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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.