President Lt Gen Ian Khama has appointed his Cabinet and once again the President has done it his own way. The nation however has had less to talk about with some observers saying Khama had to do with what he had following the defeat of most of his senior Ministers in the just-ended elections. Others however posit that the Cabinet brings nothing new as the president has just recycled his cabinet.
This, some political commentators argue, does not bring fresh ideas that the ministers would bring, especially considering that some had served for quite some time in some Ministries and failed to bring out any meaningful change or transformation.
During the educational crises mayhem, Khama reshuffled his Cabinet in a bid to address the matter. It is not known whether the crises reshuffle has yielded any positive results as nothing has been said yet.
There are ongoing debates around the world that with the fundamentals of the economy deteriorating, it may be time to have discourse on whether it is time to consider the appointment of experts as Government ministers, as opposed to the current method which has been labelled by some, as nothing more than a patronage system.
What we have seen not only in Botswana but regionally and perhaps globally, is the appointment of ministers based purely on political as opposed to technical competences. This has been the case all along despite a few skills being utilised in one or two Ministries. The Botswana Constitution provides for four specially elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and such individuals are chosen to provide their specialist skills to parliamentary discourse.
There have been concerns, too, that the specially elected MPs are normally the President’s cronies but Khama’s choices, this time around, are well-deserved, according to observes. They, however, question former High Court judge Unity Dow’s deployment to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
“What skills is she taking to the Ministry when the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security she could have been given has gone to former youth, sport and culture minister Shaw Kgathi?” they posit.
Kenneth Matambo, they say, has been rightly re-elected to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for continuity purposes, together with Kitso Mokaila to Minerals and Water Resources – a hard worker of note who they say is results-oriented.
Mokaila studied to become an auto technician at the Swaziland College of Technology, and after graduating he joined the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in 1980. While serving in the army, he studied Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in India.
Academics around the world, research says, have shied away from debate on this critical issue of skills and Cabinet posts. Tim Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the London School of Economics in his academic paper, ‘Do Democracies Select More Educated Leaders?’ notes that modern political economy literature has “not only neglected the problem of political selection, but it has been positively hostile to the topic”.
This he posits is very important aspect of national development that has to be considered carefully by all stakeholders in a nation.
Writer Perry Munzwembiri also argues that it is highly improbable that an individual would trust an engineer to manage the legal aspects of their life, nor would they solicit the services of someone skilled in law to handle their personal finances.
“Be that as it may, when it comes to governmental level, this is what has been the norm. Can a country leave its financial and economic planning fate in the hands of a lawyer? This discussion becomes particularly interesting when one looks at economic and finance ministers globally, especially in light of the global financial crisis,” he writes.
The only risk with such a system, and what a significant risk it is, is that ministers who lack the requisite technical competence are more likely to make bad policy decisions, as their scope of understanding key issues affecting their ministries may be limited.
In Botswana, however, as in many regional countries, there have been arguments that technical competence is not as important for ministers, as it is the Permanent Secretaries and Director Generals who are charged with the actual running of the department on a day-to-day basis, from our British inherited system of government.
In Botswana, Ministers are just overseers and permanent secretaries run the show, this has come in handy in times where Ministers have been defeated by their political rivals.
However, there are concerns that their prominence as the face of the Government in whatever ministry they are in, it might be argued how it is critical to appoint ministers with the necessary skills and competence to oversee important portfolios.
A clueless Minister, some argue, will rubber-stamp everything that comes his or her way. A person with a good grasp of finance and economic matters, for instance, has always led the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. This trend has been adopted in a number of African countries.
Munzwembiri argues that it may be worthwhile to have the debate on whether it would be beneficial to the countries’ developmental cause, if experts in different areas were to be appointed as ministers to run the portfolios of the fields they are experts in.
“The increased understanding they have of their domains, and the skill set they possess, would better equip them to tackle the various challenges faced by the country. Again, the odds of avoiding policy missteps would be lessened, and the correct and proper decisions would be made at ministerial level. No doubt this is a highly sensitive subject as there may be many political forces at play in the appointment of ministers,” he argues.
He continues that for now though, governments are content at selecting ministers based on their political value as opposed to technical competence to a greater degree.
“It may well require crises of epic proportions to effect a change to this line of thinking, which will see experts being appointed as policy-makers,” he argues.
Political appointments have been a subject of intense debate in Botswana as many are convinced that Khama safeguards ministries where he has interests with trusted fellows. A case in point is the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism where his brother, Tshekedi, has been not been removed as is the case with a number of Ministers.
Tshekedi Khama has a Diploma in Business Management from the Institute of Development Management (IDM), as well as a Certificate in Animal Husbandry from the University of Botswana and Swaziland.
Observers say another eye-raising move is that of Kgathi, who was transferred from the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to the Office of the President (OP) and currently to a senior ministry of Defence, Justice and Security.
It is unclear what has swiftly catapulted Kgathi to the high echelons of power, but insiders suspect his blind loyalty to the powers that be could be the key. They add that Kgathi is too submissive and would not dare jeopardize the growing trust and relationship between him and the President. This they say is the beginning of better things to come for Kgathi. He was academically well suited for his former Ministry having graduated with a Master degree in Public Administration and a Masters in Sport, Culture and Development.
One man many had long waited to hear of was Khama’s closest friend, Thapelo Olopeng who heads the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture. Many had seen him as a full Minister but not at the sports Ministry. It is therefore not surprising that he is the only new MP to be a full Minister but it is not clear what skills or experience he will be taking to the Ministry. Observers say he is youthful and has been very active in the Khawa Dunes games in which Khama is a regular partaker. Olopeng has a certificate in Financial Management, a Diploma in Business Management and Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).
Another key Ministry is the Ministry of Health, which has been given to Dorcus Makgato backed by Dr Madigele, a trained doctor.
Makgato has a Masters in Science and Finance. She is a survivor and a results-oriented woman who has built herself a reputation of a ‘bulldog’. Although some observers say she was doing well at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, insiders say the Ministry of Health had to be given someone competent following the departure of all its Ministers who lost the elections. The Ministry has been under constant criticism for failing Batswana under Rev John Seakgosing. It remains to be seen how Makgato will fare at the controversy-prone Ministry.
Another interesting Ministry is that of Lands and Housing, which has been given to Prince Maele, allegedly to silence him. He has been an outspoken Backbencher and was fearless and often hostile to the Khama regime in his comments in Parliament. He is taking over a dead Ministry that has only itself to serve. It will be interesting to see whether Maele will be able to turn things around following the failure of his predecessors to breathe new life into the Ministry. He holds a Degree in Public Administration and Political Science.
There neglected Ministry of Education, which has been talk of the country, has been given to Mokgweetsi Masisi and Unity Dow. Observers say this is an insult to Dow, who deserved a full Ministry and not to work under a self-centred Masisi whose credibility has been dented by none other than himself.
Masisi graduated in the fields of Education and Economics-Social Policy and Social Development. Dow, however, insiders say, had never wanted politics but was forced into the game by the BDP which was desperate to wrestle the Kgatleng Constituency from the opposition.
“Dow was thus identified as a suitable candidate and this is basically a reward to her hesitant ‘YES’ to the BDP. Dumping her would have soiled her rosy reputation,” a source said.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.