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How hawkers were legally dislodge from GH periphery

UTLWANANG GASENNELWE| LEMPOETSE KEETSALETSE| LESEDI KATSE

Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation approved a request by Gaborone Hotel owner Bipin Aswathi to acquire more land within the hotel’s periphery, despite the decision resulting in displacement of informal sector traders, who have been in trading in the area for nearly 30 years.

Aswathi was awarded the extension of the land legally by the government through the Department of Lands in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services in 2015 effectively evacuating the traders.
The 700m2 space extension has become the centre of dispute between hawkers and the hotel owner, with the war heightening during lockdown when the owner of the hotel capitalised on their absence by erecting a new fence.

The fence has since been removed following intense negotiations, but hawkers only have three months to move elsewhere. The grace period however is not inclusive of lockdown if at any point government imposes it during State of Emergence period.  WeekendPost has established that the first hawker occupied the area in the early 90’s although he, together with tenths of others who came thereafter will now be disposed of the rewarding space in a blink of an eye.

This is notwithstanding that the hawkers have known no place other than the bus rank. They have therefore attached business and emotions to the place due to its traffic which leads to more customers whom they built over the years. In a separate interview Thusanang Bagwebi President, Kagiso Masupane said they slept in the freezing police cells over the weekend for their rights adding that their removal from their trading space at the bus rank is heart-breaking.

“We are sad by the development to push us out of this area. We are not happy at all. We came and settled here for a reason. This place brought us more traffic, more people and therefore more customers,” he emphasized.
He further asserted that nobody cares to listen to them and their cry, even government – possibly because of their social status. “We do not even have a direct Ministry responsible for us and our plight in our trading sphere,” he pointed out.

‘‘We are probably not listened to because we are from the lower hierarchy of socio-economic class, we are poor with no financial backbone and stand in our society that’s why they are easily pushing us out,’’ he lashed out.
The contentious matter have seen old wounds being licked following COVID-19 lockdown as a confrontation ensued between the hotel owner, the hawkers and the Police.

The move led to the erection of the fence by Aswathi during lockdown and subsequently the illegal removal of the same fence by hawkers who were later arrested. It is understood that the business magnate have since 2017 been engaging Thusanang Bagwebi Association, Botswana Informal Sector Association (BOISA) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU).

“The misinformation and/or reluctance by the Gaborone City Council and Department of Land to ‘clarify’ Gaborone Hotel’s ownership of the (extended) land and the information was confirmed by the Department of Land, Anti-corruption unit on the 26th May 2020 as valid,” the 3 unions stated. Ministry of Lands Management, Water and Sanitation Services also confirmed the land ownership to the naturalized Motswana of Pakistan origin.

“An application for extension of lot 75830 was approved in 2014 to SNB Investment Botswana and an offer was made to the applicant in 2015. The extension, measuring 700m2 was made from a portion of the remainder of plot 13963. SNB Investment Botswana holds title to the land as of 22 June 2015. The extension belongs to Gaborone Hotel under SNB Investment Botswana,” Chief Public Relations Officer Alice Mmolawa told WeekendPost this week, speaking on behalf of Permanent Secretary Bonolo Khumotaka.

It is understood that Gaborone Hotel established that they had engaged Department of Lands and GCC for the past three years in an effort to avoid using force and legal proceedings against the hawkers even when prompted by Botswana Police on the 22 May 2020, after complete removal of the fence.

The move was confirmed by the business tycoon who told WeekendPost that: “I have been having consultations and negotiations with the hawkers through their unions since 2017 and I have been patient with them. I have consequently, this time around, given them three months ultimatum to have moved out of the place.” He stated that they have reached a common ground between the two parties and agreed that they would also withdraw the court case and police case.

This came after the hotel owner dragged them to court through an urgent application to force their removal from his place. Speaking to WeekendPost, Botswana Police Service Station Commander at Borakanelo Police, Superintendent Amos Solomon confirmed that the incident had been reported while stressing that both Aswathi and hawkers have been charged for separate offences.

“Both hotel owner and the hawkers were charged. The hotel owner was charged with erecting the fence during the COVID-19 lockdown and hawkers charged with causing malicious damage to private property,” he pointed out.
He further said that their cases will go to court as scheduled.

According to Solomon, if found guilty for contravening lockdown regulations, he emphasized that the hotel owner faces or is liable to P1000. In terms of malicious damage by the hawkers the sentence is 3 years of imprisonment or an amount of between P1000 and P2000. Contacted for a comment, Gaborone City Council Senior Public Relations Officer Segametsi Kebonang hinted to this publication that Council has no plans for the specific bus rank traders but has a master plan for all of them.

“We have a master plan, which is to register all the informal sectors traders and allocate them spaces which they are currently occupying in due time – so that they are formalized,” she highlighted. When asked on national broadcaster regarding the future of the bus rank hawkers being evacuated, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Peggy Serame also stated that they will be allocated spaces but she did not say where nor provide the timeline for that endeavour.

This state of affairs comes after BFTU and BOISA continue their efforts to implore the government of Botswana to review and implement regulations adapted to the needs of micro and small enterprises. These, they highlight, should be alongside the legislation of informal businesses, based on international best practices. “We call on GCC and the Department of Lands to prioritise the land challenges faced by hawkers and engage them to find a solution,” they concluded.

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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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