposition MPs to prove themselves.  

“They have been given a 5-year term and it is unfair that some people wrote them off in their first year.  We all adapt differently to new assignments.  There is no training school for one to pass as a good MP.  A majority of the opposition MPs are in their first term and there are clear indications that some of them are already performing exceptionally well,” he observed.
Emerging Issues

Saleshando observed that of late, the BDP structures have been haphazardly making a number of proposals that they have vehemently opposed in the past.  He said they refused suggestions that Parliament seats be increased in the run up to the 2014 elections but they now want 40 additional seats.  

“They argued in the past that the Proportional Representation gives rise to unstable governments but they now want the system introduced.  They opposed public funding of political parties on the grounds that there were other national priorities but now support it when the economy has slowed down.  They branded opposition party members lunatics for proposing that part of the reserves be invested in the economy but today they call the same idea a game changer,” he indicated.

According to the BCP leader, “What is clear is that the BDP is dead worried by 2019.  For the first time since formation they represent the minority and have been rejected by the majority of the voters.  They know that their days are numbered and their actions should be seen as desperate actions of a party that knows that it will have to face the political hang man in 2019.”

He said the ESP is the most dramatic of the BDP panic mode performances.  Up to today, they have failed to deliver a clear detailed plan of how they will stimulate the economy, he stated.  

“People are just being told to incorporate businesses as there will be mega bucks floating around for all to deposit to their business accounts. ESP may in the end prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the BDP as it is in essence being used to heighten expectations when there is no capacity to meet the expectations.  I have no doubt in my mind that once the BDP has blown up the reserves that have been built over decades, unemployment will still be over the twenty percent mark, inequality will have worsened, poverty will not have been eradicated and the economy will still be dominated by foreigners.  Batswana will then be told that their opportunity will come in 2036 when the new vision matures.  Hopefully, a new government in 2019 will be ready to unveil a new beginning.”      
 

Year 2015 for BCP

As far as his party is concerned, Saleshando said this was a year that followed a general election whose outcome was way below the standards they had set for themselves.  
He said the party was able to come out of the dark period and convene the biggest elective conference in recent history.  He observed that the high turnout at the conference demonstrated that their members are optimistic about the future of the party.

He further stated it was during 2015 that they came back to capture a ward that they had never won in Mochudi (Bokone Ward) to demonstrate that they have what it takes to bounce back to winning ways.

“It was also in 2015 that we conducted regional meetings that allowed the leadership to touch base with all the administrative structures of the party country wide.  Though some people who are not accustomed to the culture of the BCP label us as an overly consultative organization, we will continue to cherish the practice of internal debates and shun proposals for a more top down leadership style.  Once the party membership has decided on the path that the party is to follow, the leadership is compelled to administer the organization in line with the wishes and aspirations of the majority,” explained Saleshando.

Commenting on the BCP new leadership that was elected in Kanye, Saleshando said it is a well-balanced team that comprises experience and youthful hands that have never served at the highest structure.  

“Having been returned as the party leader unopposed is a source of great inspiration for me to do more for the BCP.  In the coming year, the leadership will be busy galvanising the structures of the BCP countrywide.  As in the past, we will once more invest more in training our cadres to make sure that we can boast a membership that is enlightened and able to articulate the alternative vision of the BCP,” he said.

Saleshando said more than any political party in Botswana, they have entrusted a high number of young people with leadership positions in the party.  He observed that in the 2014 general elections the BCP fielded the highest number of young people as Parliamentary and Local Government candidates.  

“Our constitution provides for affirmative action for youth and women.  This bold decision comes with its own risks.  Owing to the high unemployment rate in the country and the desperate economic situation that the youth are confronted with, our young leaders have become the target of the BDP recruitment machinery.  They are promised a better life if they take up the BDP membership card.  I remain convinced that the small number of our youthful members who are attracted by the BDP resources should not discourage us from investing further in the youth who make up a significant section of our membership.”

Saleshando indicated that they recently had some former BDP high profile members including a sitting councillor defecting to the BCP.  He said as they approach 2019, they should expect more BDP members to see the light and ditch the party regardless of the prospects for personal enrichment that the party accords those who associate with it.  

“The BCP will have to continue to demonstrate that it is a welcoming party and allow the new members to serve in the structures of the party.  The party will have to once more invest in training the new and old members on the core values of the BCP,” he said.

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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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