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Rogue Lesotho buckles under regional pressure

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has revealed that the Prime Minister of Lesotho Pakalitha Mosisili has averted possible sanctions by the regional bloc Southern African Regional Commission (SADC) on the tiny mountain kingdom by finally accepting the SADC commissioned report.

This publication learns that Lesotho has been given fourteen days to study the report and comply. The Lesotho cabinet is said to have held an emergency meeting on Wednesday and they now realise the seriousness of SADC leaders.

Speaking at a press briefing this week, Venson-Moitoi said that the possibility of imposing sanctions on Lesotho had crossed the table of discussion as Lesotho had been reluctant to receive the report citing a court case currently underway back at home.

She said that Lesotho would still not budge even though SADC advanced reasoning that the regional bloc was immune and protected against the courts of law of member states and that the treaties signed by member states would protect decisions of SADC as well as the decisions of the Commission against any ruling from the Lesotho courts and the meeting still ended without an agreement between Lesotho and the SADC troika.

Venson-Moitoi however said that,” the conclusion was neither the best conclusion nor a conclusion that members states favoured because everybody wishes to see SADC succeeding.”

She continued that member states had for quite a time pleaded with Lesotho to see rational reason before arriving at a dreaded end where they discussed the imposition of biting sanctions, restrictions, limitations and the exclusion of Lesotho from the regional bloc as a proposal for the next SADC summit.

She continued that she believes, President Ian Khama who is also the SADC chairperson, sensing the palpable mood of the member states tailed the issue further beyond the stalemate and she also believes that Pakalitha Mosisili also sensing the sulk atmosphere among the regional headship did not immediately depart for home and joined the chairman for a private meeting the next morning.

Venson-Moitoi says that the meeting between SADC chairman Ian Khama and Mosisili fundamentally changed the complexion of the previous day’s hard line trajectory that had mulled over imposition of sanctions as well as the expulsion of Lesotho from the regional community, removing the likelihood of a suspension that would have been concluded.

She also says that Mosisili accepted the report on condition that as a head of state and leading a coalition government he would not unilaterally accept the report and he had to go back home to consult his coalition partners before reaching an agreement with the chairman to issue a response to the chairman of the organ and president of Mozambique Felipe Nyusi within 14 days.

Venson-Moitoi also said that had Lesotho not accepted the commission’s report SADC was to publicise the report but since it had accepted it the onus falls on Lesotho to publicise it after 14 days. The 14 days agreement also stipulates that Lesotho has to show how it intends to execute constitutional public sector and security sector reforms that came as recommendations from findings of a report by SADC facilitator and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, for Lesotho to come back into proper democratic governance.

Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi had led a 10 member strong commission to investigate among other things; the rupture of political stability in the mountain kingdom and the assassination of Lieutenant-General Maaparankoe Mahao who was killed on the 25th of June 2015 on his way from his farm in an operation to arrest soldiers suspected of being involved in a plot to topple Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) military command. Ironically, General Mahao was around 2010 posted at the SADC headquarters in Gaborone as Chief of Staff-SADC Standby Forces (SSF). He was also the scion of an accomplished Lesotho family as a brother to National University of Lesotho Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao.

The Lesotho government had stalled accepting the Phumaphi Commission of Enquiry report citing a court case in which LDF’s Special Forces Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Tefo Hashatsi accuses the commission of being biased against him to the point that Justice Phumaphi had bordered on accusing him of participating in Mahao’s assassination.

Mahao had survived at least one assassination attempt where his family dog was gunned down as the political situation in that country spiralled out of control.

Lesotho state security sector had been severely fractured with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) and Mahao said to be allied to former Prime Minister Tom Thabane.

Thabane promoted Mahao to the rank of Lieutenant-General in the LDF after a failed military coup d’état resulted in the sacking of Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli who is said to be allied to incumbent Prime Minister Mosisili. Gen. Kamoli is also said to be a distant cousin to Prime Minister Mosisili. After winning power in snap elections Mosisili reinstated Kamoli to the top military post defying SADC facilitator Cyril Ramaphosa who warned that his entry had the potential to spark further political instability in the country.

The Phumaphi commission report was completed on the 23rd of October 25 2015 and handed to SADC on the 6th of December of the same year. Unconfirmed reports indicate that that the Phumaphi commission urges SADC to call for strictly monitored elections in Lesotho, and further calls for the dismissal of some military chiefs in that country. 

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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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