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Why Tebelelo resigned from BDP

A plethora of factors springing from unmet demands or promises by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and government top brass, are reportedly illuminate why the ruling party’s 2019 election Campaign Manager, Tebelelo Seretse unceremoniously resigned from the Central Committee recently, WeekendPost has established.

Seretse was leading an eight member team that was tasked with ensuring that the party delivers enough constituencies to retain state power. The team managed to deliver 38 out of 57 constituencies. Last week the BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi told journalists that Seretse resigned from the Central Committee in December but he could not provide details behind the departure.

Information gleaned from various sources within the party reveal that Seretse was initially expecting to be among the list of Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) handpicked by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi. “That was supposed to be the case but she was left stunned when she was snubbed from the August House. And since then really, it has always been difficult to say what she can get politically because as you may know, all the vacancies were filled. It is clear she was not going to a Council,” a source said.

As the saying goes ‘piecrusts and promises were meant to be broken’, Tebelelo Seretse is said to have been peace with the fact that she was overlooked in the special selection for Parliament. Those close to her suggest she knew that there were other financially rewarding positions in the offing. Seretse has been a Member of Parliament and a Minister before. However reports suggest that she began to get incensed when most of her campaign team members were not nominated in various council seats.

“She was frustrated to see old horses like Mma Tshiping [Ponatshego] and Mfa [Oliphant] getting the nod ahead of the energetic crew that ensured BDP wins the 2019 general elections. The expectation and somehow agreement was that members of the team will after elections, chair districts they were supervising,” shared an informant on Monday this week.

Following that, it is said Seretse who was managing the Central District in which she was involved in a scuffle with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama (campaigning for opposition) who is also her Paramount Chief, another reward was suggested.  “The other suggestion was she be given a lucrative position as the Managing Director of Okavango Diamond Company and the leadership out rightly rejected that, leaving her bitter like never before especially when considering the ‘sacrifices’ she made for the party,” added  the source close to the developments.

For Seretse, getting this post would have been the last laugh following a tug-of-war she had with Khama during the campaigns. Currently Okavango Diamond Company Managing Director is Marcus ter Haar, who is nephew to Khama. Seretse could not entertain this publication’s efforts for an interview. “Good day, my apologies, I am not available. Will contact you when I am available sir, thanks.”

It is further said Seretse who is a former Minister and Ambassador, also rejected government’s offer of being a diplomat at an undisclosed country. “Remember I have been a Minister, Ambassador and all those senior positions so there is nothing that can entice me,” she told this publication late last year, something which could corroborate that indeed she rejected the offer.

To Tebelelo Seretse, ‘broken vows are just the same with broken mirrors. They will leave those who made them bleed and then end up staring at a fractured image of themselves’ “She has given up on these guys,” said a close associate. The campaign team was made up of Seretse as the head, Bashi Kgakge covering Kweneng and Kgalagadi, Bontsi Monare taking Lobatse and Borolong areas. Pelonomi Bantsi was overseeing Gaborone and Kweneng East, Boyce Sebetela was in Central, Botho Ntirang was heading Francistown and surrounding areas, Kambimbaha Mbahanka at Chobe and Ngami and lastly Benjamin Morokonyana manning Moshupa and Kanye constituencies.

“We are politicians and for us to continue with it (politics) we have to be on the ground. The ground here I am referring to Parliament or Council but any portfolio is okay,” one member of the team opened up. The campaigner could not tell this publication each individual’s demands. Apart from Seretse expecting a reward, it is also revealed that one senior member of the party, Boyce Sebetela who was also guarding the gigantic Central District for the elections is said to have proposed to get blessings from President Mokgweetsi Masisi to contest party’s Secretary General position.

The party will this year assemble for the elective congress and Sebetela, according to sources, wants to dethrone the incumbent Mpho Balopi who is also Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development. Other members of the party were to be awarded various councils to lead as a reward for helping the party to retain power. However, after what has happened to Seretse the other members are pessimistic which observers say it might a ticking bomb for the Masisi led BDP.

Observers however believe that if indeed Masisi promised the campaigners a cut, he is/was supposed to walk the talk, failure of which could result in him losing control of the party. This is based on the fact that the campaign team was made up of known and influential party members and if he does not cooperate they might be against him at the elective congress in July or even in 2022.

“He has done away with the popular names in cabinet and the party. This was done to take control of both, but with the party it is difficult because they might change anytime if they feel you are not trustful. So he should tread carefully within the party so that the influential minds do not revolt against him,” says Political Scientist, Teedzani Mpaphi.

Already the popular names both in the cabinet and party have been ejected. Nonofo Molefhi, Dorcas Makgato and Shaw Kgathi are among those who are now out and the only redemption they could get is to hold senior positions within the party. Masisi’s cabinet is made up of new comers and not so popular figures within the BDP. “So those senior and opinion leading members should be kept close to avoid rebellion,” advised Mpaphi. Other unconfirmed reports indicate that as some senior BDP members reject the diplomatic post, former Minister Bagalatia Arone might be headed to Namibia on an ambassadorial mission.

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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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