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Mokaila dragged into tourism wars

Former Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Kitso Mokaila is accused of pulling to a different direction against President Mokgweetsi Masisi, this in the latter’s vision to see the locals leasing and operating the remaining limited concessions.

Mokaila was at the forefront of Masisi’s idea to have citizens operating the concessions in a bid to have the locals enjoying a fair share of wealth in the lucrative tourism industry. Mokaila, was a Specially Elected Member of Parliament from 2014-19 and was not re-nominated after last year’s elections. A number of concerned businessmen in the tourism sector are chronicling how the former Minister is lobbying for a South Africa’s Johan Calitz of Johan Calitz Safaris to lease a Mababe Concession (NG 41).

The area has elephants, buffaloes, leopards and plains game. Not only those, but there are other species like baboons, elands, impalas and kudus. Calitz Safaris is already advertising the packages to tourists as far as America. Mokaila is on record saying the local operators are still toddlers and as such should partner with the seasoned international companies if they are to enter the tourism industry.


“I have been clear about that, this is for them to gain experience and build connections that will allow them to sustain themselves because after all we want the locals to end up owning businesses in this industry.” Calitz is said to have operated the same concession 20 years ago as a community partner, this was until government imposed a hunting ban which prompted him to look for greener pastures in other countries. This publication’s informants say his lease was to be terminated in 2017, but was extended by the Ministry. “But it officially expired last year July,” says a source who adds that, “Now all the interested parties should submit their bids for consideration.”

This it is said to have rubbed the Mababe Community and the traditional leadership the wrong way, as they do not want anything to do with Calitz. A meeting was held last week (15th- 16th January) where they are said to have taken a resolution that they would want to partner with Calitz as Mababe Trust is now on P3.6 million. “The anger from the community is because they feel he has used their resources back then but never made any developments in the area and now they want a new face,” a source from Mababe told this publication on Tuesday this week.

In an interview this week Mokaila said Mababe trust poached him to convince Calitz since they knew each other. “I was approached by the board (Mababe) to link them up with Calitz,” he said on Thursday morning. “And on Monday I met with the board and asked if they have been given blessings by Morafe, because these concessions should be community centric and there are regulations to that effect.”

The local tourism business owners are livid about the engagement of a foreigner, “using the influence of the former Minister is frustrating what President Masisi subscribe to the locals to enter the market,” one furious entrepreneur said. The businessmen are hell-bent that they will do everything at their disposal to ensure that they stop the ‘rot’.

It is said Calitz is marketing the packages though he has not signed lease agreement with Mababe Trust. According to the packages of Calitz Safaris -seen by this publication- shows that indeed it is a money spinning industry. With $70 000.00 license one will get 14 days of hunting an elephant with a trophy of up to 59.4lbs and ivory weight of the heaviest tusk. If not shot, the client may return in the same year at a minimum daily rate, time slot permitting or alternatively may choose to take a refund of $10,000.

There is another 14 day package for elephants and buffalo which goes for $85 000.00. Another one for leopards and plains game is sold at $57 000.00. Buffalo license is being sold for $37 500.00 while cheapest package is for $24 500.00. Mababe Development Trust disowns Johan Calitz . Mababe Zokotsama Community Development Trust (MZCDT) has denied claims that it has allocated its hunting quota to Johan Calitz Safaris.

This follows an Annual General Meeting held by the community trust in Mababe from Wednesday to Thursday (15-16th). The meeting was characterised by feud within the community with section of the community blaming the current Board of a plot to grant the quota to Calitz Safaris without following proper tendering processes. This came after revelations surfaced that Calitz Safaris was already marketing MZCDT quota to hunters during the Dallas Safari Club convention held in Dallas, Texas from January 9-12.

MZCDT chairperson Itumeleng Mogodu refused to share details pertaining to the recent AGM. Mababe Kgosi, Montle Kebualemang, who is part of MZCDT board on ex-officio basis, confirmed the Calitz rumours but distanced the trust from any dealing with the trust. “Yes I can confirm those allegations but the board has made it clear that it has no dealing with Calitz Safaris.

He explained that the AGM came as part of process for the trust to begin hunting after they were allocated a hunting quota by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism comprising of about 20 elephants and other game.   “The ministry is yet to allocate a directors hunting permit to allow us to hunt.  They (government) requested MZCDT to avail audited accounts of the trust before the permit is granted hence this AGM was called.

Kebualemnag explained that a section of the Technical Advisory Committee, a government committee which advises the trusts wanted to know what the relationship of the trust with Johan Calitz after it emerged Calitz was already marketing their quota?
No one had answers and at the end the AGM resolved that an expression of interest for the MZCBT quota will be issued in due course to open it for all the bidders. 

What does it take to lease a concession?

For one to end up winning the lease of the concessions, it is said the community together with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) vet all the submitted bids and look at which one is more compliant with Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). This is done in presence of the adjudicating panel inclusive of BTO and Wildlife officials who then also give CBNRM focused presentation a go ahead. Okavango and Chobe concessions are regarded as prime and every interested party is scrambling for those. There are other concession across the country that are not attracting much interest.

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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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