In the wake of media reports that have all but confused the names the late Harry Tembo and myself Liver Tembo on the construction of Isaac Kgosi’s house in Phakalane, I seek to set the record straight.
I am Liver Tembo and first met Isaac Kgosi at my office in Broadhurst nine years ago. I did not even know who he was then. One Friday afternoon, I received a call from the man who introduced himself by name only. He explained to me that he was looking for a Project Manager to assist him develop his property in Phakalane.
He had been advised by some of my clients that I managed a number of houses under a direct project management scheme I was operating. I explained to him the services we were offering and the fees that would be charged.
At the time, I did not know I was talking to a powerful man who was working in the office of the Vice President as his Private Secretary. Not at any time during our telephone conversation did he mention the office he held.
I requested him to come to my office for further discussion.He expressed satisfaction with the charge and said he would come that evening to my office with his drawings for further discussion.
He arrived at my office in Broadhurst around 1730hours in a twin cab Isuzu bakkie with his wife. We discussed the project and I advised him that the preliminary cost estimate indicated the project would cost approximately over P1,000,000.00 and he indicated he had no problem as he had already sourced funds from Barclays Bank.
It was only after I asked him what he did for a living that he explained to me that he worked as Private Secretary to the Vice President, who was later to be the President of the country.
Being a foreigner, I realised immediately that I was interacting with the one of the most powerful men in the government. Feeling ashamed because of the charge that I had given him, I then offered him a discounted figure for my services. The man refused and asked me to treat him as I would any other client. The contract agreement was signed the same weekend to allow me to supervise the project and secure a contractor to carry out the works.
He then informed me that he would be leaving the following week for a one year training programme in the UK while his wife would similarly leave for a year’s course in the United States of America. When I asked how the funds disbursement would be made for the project from the bank, he explained to me that he would give me the power of attorney to sign and request payment from the bank in his absence.
Obviously this was a man who trusted me at first sight. The following week he wrote a letter authorizing me to access his funds from the bank and left me with cash of about K200,000.00 to kick start the project. I then engaged a Mr Jere, a fellow Zambian as a contractor under a company called Transcon Pty Limited to undertake the construction under a labour only contract arrangement whilst I collect funds and purchased all the materials for the project as work progressed. Under our terms of agreement, I was to reconcile all the purchases of materials and balance them up in accordance with the funds collected from the bank.
However, by the time he returned from the UK, it was realised that an over claim of P400,000.00 was made upon reconciliation. Upon his return, Isaac Kgosi was appointed head of the DISS, one of the most powerful positions in government. And so there I was having over-claimed funds (which could have been tantamount to fraud) amounting to over P400,000.00 for a house which was far from being completed.
I remember the sleepless nights I had before I could break the news to him regarding my reconciliation report on his funds. The man had spent his hard earned savings and a loan facility which he was already paying monthly at a high interest rate only to find that this Project Manager had not utilised all the money on the project. I did not know what to expect from him, his reaction and what he would do to me if I told him the news.
I am talking of a man who by using his power could probably have influenced the non-renewal of my work permit or have it revoked instantly. I approached him that evening to give him my report, apologising over my over claim. “I knew it before you could tell me, I had done my own assessment and I was able to tell that you had not used all the money on the house,” he told me.
I remember then being nearly in tears as I told him. Being a man of few words, Kgosi simply told me, “It’s ok. I will give you time to pay me back the money but you will have to include the interest the bank has charged me.”
I was in shock. Here is a man whom I owed so much money telling me he would give me time to pay it back. After that, all my fears disappeared for this is a man who despite what I had done still wanted me to be his friend. I remember the following week he asked me to accompany him to Matsiloje, his village, to see his mother. As we discussed, he told me that he knew things had not gone right on his house but he realized that he could not fight a person who had told him he was sorry for what he had done.
Kgosi told me that his father, when he was alive, once told him that he should never take advantage of his high position in government to fight personal battles with people. He told me he was a believer in justice for all and therefore treated every human being equally. Given his background, he explained that he was in a privileged position to serve government at such a high position but that would not go to his head.
I came to know Kgosi as a man you would never find him in a company of a lot of people. He told me that the reason he had few friends was because he did not like to mix with people who simply want to know him in order to take advance of him just because he was close to the President.
I was impressed that the man that most people feared so much was a down to earth person who values people so much. I realized that I had become close to a man whom people fear so much yet he is such a simple man. He would invite me for dinner at his house and sometimes even visit me. A family man who loves gardening, he would spend his weekends with his family at home. I remember sometimes he would stand at the Phakalane round about to assist traffic during peak hours.
It took me over 3 years to pay back his money and at no time did he put me under any pressure. By that time, due to interest charges, it was more than P600,000.00. I cannot quite remember if I had even finished paying back the money when I told him I would be spending more time in Zambia. Yet he did not on any occasion put me under any pressure.
It struck me how noble the character was of a man who knew very well that my house in Phakalane was fully paid and that I was driving a top of the range Mercedes Benz ML350 car I had bought during the time his house was under construction. He could so easily have accused me of using some of his money to acquire this or sued me, demanding that I sell the house for him to recover his money. He did neither.
In the event, the construction of his house was delayed and he had to seek additional funds from the bank to complete the house. The trail of funds being made to Kgosi from me over a period of 3 or 4 years was purely to refund the money that was over-claimed on the construction of his house.
This is the Isaac Kgosi that I know. Since I have been spending more time in Zambia, I have constantly been in touch with him and visit him at his house whenever I am in Botswana. I am not Harry Tembo and have never done any consultancy work or construction work for the DISS. There is no record of L.T and Associates having undertaken any project for the DISS.
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.
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.
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.”