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Govt disowns P100 million scheme

Matambo, Makgalemele distance themselves from the project

A multi Million Pula agreement between the Government of Botswana, Anglo American, DeBeers and Debswana dubbed ‘Tokafala’ that was allegedly established to support committed entrepreneurs to grow their business has caused a furor following suggestions that the programme is serving a selected few ‘big-bellied’ men who are using the secretive and controversial initiative for self-enrichment.


Van Der Weijden of Tokafala scheme confirmed its existence while Ministers Kenneth Matambo and Phillip Makgalemele said it was their first time to hear about the initiative.


Tokafala according to the partners agreement document is an Enterprise Development initiative established by the Anglo American Group and the Government of Botswana with TechnoServe as the key implementer on the ground. The secretive program allegedly focuses on supporting (financing, mentoring, and advisory) citizen-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that demonstrate a commercially viable and sustainable business idea.


The initiative has been running for over two years now but has remained unpopular and without many known beneficiaries despite its significance,magnanimity and the big names behind it. It was initially to complement existing government programmes, by connecting enterprises to these programmes, and supporting capacity building at five Botswana Government enterprise development institutions.


Anglo American according to the agreement document has contributed US$ 3,957,726.00 (over 38 Million Pula) to Tokafala,an amount that is comprised of Anglo’s portion of the operating costs in relation to Tokafala and the capital.The government contributed US$ 3,953,134 (over 38 million Pula) while the two paid US$ 3 Million being the aggregate amount for the purpose of funding investments as a contemplated.The money which is supposed to be for Batswana is reportedly channelled into a selected few richmen’s accounts who are in this case masquarading as young micro, small and medium-sized enterprise owners.


Tokafala was/is  run on a  three year period and its first phase ended in December last year.According to the agreement document the initiative is its in second year running, and will end by 2015’s end. Sources say the silence  and secrecy sorrounding the multimillion pula initiative is a clear sign that some powerful people in government have found a better way to milk this country in the name of empowering the poor and unemployed.


Although it is run from the office of the president,investigations revealed that not many are aware of the initiative-including Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs,Dikgang Makgalemele. In an enterview with WeekendPost Makgalemele said it was his first time to hear of Tokafala from this reporters.Minister Matambo who holds the purse also denied any knowledge of the secretive initiative saying he has never signed any papers or agreement about the project.


This publication reached the Tokafala programme director, Ineke Van Der Weijden to know more about Tokafala: “The Tokafala Enterprise Development Programme is a joint partnership between the Government of Botswana, Anglo American, DeBeers and Debswana. The program started in January 2014 and will run for at least 3 years,” he said.


Debswana however distanced themselves from the project, refuting claims by the Tokafala Programme Director that they were part of it.  When asked how many people Tokafala has benefitted, Van Der Weijden said the program has supported 75 businesses to date, 12 in the pilot phase (2013) and 63 since the start in 2014. In 2015, 39 new businesses have so far been enrolled. “The overall target for this phase of the program is 250. Once the second and third module of the program starts, this target will increase to over 900 small, medium and micro businesses across Botswana,” he explained.


She however declined to name any beneficiaries “due to privacy reasons we cannot supply you with the names of our clients,” she said in a written response.


She said the programme‘s popularity has been hampered by its area of focus. “In 2014, Tokafala’s focus was on the greater Gaborone area, but in 2015 the program will expand to the Francistown area, including the mining areas of Orapa and Selebi Phikwe, in the strong believe there are many promising SMEs in this area that can benefit from Tokafala’s support,” she said.


Despite this being said, Weekendpost has unearthed that the multi Million Pula programme is running without a proper agreement. No one in the government has signed the controversial agreement document yet government continues to pile money into the mysterious project. No Minister has signed the agreement.


When asked about this, the programme director replied, “The agreement between Anglo and the Government is still pending signature from the Government. The Office of the President as well as the Ministry of Trade and Industry have been involved in detail so far. The agreement has been reviewed by the AG and budget has been allocated, so the final step is signature. In anticipation of this, the program commenced last year with funding from the other three partners. It is my understanding that signing will happen in the near future, but I could certainly not be sure of that,” she said in a written response further adding that they report to EDD, under the ministry of Trade and Industry.


According to the agreement,there is a company called TNS which has the expertice to and experience in implementing enterprise development programmes in developing countries,for purposes implementing and establishing Tokafala.


“The company has forecasted the establishment and implementation of Tokafala to cost around US$ 7,91 million (over 76 million pula) over a three year period. Anglo and government according to the deal are funding the costs,” reads the agreement.


The governement has undertook to fund annually in advance from the government contribution the operation costs of module 2 and 3 in the amounts and at the intervals up to a maximum agregate of US$ 2,573,134,00 (over 24 million Pula) the three year implementation period.The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo has distanced himself from the initiative saying he knows nothing about it. “I don’t remember any day signing papers of such a project or initiative and I dont know anything about it,” he said.


According to the agreement there is a Funding Partners Forum which assesses the progress and perfomance of the project.The government has one representative who attends meetings which are held once a year.Efforts to establish that person proved difficult.The agreement emphasises on the confidentiality of the agreement.In the agreement the parties agreed to keep funding information and confidential information secret.


For purposes of the agreement the parties communicate through the vice president’s secretary (name withheld) and the United Kingdom adresses.The said vice president’s secretary schooled in London and started working at the said office in 2010. She is currently with the vice president at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. She declined to speak to Weekendpost referring all questions to the National Stratergy Office.


The Tokafala scheme is said to have originated from the said office which misled the partners into believing that the money will be used to complement existing government programmes. Efforts to get a comment from the office were futile as one of the central people to respond to our enquiry was said to have left the Ministry. An alternative respondent’s secretary enquired on our identity and the issue we want to raise before saying the target is unavailable to respond.


Director General of the National Strategy Office (NSO) Mr Uttum Corea promised to get back to his publication through his secretary but never did.


Tokafala was to mentor entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges they face in Botswana in establishing commercially viable businesses, which include limited entrepreneurial skills, limited effective mentoring support, restricted access to finance, limited market access, and low competitiveness of local offerings. The initiative however has remained a mystery inside an enigma.


The programme builds on Anglo American’s extensive experience and successes in enterprise development such as Zimele in South Africa, Emerge in Chile and two new programs in Brazil and Peru. Tokafala ‘s initial target was up to 560 micro and 415 small and medium enterprises over three years and it remains a mystery to many today, including the Minister of Finance and Development Planning.


Member of Parliament, James Mathokgwane who has been at the centre of the issue has promised to take the matter further and expose the rot happening at the office of the President. He said he will engage Parliament on the issue so that the culprits may be brought to book.


Anglo American was not available to comment despite being given the entire week to respond.

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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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