Batawana Paramount Chief Kgosi Tawana Moremi II will reclaim his ancestral land known as the Chief’s Island in the heart of Moremi Game Reserve as government is in the process of handing back the contentious concessions belonging to the Batawana tribe, WeekendPost can authoritatively reveal.
In 2019 prior to the much anticipated 2019 general elections, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi promised Batawana that some of their issues would be resolved amicably citing the Maun Educational Park and the Moremi Game Reserve which the tribe had long called on the government to return to the community. In a letter dated 2nd March 2020, Tawana Land Board wrote to the Tribal Administration citing that during the board meeting which was on the 20th January 2020, considered the Savingram from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Tourism referenced ENTC 6/33/9/1 IX (42);
“In this regard the Board resolves the following; to inform Batawana Tribal Authority that Tawana Land Board is in receipt of the Savingram that the government of Botswana has handed over Maun Education Park to Batawana Community,” reads the letter signed by Land Board Secretary, G Basalumi. “Therefore, the board approves the transfer of Maun Educational Park from the government of Botswana to Batawana community. The community is therefore advised to form the Community Trust or submit the name of the established Trust in order to facilitate the transfer.”
Speaking to WeekendPost this week, the Mobilization and Publicity Executive at Matsaakgang Regiment which comprises of Kgosi Tawana II, Douglas Mokenane said a provision will be made at a Kgotla meeting which will be held soon to determine the rightful custodian of the said land. Mokenane said morafe will be given the opportunity to come up with ideas on how the land will benefit the community going forward.
President Masisi acknowledged that Kgosi Tawana II used to debate the issue in Parliament but assured Batawana that they would get their property back following the laid government procedures. He explained that the issue was being handled by the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Tourism to process and return the property to the land board. President Masisi also pointed out that the issue of the Chief’s Island concession would also be allocated through the same process.
Mokenane told this publication that the issue of Batawana land was delayed because some people had vested interest in the land. “As far as I know, there has never been any appeal by the Tawana Land Board that necessitated the Ministry to intervene. This is stipulated in the Tribal land Act, instead government should request the Land Board and not give directives as was the case,” he said.
The morafe spokesperson said both the Maun Educational Park and Moremi Game Reserve were established by morafe under the Land policy of 1939, before independence. “The Dikgosi were custodians of land allocation under the customary law”, said Mokenane. He said as the people had no money to maintain the land they allowed government to run it on behalf of the community. According to local press, Kgosi Tawana Moremi has in the past maintained that the Chief’s Island is his personal property.
He contended that it was traditionally his forefathers’ hunting ground. The Minister of Tourism at the time, Tshekedi Khama, said there was documentation to prove that Batawana gave Moremi Game Reserve—which they formed as a tribal territory in 1960—to the government. The same sentiments were shared by Matsaakgang spokesperson who pointed that the Chief’s Island belonged to Lelwapa la bogosi.
However, Keith Diako of Batawana Advisory Committee, Kgosi Tawana’s contention has been that, when all prime tourism areas in the country were taken from Tawana Land board, a number of concessions were transferred to foreign business people without consultation with locals. “The Land board are administrators of the tribal land, on behalf of the people, the land does not belong to them. But certain pieces of land were transferred from Land board custody without consultation and chaos emanated from there. There was no longer accountability.
A Minister appointed those he wanted to run the show and allocated the land to those he/ she wanted,” Tawana said. However Mokenane is of the view that government’s decision to come up with conditions is only because they want transparency and accountability in the manner in which the land will be run. He said in the past the Batawana/ Ngamiland Founa Conservation Society was the one which managed the land in question until 1979. He however said the Trust has not been active because it was only established to run the land but after the land was transferred to government the trust became inactive.
Mokenane said some members of the trust have passed on however he did not rule out the possibility of resuscitating the Trust but said the decision lies with morafe. He said another Trust was called Kgamelo which was established to fight for the land ownership of Batawana. In another twist, Mokenane said ever since government took control of the Batawana land which they know has been making a lot of money, no royalties were ever paid to the community. He said as morafe, they do not want to believe that no monies were ever paid to that effect citing that they did not want to rush any decisions.
Mokenane did not rule out the possibility of taking a legal route if the royalties are not paid but chose to say the decision will be made by morafe. Kgosi Tawana, has been at battle with government which has been simmering over for years now. At the centre of the controversy, is a 2014 directive by government to take Okavango Delta from Tawana Land board management and place it in the custody of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), through a controversial initiative termed ‘The Land bank’.
The current situation is that state land is controlled by Central Government, under the Ministry of Land and Housing and BTO; an arrangement which does not sit well with the Ngami-land people in general. The land belonged to the Batawana people and in 1962 Chief Moremi's wife saw that the local wildlife was being decimated by the hunters and created Moremi Game Reserve.
The Reserve covers large tracts of the central and eastern areas of the Okavango. It is dominated by Chief's Island which was the Batawana Chief's main hunting ground in historic times. The region is vast, with areas of permanent floodplains as well as drier seasonal areas. Moremi Game Reserve has a vast range of habitats which supports a great diversity of animal life; from large herds of elephants all year round to the waterways; home to numerous hippos.
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.
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.
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.”