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Vice Preident Masisi

Jeff Ramsay



Prior to Wednesday afternoon this author was no more certain than most people as to who would ultimately be appointed as our nation's 8th Vice President. The designation of Mokgweetsi Masisi, however, certainly did not come as a surprise. 

His experience, record of service, manifest skill and success as a politician, along with the obvious trust that he has earned in the eyes of the President, and indeed others, had all along marked him an obvious contender.

At the risk of being labelled as a "LELOPE", in my own view what stands out first and foremost in terms of the personal qualities Masisi now brings to the nation's second highest office is his passion and related drive for confronting the most difficult issues. This quality has arguably been best displayed in his commitment as the leading driver of the Poverty Eradication Programme.

It is not every politician who would with seeming eagerness put his or her political capital on the line by championing a targeted programme to eradicate extreme poverty among the able bodied within what effectively amounts to a five year time frame. When progress in the first phase of the programme, that is the introduction of the backyard gardens, was compromised by water scarcity, others would be inclined to pull back.

But, for the now Vice President the challenge of abject poverty has been too urgent and important to ignore. And so with his tenacious support (as well as that of the President), the programme has continued to progress in the face of obstacles. 

While time will tell whether the programme can fully deliver within its ambitious timetable, what is certain is that already thousands of our country's neediest have been given a necessary hand up.

This fact is reflected in the 1,815 projects that are currently operational across the country, as well as the over 13,000 beneficiaries who have been trained so far in basic business skills, to enable them to sustainably manage their SMMEs. 

In other words as a leader Masisi has not been afraid to take on the toughest, some would say riskiest assignments.

This quality was further reflected in this week's announcement that the Vice President will for now continue with his portfolio responsibility at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development; where he has the critical task of ensuring that much needed transformation gets off the ground through implementation of the education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP).

Those familiar with his vocational background will know that the Vice President's passion for education is longstanding. He was a qualified Secondary School teacher, before joining, in 1987, the Curriculum Development and Evaluation unit; where he supervised the subjects of Social Studies, Music, Religious and Moral Education.

Following a stint of graduate studies at Florida State University in the USA, he played a leading role in the local introduction of Criterion Referenced Testing (CRT), while becoming the National Coordinator for Social Studies Education. 

From 1995 the Vice President worked for UNICEF as Education Project Officer.

Beyond his further contributions to local and regional education, this experience may help to account for his reputation as a diplomat, as reflected in recent years by his frequent service as the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

In 1999 Masisi's academic aptitude was further recognised when he was awarded a prestigious Chevening Scholarship to undertake further graduate studies in Economic and Social Policy at Manchester in the U.K.

Not reflected on the Vice President's CV is private passion for theatre and the arts, which has included personal involvement on stage and in film.  

Besides his lifelong dedication to public service and varied experience, the Vice President's strength of character is exhibited in additional personal qualities including a strong sense of self-discipline, easy acceptance of the need for collective responsibility within an organisation and a resulting sense of loyalty. 

It perhaps says something about the current standards of our public discourse that Masisi's critics have often focused on the latter quality, i.e. that of loyalty, as if it were a defect rather than strength.

Words like bootlicker tend to get easily thrown around by those who fail to appreciate the fundamental fact that loyalty is a necessary prerequisite for any form of collective success, be it at the level of family, in sports and business, or at the highest political level.

 Beginning with Masire's relationship to Seretse, there has in this respect never been a Vice President in this country who has not displayed staunch loyalty to the President of the day while in office. 

For in as much as Ministers may debate a matter fiercely behind closed doors but are nonetheless expected to thereafter display collective ownership of all Cabinet decisions, the Office of the Vice President among other things is generally expected act as the President's point man in the implementation of the Executive's agenda.


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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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