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Parliament rejects UDC MPs, they plan mass Protests

UDC MPs to address town/city hall meetings countrywide

Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) intend to embark on mass demonstration across the country in protest against shortage of fresh water and frequent electricity cuts. The proposed demonstrations follow a failed bid to pass a motion calling on government to give the water and electricity shortfalls on SOS status.

The MPs specifically those of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) held their first meeting at the civic centre in Gaborone. The meetings will be held nationwide in town halls to discuss the utility crisis with the electorates in an effort to force the Executive to come up with better solutions to this problem.

The Jwaneng/Mabutsane legislator, Shawn Nthaile said the mobilisation of the masses will culminate into a protest petition that would be presented to Parliament at the end of the meetings.

“Our people are not happy. They do not have water and electricity. Our people can no longer express their views through their representatives and we are taking this matter back to the people so that we can carry them with us. We challenge every Motswana who supports civil liberties to come forward. We will continue with the mass action every week that will culminate into a protest petition that will be presented to Parliament,” Nthaile stated during a media briefing in Gaborone this week.

The opposition attempt to get a Parliamentary investigation on the problem was rejected by the majority members of the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) on Tuesday. However the opposition which has a total number of 19 MPs against 41 members of the BDP including 4 specially elected members have vowed to become a challenge to the majority by way of forcing national debate on the matter through the backing of the masses.

“We will march, push and force Parliament to prioritise water and power and put them on the highest agenda table. It is necessary to force this dialogue because our people lack clarity as to what led to the situation, what are the possible solutions and what will be the cost. We have to force this national dialogue in every sector of the society,” Gaolathe explained their plan.

Although some in the BDP are of the view that the opposition is only building their campaign topic ahead of the Goodhope-Mabule by elections, the UDC contends that even if it the subject could be used to convince the masses to rally behind it, the fact of the matter is that people livelihoods are at stake.

One Member of Parliament, Gilbert Mangole of Mochudi West told Parliament that at least one young person was burnt to death after living a candle burning following a power cut. Another MP, Haskins Nkaigwa of Gaborone North alleged that he witnessed an patient dying at Princess Marina hospital in the emergency care unit (ICU) following a power cut. He alleged the generators could not quickly switch on immediately after the power cut.

“Students have been affected, exams are not written, the security and safety of the people is under threat because they are always darkness,” Nkaigwa pointed out in part.

Although the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources tried to convince Parliament that he is doing all within his power to bring the situation back to normal, the opposition maintains that the problem is now beyond him and requires efforts of all stakeholders.

As it is a known fact that the power crisis is escalated by the continued failure of the Multibillion Pula Morupule power plants the Chinese Embassy in Gaborone has also attempted to help Botswana government explain as to how they intend solving the power crisis.

“ China fully understands the importance of Morupule B power plant project to people’s livelihood and economic development of Botswana, and feels very distressed that the project constructed by a Chinese company cannot be fully operational till today, although the causes are very complicated.

Relevant authorities of the Chinese government have already interviewed the accountable officials of the Chinese company several times, demanding them to come up with a feasible rehabilitation plan and to cooperate with Botswana side to fix the failures completely and as soon as possible. The two sides shall work together to solve this problem as soon as possible,” the Embassy explained this week as the debate raged on in Parliament.

Meanwhile the Botswana Power Corporation continues to ration power supply as they issue load shedding schedule every now and then.

The Botswana Water Utilities Corporation has also indicated that Water would continue to be scarce in the Southern Parts of the country. Unless the Southern regions receives heavy rainfalls in the coming rain season, the South, especially Gaborone will have to wait until the year of the next general elections, 2019 to receive the long promised water from the North which are to be carried through the expensive North South Water Carrier.
According to the WUC, the construction of the over 365km North South Carrier Scheme Project will reach Gaborone in 2019.

“The Over 365 Km North South Carrier Scheme Project II (NSC II) is progressing well. This is a pipeline that will transport water from the newly constructed 400MCM Dikgatlhong Dam in the north to the south of the country to augment supply. Construction of the 78km bulk raw water pipeline from Break Pressure Tank I (BPTI) near Letsibogo Dam to Moralane is completed. The next phase of the project which involves the construction of the 78km from Moralane to Palapye is ongoing and will be completed in the 2014/15 financial year. The scheduled completion date for the NCS II Project to reach Gaborone is 2019.”

Other projects that the WUC is working on include several borehole such as the Masama Well-Field that is expected to inject the water into the south of the country. When fully operational, the well-fields will supply 60 Milli liters a day. The project is ongoing and its completion date is 2014/15 financial year.

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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

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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