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Duma may make way for Dumelang

COMRADES PARADE: Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, Duma Boko has only had kind words for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in recent weeks. The two parties are preparing to launch their marriage, and Dumelang Saleshando, the BCP leader may be rewarded with a green card to contest in Gaborone Bonninton North, as Boko focuses on presidential bid.

That the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are headed for talks is not in doubt. What could be overworking the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) think tanks is the confidence that is mounting among opposition ranks.


Opposition lobbyists on the ground want Duma Boko to purely focus on the  Presidential bid in 2019 and not distract his bid with the side dish of a constituency battle – and this could be another add on to mending relations between the UDC and BCP.


Events on the ground dictate that Boko has settled the debate of who should or will be the President of the all-encompassing UDC, while on the other hand the BCP’s Dumelang Saleshando has accepted his fate – that should an agreement be penned, he will be Boko’s running mate, and one of the two Vice Presidents under the UDC.  


Some BCP stalwarts who spoke to Weekend Post indicated that the BCP has always been a proponent of opposition cooperation and that there is no doubt that they will be part of the UDC in the run up to the 2019 elections.
“This effectively means that we are going to also work with the UDC in all the bye-elections that will come before 2019.”  


This publication gathered that the BCP central committee is expected to meet on Saturday to come up with a roadmap for the talks. “The central committee meeting will deliberate on how the party handles the talks internally. The party expects a lot of trade-offs, including on constituencies,” said a source.


Much has been said about the hierarchy of the UDC, should the BCP come through. Now that the ink has dried on who is head, lobbyists from both camps want Duma Boko to focus on the Presidential bid in the 2019 elections campaign. They are of the view that Boko could be central to a potential victory in 2019, if his offensive charm is unleashed across constituencies. The thinkers are also taking cognisance of the possibility of a direct election of the President, should the BDP sponsor such a law.


The opposition is also wary that a new legal dispensation in regard to election of the President of the Republic could give President Lt Gen Ian Khama another bite at the cherry if he so wishes. There are murmurs that some within the BDP are not confident enough about their prospect of success without Khama at the helm. But as of now, it is a non-issue; automatic succession is still the order of day.


“There are many reasons why we wish to see comrade Boko profiled for State House; if he makes way for Saleshando, it means that Gaborone Central remains with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and there will be not a lot of debate as to whether Saleshando should go back to Gaborone Central or not,” said one of the lobbyists.


While some had doubted Boko’s political stamina and appetite in the past, the BNF leader has already proved his mettle; he was at the forefront in the Goodhope-Mabule bye-election when Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II annihilated Presidential Affairs minister, Eric Molale.

And through his actions, Boko has demonstrated that he is ready to challenge for the highest office in the land, his followers have not even an iota of doubt. There is also no threat from the BNF front, it is evident that there is and there will be no vacancy for the position of president at BNF in a long shot.


Indications are that Saleshando could then be shifted to Gaborone Bonnington North, which will be one of the two or three constituencies awarded to the BCP in the southern part of the country. Informants have indicated that preliminary discussions point to the BCP being given the majority of the northern constituencies except for Francistown South and Maun West.


Political analyst, Dr Wazha Morapedi of the University of Botswana believes that should Boko give way to Saleshando, it will be a masterstroke. He said the gesture could also have the potential of warming up BCP members who doubted the genuineness of the cooperation. He also pointed out that the move could free Boko to focus on the bigger and broader issues of the campaign towards the 2019 general election.


Morapedi also told opposition parties to focus on UDC only, “any other thing will not yield any results. The BCP should just come under the UDC and they should all dissolve their parties,” he said. Morapedi pointed out that things like a pact will not work. “They must eject all those against cooperation and focus on the UDC and they will see the results.” He said it is not that important as to who will stand where, but rather the model.


According to UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa, the BCP gesture not to contest Boswelatlou is welcome because it paves way for the BCP to come under the Umbrella model. He said the two parties are ready to engage each other, “and we would very want the BCP to come under the UDC,” he said.

On the issue of Boko paving way for Salesghando Mohwasa cautioned members to desist from making certain moves which may put the leadership under unnecessary pressure. He said they should allow the talks to commence and conclude and the leadership will make final announcements.


BCP spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse said: “We are not standing in Boswelatlou ward in Lobatse and we will assist the UDC to retain the seat. The cooperation in Botswelatlou is a culmination of both parties’ attempts to forge relations that would usher in an amicable working relationship and is a big step for the envisaged opposition cooperation leading up to 2019 general elections. We are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding for bye-elections from now onwards and we hope not to oppose each other in 2019.

The BCP believes that Batswana and opposition parties enemy is one, BDP, therefore we ought to do as much as we can to retain seats held by opposition and wrestle those in the BDP in future bye-elections. BDP has become corrupt and bereft of ideas and has to go and it is only through opposition cooperation that we can achieve that.

So failure to cooperate is not an option, we have to find a way to emancipate Batswana who clearly want change now. On how we are going to cooperate in terms of the model, it will be discussed by the two parties looking at would work. We remain optimistic however that all will go well.”  


For the first time in history the BDP has had its popular vote slip to below 50 percent of the total votes. The opposition is confident of unseating the BDP at the next election and the ruling party has been forced to introspect and re-engineer some of its own internal processes such as primary elections.


Duma Boko easily won the Gaborone Bonninton North constituency against BDP’s Robert Masitara and BCP’s Annah Motlhagodi. Motlhagodi is expected to lean on the side of her president should the constituency become a bait in the unity talks.

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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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