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PHK warns against Endorsements

Former Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) race for positions in the party’s governing structures has led to endorsement of candidates by party elders and there are fears that this may revive factionalism and bring divisions.


As the race for the chairmanship heats up, a number of candidates have lately enjoyed endorsement from party elders the latest being of former President Sir Ketumile Masire and long-time party ‘strongman’ Daniel Kwelagobe.


Masire’s statement was read by some mean a declaration of support for Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to ascend to the position of the chairman at the upcoming party congress billed for Mmadinare in July. The former leader has since clarified his statement, distancing it from any form of endorsement.


President Masire had rubbed party stalwarts the wrong way when he made remarks to the effect that his support for Masisi was based on his origin as a “Southerner”. The remarks have been seen as divisive and peeling off the old wounds of factionalism.


In the late 1980s and early 1990s during the emergence of party factions, the dictum of “Southerner” and “Northerner” became a hot potato in defining party factions. The Mmusi-Kwelagobe faction was predominately made up of those who came from the southern part of Botswana while ‘The Big Five’ comprising (Mompati Merafhe, Bahiti Temane, Roy Blackbeard, Chapson Butale and David Magang) was dominated by ‘northerners.’


Although BDP has made it clear that factionalism should never be the basis of campaign for central committee, the endorsement by party elders may see factions manifesting slowly within the party.


Following the suspected endorsement of Masisi by Masire, another chairmanship candidate Ramadeluka Seretse has criticised the gesture and said it was regrettable – especially for such endorsement to have been carried out in the presence of other candidates.


The former cabinet minister however downplayed suggestions that Masire’s endorsement was based merely on the origin of Masisi as a ‘southerner’. “I never understood the tone of the letter to say the Chairman of the BDP for 2015-2017 period must come from the south as opposed to the north,” he said in a statement.

“Yes, any form of endorsement of one candidate by whoever at such gathering, in the presence of other candidates would be unfortunate and a mistake never to be repeated.”


Ramadeluka Seretse was in pole position for the Vice Presidency in the run up to the 2014 general elections but went out of favour after losing to Kgotla Autlwetse in the primary elections. The party chairmanship has been traditionally associated with the vice presidency.


Meanwhile Cabinet member and Specially Elected Member of Parliament Kitso Mokaila also confirmed to this publication that he has a preferred candidate whom he refused to mention citing that he was confident the aspirant will triumph.


Mokaila said this at the backdrop of strong speculations from highly placed sources in the party that he supports former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ramadeluka Seretse for Chairmanship. Ramadeluka enters the race bruised from the party primary elections after being defeated twice by Kgotla Autlwetse.


Wedging in on the ongoing debate, former Vice President and outgoing BDP Chairman Ponatshego Kedikilwe expressed discontentment with those publicly endorsing candidates for BDP chairmanship. Kedikilwe told WeekendPost in an interview that behavior (of public endorsements) is utterly uncalled for and denounced it with the strongest terms possible.


The BDP heavyweight stated boldly that logic would not allow him to endorse any aspiring candidate for any position, including chairmanship, in the party Central Committee. “I disagree that there should be public endorsements, it is not the right thing to do. Consequently, as an outgoing Chairman and former Vice president – I would not endorse any candidate,” he stressed to this publication.


However, the BDP strongman Daniel Kwelagobe has publicly declared his perpetual support for Tebelelo Seretse. The former chairman maintained to WeekendPost that, “every party member has freedom of choice and so there is nothing wrong with public endorsements,” while refusing to accede that it was disadvantaging the other candidates.


Ironically, the long-time party secretary is now endorsing his former nemesis. Tebelelo Seretse battled with Kwelagobe for chairmanship in a bloody skirmish that left the party divided after the 2009 Kanye congress – out of which followed the formation of the splinter party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).


Nonetheless, it seems like Kwelagobe and Seretse have since buried that hatchet and Kwelagobe is now rooting for the only woman contender in the race.


Kwelagobe also supports his political prodigal son, Botsalo Ntuane for the position of the Secretary General, a position which Kwelagobe himself managed to hold for 27 consecutive years. This support comes at the expense of his former Barataphathi ally Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, who is seen as Khama’s favourite for the position.


The upcoming BDP congress will be followed by two elective congresses before the next general elections. BDP will meet again for the biennial event in 2017 and 2019. While Masisi maybe steps ahead of his colleagues in the bid for presidency, he will need congress support in 2019 to be retained as party president. Traditionally, a seating president has never been challenged in the BDP, despite the constitution allowing it.


Masisi became a surprise package in November last year when President Lt Gen Ian Khama announced him as the Republic’s Vice President. Initially viewed as a stopgap, it seems like the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament has everything under his control and will do everything to consolidate his power.   


Meanwhile University of Botswana lecturer in Public Administration, and renowned Political Analyst, Daniel Molaodi told this publication that the endorsements may just spark further divisions in the party.


“The endorsements are going to further create room for vacillations among members of the BDP as they will begin to look more into why each elder is endorsing a particular candidate over the other and that might just spark further divisions,” he stated.


He added that it might even regenerate the factions that were supposedly killed, “the question though would be how the elders themselves justify their choices and whether their reasoning resonates well with BDP members as a collective or in their old or new formations/factions,” Molaodi pointed out.


According to the UB lecturer, that the former president Sir Ketumile Masire is apparently endorsing Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for chairmanship on account and consideration of him being Southerner is deplorable and raises more questions.  


“The question would be: is Masire saying that there is need to balance regional representation (specifically the south vs north) in leadership positions of the BDP and by implication that of Botswana? If so what does this say about our democracy, issues of quality and traits of leaders we want,” he asserted.


 “I am wondering if this is a concern within the BDP itself, if it is then how pervasive is it such that you will still have a southerner in the form of Daniel Kwelagobe endorsing a northerner Tebelelo Seretse?” Molaodi rhetorically asked.


The political analyst conceded that the reasons for Kwelagobe’s endorsement of Tebelelo were based more on current trends of the party torn between the emerging ‘tenderpreneurs’ and the traditional BDP stalwarts who fear an erosion of the party culture and principles, although at the same time one would have expected President Masire to be with the traditional BDP thinking.


According to Molaodi, “it’s simply a question of which issue each of the elders view as more crucial in this particular contest and therefore not necessarily their permanent view.”

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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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