Defence, Justice and Security still without substantive minister

16 Dec 2010

There is no explicit explanation why, almost four months on, no one has been appointed to replace the former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse.
The ministerial position fell vacant after Seretse, a cousin to President Ian Khama, resigned to answer to a charge of graft, relating to his alleged non-disclosure of his business interests in a family company that had been doing business with government.

Khama, upon Seretse’s resignation, immediately appointed the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Lesego Motsumi, as acting minister but has, to date, not appointed anyone to the position.

While cabinet appointments are the prerogative of the President, the official opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) says it is “greatly puzzled by the unprecedented failure of the President to appoint a replacement.”

Khama immediately filled the vacant position of the late Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Baledzi Gaolathe, when he fell ill. Likewise, when the assistant minister in the same portfolio, Samson Moyo, was made to resign under a cloud, his position was immediately filled.

“We are unaware of his [Khama’s] reasons for not doing so. Is the resigned Minister incapable of replacement? Is parliament without a Member who is capable of running the ministry to the President’s satisfaction? Has the resigned minister done so in name only, and does he remain a functional minister behind the scenes? Is it perhaps the case that the President, confident of the minister’s innocence, is keeping the office open for his cousin to resume whenever the latter’s case is concluded, it mattering not to the President when that will be?”

The government spokesman, Dr. Jeff Ramsay, says he is not aware of anything, according to the constitution, that limits the time in which a minister may also act in a second portfolio by appointment of the President. He would, however, not say for how long a cabinet position may remain vacant when quizzed by The Sunday Standard.

“In this respect, I would further note though it is common for ministers to hold dual portfolios for extended periods elsewhere, while our own Vice President up until 1999 also occupied ministerial portfolios,” says Ramsay.

Seretse resigned from cabinet after the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime charged him for having contravened Section 31(1) as read with Section 36 of the Corruption and Economic Crime Act.

Seretse is said to have had a direct interest as “shareholder and director in a company called RFT Botswana (PTY) Ltd, a company with which the Botswana Police Service, a department under his ministry, proposed to enter into a contract for the supply, delivery and commissioning of Aviation Ground Support Equipment per tender No. PR 2/4/2/08 (XLII), and knowingly failed to disclose, at the material time to the President of the Republic of Botswana, Ian Khama, as the head of the said public body, that the said company in which he had direct interest as shareholder and director, was involved in the tendering as aforesaid.”

The BMD spokesman, advocate Sidney Pilane, is asking questions, numerous of them, why there has not been a replacement to date.

“Are we to infer from the President’s silence that we do not need a Minister of Justice, Defence and Security? That the President realized after his cousin resigned that the country never actually needed to have such a portfolio? Is it perhaps so that the President fears that if he should appoint a replacement, the rest of the Botswana Democratic Party Members of Parliament who qualify may be unhappy that they have been overlooked, and may opt to move to the BMD? Is the President so without trust in the BDP MPs who qualify that he cannot appoint anyone of them to a ministry which, undoubtedly, is a strategic one? Is his cousin the only BDP MP he trusts,” asks Pilane.

The BMD urges Khama to tell the nation why he has not, after so long, appointed a replacement.
“I am told gore BMD is preoccupation ya ga Domkrag. Gatwe gab a bone boroko; matlho a lala a kalogile,” claims Pilane.