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Khama Cabinet: The shocking and expected


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.
 

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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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