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Suspended Judges hang out the dirty linen

Judges say Dibotelo promised that lightning will soon strike

The legal tussle between the Chief Justice, the State President and the suspended four Judges of the Lobatse High court promises to send skeletons tumbling from closets if what has already been filed before court is anything to go by.


A petition which was signed by twelve judges and presented to the Judicial Service Commission recently is among the filed documents, which makes up part of the Judges’ evidence in the matter.


In the petition the Judges paint a picture of the Chief Justice, Maruping Dibotelo as a man  who cannot trust people he work with because he fears they could be bewitching him.


“His intense belief in witchcraft disables him from relating with judges and members of staff without suspicion. He persistently says that his traditional doctor informs him that judges and members of staff are bewitching him and that this coming rainy season lightning will strike with catastrophic effect,” wrote the Judges.


Among those who signed the petition are the suspended four of Key Dingake, Mercy Garekwe, Modiri Letsididi and Ranier Busang. Other Judges who signed the petition include, Tshepo Motswagole, Michael Leburu, Lot Moroka, Godfrey Nthomiwa, K. Solo, Gaolapelwe Ketlogetswe, Barnabas Nyamadzabo and Bengbame Sechele.


The Judges blame Dibotelo for victimising the Judges and that he is seeking to destroy the careers of the judges he had suspended because he got intimidated by their comments during a recent Judiciary meeting where the State President was present.


 In the first week of July 2015, the Judiciary held its annual judicial conference at Mahalapye, where the main theme was the resourcing of the judiciary. The conference according to the petition recognised that the judiciary as a learning organisation is in need of resources for continuous training of judicial officers, support staff and its key stake holders and accordingly resolved that the leadership of the organisation should seek resources for training.


The chief Justice was allegedly aggrieved by the resolution taken by the conference on the issue of training and the whole night of Friday he was continuously renting about it.


“On the morning of 1st August 2015 at breakfast, the chief Justice was sitting amongst some Judges, Registrars and administrative staff and continued with his training complaint, and then accused some of the Judges who were vocal about the training issue that they have been receiving housing allowance when they were not entitled to, and that he will use the issue of the housing allowance to destroy their careers,” the petition further reads.


Allegedly the Chief Justice further threatened that he will ensure that they will never become Chief Justices of the Republic of Botswana on the basis that they are not fit and proper.


“He also threatened to publish the issue of the housing allowance in the newspapers so as to destroy careers,” the petition further reads.


 In the cause of that tirade Dibotelo allegedly instructed the Registrar of the High Court of Botswana, Michael Motlhabi to submit the list of those Judges first thing Monday morning.


“Following his threat to destroy careers, on the 11th August 2015, the four judges were given the “career destroying letters,” apparently issued at the instance of the JSC,” the petition added.


The four Judges were suspended after the Chief Justice reported them to the police for having received housing allowances which they were not entitled to.


However the Judges admitted to have received the money albeit unaware and promised to repay the government.


In support of their case is the former Registrar of the High Court, Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa who has filed confirmatory affidavit and revealed that it was not unusual for government employees to be overpaid salaries and allowances.


“In every year the Public Accounts Committee reports instances of overpayments generally in each government department and records action taken. These actions hardly ever include criminal sanction, let alone disciplinary sanction of the accounting officer responsible,” Nthomiwa explained.


During Nthomiwa’s tenure as registrar of the High court, he was responsible for the efficient running of the administration of Justice and in particular the judiciary and their welfare including accommodation.


“I can confirm that the situation of Government accommodation is not unique to the four applicants herein. It has happened to other judges during my tenure and the way it was handled was in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Public Finance Management Act. No one was sanctioned or reported to the police for this,” Nthomiwa will bear witness on behalf of the judges.


The petition which Nthomiwa also signed suggests that the differential treatment with which the current matter of housing allowance has been handled is confirmation enough of the Honourable Justice’s agenda to destroy careers of some judges.


“Referring such an internal administrative issue first to the Judicial Service Commission and then to the police before he could consult with the affected Judges still proves his intent to destroy careers of some judges. The Honourable Justice pronounced his intent to destroy careers long before he conveniently convened the judicial Service Commission to rubber stamp his agenda to destroy careers. We believe had the Honourable Justice divulged his intention to destroy careers to the Judicial Service Commission, they would not have rubber stamped his clearly malicious agenda,” further reads the petition.


The Judges further added that the already mentioned allegations are only tip of the iceberg as there are other matters not stated because of “their extreme sensitivity.”


Dibotelo has however written back to the Judges, refuted the allegations and threatened he would be considering legal options in this regard.


“Each of the signatories including yourself has made highly defamatory statements about me which have been published to the other Judges who did not sign the letter,” the Chief Justice issued the warning.


The Judges had accused the Chief Justice of being a racist and tribalist. In the petition they mentioned that he persistently raise objections about the Court of Appeal being led by a white man in Ian Kirby and that  “at the height of Judge’s trouble with the law, he (Chief Justice) made disparaging remarks about the Judge’s ethnicity as a predisposition for his troubles.

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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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