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Key factors that could shape Botswana politics


Masire

Botswana has just emerged from one of the most contested elections in her history. For the first time the opposition has suffocated the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to an extent that the party failed to score a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Out of 57 elected Members of Parliament, the BDP has 37; the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has 17; and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has three.


Tati West legislator, Samson Guma Moyo has in the immediate past Parliament desired to table the subject of direct election of the president. This week he told this publication that the subject of direct election of the President will first have to be sold to the BDP members before it reaches Parliament.


He indicated that while he may have wishes, first the motion should be sponsored by the party before it is debated in Parliament. He said the BDP National Council and Congress will first have to deliberate on the subject so that it is agreed to or rejected depending on the views of the party members.


According to Moyo the subject has quiet some weight because it calls for the amendment of the constitution therefore it must be appreciated by party members before being subjected to Parliament scrutiny. He indicated that it was long agreed that subjects which are weighty in substance should first be appreciated at party level.


Meanwhile President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to announce his Vice President as soon as the High Court decides on the matter in which the Presidency and the National Assembly are at loggerheads over the modus operandi of conducting voting in Parliament.

 

Many speculate that the decision will make or break the ruling party depending on the choice of candidate. The incoming Vice President will feel the direct consequences of direct election of the president should it sail through. Former President, Sir Ketumile Masire says he is against the arrangement where Vice President automatically becomes President without going through an election.


The BDP Congress and National Council are expected to chat the way forward as far as the ruling party is concerned. There has been talk of some senior members of the party willing to challenge whoever will be appointed Vice President for the position of President when Khama leaves. It is very likely that the next two congresses could spell a lot of changes in the BDP.

 
Observers point out that whatever the BDP does will also be influenced by the shape and status of the opposition which appears to be ready for full cooperation. The opposition parties’ quest for unity is motivating by the fact that the BDP is a minority government by popular vote despite scooping the majority of Parliamentary seats. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are expected to agree on the subject of unity in preparation for 2019.


PROFESSOR MONAGENG MOGALAKWE’S VIEWS
University of Botswana of Botswana lecturer, Professor Monageng Mogalakwe says Guma Moyo’s motion on Direct Election of President is a good idea.  “I like the idea of the direct election of the President, especially the American type.

 

Such a directly elected President should appoint his own management team, or cabinet from outside the Legislature But it is dishonest, disingenuous   and opportunistic to pretend that this idea is original. This is a well-known position of the Botswana National Front (BNF) which has appeared in its various policy documents on governance,” he said. 


He points out that the motion should not be narrowly focused on the election of the President, but seek a comprehensive review of the Constitution, and adapt  it to the current political trends in the region  and globally.


“For example, there is a need to detach and decouple the Parliament of Botswana from the Office of the President to which it is currently fettered. There must be a clear separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature. The Executive, while having authority and power to run the country on day to day matters, must be accountable to Parliament on both policy and operational issues,” he said.  


According to Mogalakwe, recommendations to make Parliament Independent of the Executive are contained in the Bahiti Temane Report of 2003 on the Study of On the Independence of the Parliament of Botswana. This report is gathering dust on the shelves of Parliament Library. The so-called reforms by MmaNasha are based on that report, and the right thing to do is to have the Report tabled  for debate  by the this Eleventh Parliament.


Commenting on President Khama’s Vice President choice, Mogalakwe said: “This is more than a  BDP internal matter, it is about Khama successor.  The BDP lost the opportunity to entrust its leadership to the more experienced BDP cadres, but opportunistically donated (ba e shoma) the leadership to Ian Khama, apparently to tap on his assumed charisma and political magnetism.  The 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections have revealed that Ian Khama has no such charisma and magnetic appeal. BDP would have been better off under Kedilkwe than Khama. The BDP needs to look for a leader who will revive the fortunes of the party, after Khama recklessly squandered   them.” 

On decisions of the next BDP national congress, Mogalakwe says the BDP would be out of business if it was not  for the fragmentation of the opposition vote.  He said for the first time since independence, and under President Khama, the BDP is a minority government. 

 

“If only the UDC and BCP can get their act together, the BDP would be out of business come 2019. One thing that can prevent the political demise of the BDP is the proportional representation electoral system, which they have dismissed with contempt in the past. Introducing a direct election of the President and trying to smuggle Khama back after two disastrous performances will not assist them much. The BDP should just forget about building the Khama Dynasty. It is now a discredited and failed project. Our Republic should be led by republicans, even if they are BDP,” he said.

UDC AND BCP DECISION ON UNITY
Mogalakwe said there is a need for both UDC and BCP to crack out of this mutually assured destructive mind-set where they view one another as the immediate target to be destroyed, as a tactical manoeuvre towards a long term strategic objective of defeating the BDP.  He said this did not work in 2004, where the opposition lost 12 seats due to split vote, it did not work in 2009, where the opposition lost nine seats due to split vote, it did not work in 2014 where the opposition lost a staggering 15 seats due to spilt vote. It will not work in 2019.  


“In business language, the UDC and the BCP are selling the same product, but are splitting up their market share, much to the amusement of the BDP. If you came from Mars you would not tell who UDC was and who BCP was when you listen to them carefully. The unity between the BCP and UDC cannot be brought about in a mechanical way, but will be a process involving political and spiritual rebirth, and as in every birth, there will be a lot of pain,” he said.

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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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