President Lt Gen Ian Khama has explained why he will not rush to dismiss or suspend an official who is a subject of investigation or is faced with answering charges in a court of law.
In an interview tackling a wide range of issues with this publication on Friday, President Khama candidly opened up on his current and former ministers who had been subjects of investigation and or faced corruption charges. He said it is a subject that he has given thought to and ended up leaving it to an individual involved to make a decision. Along the way, the President said he has made certain observations.
MINISTERS AND CORRUPTION He said there have been three cases involving ministers and in all cases, it is either the charges were dropped or the cases dismissed. He said the principle of innocent until proven guilty should reign supreme because removing someone from their position on the basis of untested allegations has the potential to destroy careers and reputation. He pointed out that there was a case involving the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo in which he was ultimately cleared.
“The Minister was being accused of things that happened while he was still at the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), he was confident that he has not done anything wrong. I agreed with him that he is innocent until proven guilty. As we all he was ultimately acquitted.”
The President gave the example of another former Cabinet minister who quit his post following allegations of corruption and the charges were later dropped. He said the minister involved lost his job and his career was derailed. There was another case of corruption involving a minister and the matter was dropped again.
Khama said these precedents more or less support the notion that someone is innocent until proven guilty. He said there is no need to be quick to destroy people’s careers before allegations against them are tested.
Khama said this is the case with the Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi. He said there are allegations which were made against Kgosi and contact was made with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and indicated that they were investigating. The President said they are still waiting on the investigation from the DCEC. He said there is no reason to suspend or dismiss Kgosi on the basis of an investigation.
GENERAL VIEWS ON CORRUPTION The latest corruption index by Transparency International ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa and is faring favourably on the international scene. Khama said it is unfortunate that there are those who downplay these ratings where as they cannot produce any proof to the effect that the rankings are wrong. He said corruption like any other crime is under surveillance in Botswana.
He said it matters what government is doing to fight corruption. He said Botswana has set up the DCEC, anti-corruption units in Ministries to reduce the opportunities of corruption finding room; agreed to have specialised judges to handle corruption cases; have a specialised team to handle corruption cases at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP); and there is also an Anti-Corruption Curriculum in schools. Khama said these are indications that his government is determined to fight corruption.
President Khama also weighed on the criticism that the corruption busting bodies only target “small fish”. He said under his watch he has seen ministers being charged and cleared by the courts. He said Ministers make declaration of assets to him in writing and he keeps the register. He said this helps to avoid conflict of interest.
The President also spoke on other issues ranging from party politics to government’s relationship with civil service unions.
OPPOSITION MP WALK OUT Although the President was not privy to the details as to what could have led to the walkout, he indicated that it is important for the opposition to appreciate democracy. He pointed out that as the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), they have a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and when it comes to voting those in minority will always come out second. He buttressed that they are determined to cooperate with the opposition parties to advance ideals that will “take Botswana forward”.
PUBLIC SERVICE UNIONS Asked whether the stance he took to heed the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) invitation to address their congress actually set the tone of his relationship with labour unions, the President indicated that “government has always been willing to work with unions.” He said they had only expressed misgivings about unions that adopt a political agenda.
He gave the example that one of the Federations (Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions) had taken a decision to support a particular party (the Umbrella for Democratic Change). Khama said as government they are of the view that unions should focus on the welfare of their members and advance their course in relation to their welfare. The President also responded to agitations that he has adopted a divide and rule attitude towards unions.
“I am not applying divide and rule, I was invited by BOPEU to come and address them at their congress. But I must point out that this does not necessarily mean that I will attend events of all the other unions because I have a schedule,” he said.
The President also indicated that he will be careful not to be invited to an event that could potentially turn into a shouting game. He said there is no way that he could be dividing unions, instead they have divided themselves. Khama’s view is that the unions are just too many; in most cases they duplicate the same duties of serving a similar constituency. He cited teachers’ unions as an example – “they have about three unions, if I recall,” he said.
He proposed that they could form one strong union representing all cadres. Under the current circumstances, Khama said unions are only dividing themselves.
He said unions must disengage from active politics to lay the foundation for constructive engagement with government. He said there is a new Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, a new Permanent Secretary to the President and a new Permanent Secretary – a good platform for new beginning.
Khama said government is more than willing to negotiate with unions, “not only at the Bargaining Council, we can also invite them here to engage more and take up our agreements with the Bargaining Council”. He cautioned against politicising unions, and further pointed out that there are union leaders who are using the platform to advance their political affiliations.
RELATIONSHIP WITH FORMER PRESIDENTS According to Khama, he tends to be amazed by some of the reports he sees in the media. “Sometimes, they write as if they are my eyes, ears and they are in my brain, they do not even ask us the material they write about.”
He said it is disturbing for untruths to be written about him and former Presidents like Dr Festus Mogae. He said he has served under Mogae as his Vice President and there is no way that he would not engage the former President, either formally or informally. He indicated that he has a good relationship with Mogae, “I have met several times this year,” he said.
Khama was quick to admit that there are opinions that Mogae can share with the public, “he may have views divergent from mine, but that does not mean that we are not in a good working relationship,” he said. He spoke out strongly against what he termed manufactured stories in the press and encouraged the media to focus on “sharing news and not untruths”.
POST ELECTION FEVER The President said he has the confidence that Batswana as a nation used to participating in elections, will revert back to their normal day to day business following political party campaigns. He acknowledged that politics has the potential to polarise a nation, but based on precedent, he said Batswana have always dealt with post-election period very well. “It is business as usual after elections. You should note that as a government we also do not rollout developments according to political lines,” said the President.
BDP CONGRESS: HOW INVOLVED WILL HE BE? Khama said like all the years, his interest will be to ensure that the process and the outcome do not divide the party. He said any event that has an election has the potential to divide. He pointed out that he is ready to work with whoever will be elected to govern the party.
He said in 2009, the BDP lost about six or more constituencies as a result of disgruntlement emanating from primary elections; therefore he does not want differences resulting from congress elections to divide the party. He said he has already observed that there is some ongoing posturing ahead of the congress and if the atmosphere gets toxic the leadership will step in to address it and restore order. He said as a party they want to manage their differences in an orderly fashion and avoid bickering.
Khama also clarified on the issue of Vice President assuming the role of chairman, he said the arrangement was never cast in stone. He gave examples that he did not become chairman for five years when he was Vice President and that former Vice President Mompati Merafhe was never chairman of the party. We had inquired if the loose arrangement shall hold under current Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi. Khama said the Vice President will look at his roles and determine if he wants to run for chairman. But in essence it is an open race.
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.”