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Ready to dump BCP for UDC

Saleshando had to intervene against it from Colombia

Reports emerging from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) camp suggest that the party President, Dumelang Saleshando had to intervene from Colombia to block what some party elders viewed as premature announcement that the minority opposition party was ready to start talks with the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).


Saleshando was in Colombia on the weekend of September 5th when his central committee met to discuss various issues affecting the party including the much anticipated announcement on commencement of talks with the UDC. Party Secretary General, Kentse Rammidi and Spokesperson, Keorapetse Dithapelo were resolute in their stance that a resolution be rubber stamped that talks be motivated instantly.

However they were severely opposed by party veteran, Gobe Matenge and 2014 general election parliamentary candidate for Maun east, Goretetse Kekgonegile.


This publication established that despite the firm opposition, the other group which forms a majority in the central committee was ready to draft a resolution after the heated meeting, when elders sceptical about the envisaged marriage to UDC had to engage the absent President while he was still in Colombia. It has emerged that Saleshando’s dilly dallying on the subject of cooperation and his mixed messages may see the BCP lose a number of its high profile members.

“This time it is not the few young people enticed by goodies from the BDP, it is the real opposition stewards who want to see the Botswana Democratic Party removed from power in 2019,” said a senior BCP member close to the developments.


The central committee was ready to draft a resolution in these words: “The BCP has resolved to join the UDC subject to negotiations in relation to allocation of constituencies and other related matters.” But the resolution was withheld so as to engage regions first. The process has begun.  


A number of key BCP members are said to be ready to dump the party for the UDC owing to Saleshando’s indecisiveness on the subject of joining the UDC. The former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament has recently had his leadership girth put under the microscope.

The opinion of those gauging his bravery in respect to the subject of joining the UDC is that he has a few friends who are misleading him into believing that the BCP has a chance of thriving alone. They also point an accusing finger at some party elders, whose relevance to today’s politics has waned with the passing of time, for blocking Saleshando’s view on the subject of working with the UDC.


At a BCP press conference last week, Saleshando did not appear to be averse to working with the UDC. But what is troubling those around him is the choice of language and the apparent indecisiveness. When he used the phrase “fair deal” when responding to a question from the floor on what the BCP anticipate from the talks, some within his ranks calculated a character of a man fearing the unknown.

BCP’s pro-unity camp is content with Saleshando landing a Vice Presidency seat under the UDC. They also believe that those persuading him against the UDC move want to see him suffer further political humiliation after losing the Gaborone Central to Phenyo Butale of the UDC.


This publication has also learnt that some business people who backed the BCP have threatened to pull the plug should the dilly dallying continue, “in fact some are not financing us anymore because of this issue. They are very clear that a change of government will not occur with the BCP as a stand alone,” said our mole from the BCP. 

It is clear that Saleshando must be ready for turbulence in the first quarter of 2016 as some senior party officials will pressure him to make a public statement that talks are on. Addressing Editors this week, UDC President, Duma Boko pointed out that he only expects talks to start in 2016 as both parties are still sorting out internal issues. However the BCP ranks are of the view that the UDC stance was motivated by BCP’s indecisiveness on the matter.


BCP spokesperson Dithapelo Keorapetse confirmed that there was a central committee meeting but indicated that the outcome of the meeting is basically what President Saleshando shared at the press conference, “which I think your team attended.” 

However we learn that Keorapetse, Rammidi, Okavango Member of Parliament, Bagalatia Arone; Ramotswa Member of Parliament, Samuel Rantuana; and Nkange 2014 Parliamentary candidate, Dr Never Tshabang are some of the individuals piling up the pressure on Saleshando and his Vice President, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang to expedite the issue of talks.


BCP Youth League President, Tumiso Rakgare on various forums has acknowledged that they have two camps in the party, one being for cooperation while the other antagonises. He said they needed time to walk everyone through the idea of unity with the UDC.

The BCPYL is likely to appoint itself the watchdog of the negotiation process owing to its radical politics. But the fear of those who want talks sped up is that the UDC may ultimately accelerate their programme of action and make inroads in areas where the BCP had better bargaining power. A case in point is the fact that the UDC is methodically piercing into the north, where the BCP has an upper hand. Boko addressed a rally in Francistown a fortnight ago to activate the structures.


With all these twists and turns Saleshando is bound to lose friends and members no matter which side of the coin he picks but observers are adamant that his political salvation lies with joining the UDC – but for now the BCP President is still wondering whether it is head or tail. His pro-unity team is telling him joining the UDC is a trial worth experimenting ahead of the 2019 general elections. University of Botswana lecturer Dr Wazha Morapedi is very clear, “the only chance the opposition has against the BCP is when they are one component. They must just campaign under the UDC and forget about their old brands,” he said.


However Saleshando’s indecisiveness has been attributed to his lack of power because the BCP constitution gives powers to the central committee. On the other hand the BCP national executive committee is broadly empowered to run the party on a day to day basis. Saleshando’s fear is that he does not want to be seen to be leaving his members behind. On the other hand “he is well aware that an overwhelming majority of BCP members want cooperation,” said one of the senior BCP members.

SALESHANDO ON BYE-ELECTIONS

“I have been in informal consultations with the Leader of the UDC on ways of formalizing our cooperation during by-elections. To this end, we are in agreement that there is need to urgently enter into an agreement for all future by-elections which will spell out the terms and conditions under which we will assist each other. We anticipate that the agreement will be signed during the month of September 2015. As it is, there is a by-election to be held soon in the Boswelatlou ward of the Lobatse Constituency during the month of October, making it necessary for us to expedite the signing of an agreement that spells out our duties and responsibilities as cooperating partners as well as setting up joint structures required to manage the cooperation.”

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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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