Saturday, January 16, 2021

Cabinet shoves debates to backburner in favour of rule by whim

Government insiders were this week worried that the entrenched culture of debating national policies inside cabinet before they are announced to the public is fast being replaced by a knee-jerk tradition, where the President and his Deputy reach conclusions with far reaching implications at informal and impromptu meetings between just the two of them.

It has just surfaced that, for many of the important decisions announced recently by government, few of them were discussed at least not in detail by the full cabinet meeting.

Like the rest of the nation, a number of senior ministers got to hear about the decisions either over the national radio or national television.

“There is no question that President Ian Khama has no appetite for detail. The biggest problem is that the only person he consults on matters of national policy, Vice President Mompati Merafhe, is overawed by the President and never asks questions,” said a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of annoying the President.

Economic experts, including some officials at the Bank of Botswana who privately shared with Sunday Standard their thoughts on an array of announcements made by President Khama recently, were skeptical about the sustainability of the operations.
“I doubt he (President Khama) knows what he is doing, let alone understand the economic implications of his whimsical announcements,” said one economic commentator.

These include an announcement that unemployed graduates leaving the academic halls will continue to draw money from government until they get employed.

While government has been at pains to point out that this will not affect the public budget, policy analysts are united that without proper structures and planning in place, the implementation of new initiatives are likely to become a hot potato for the government.

The raft of Khama’s announcements include those the President made at the BDP youth congress at Gumare.

At Gumare, the President talked about the government intervening by way of paying the youth involved in various sporting and cultural activities.
“Just to show the lack of seriousness of it all, the State President makes such important national policies at a party function rather than at a national, all inclusive forum,” said another.

Sunday Standard can confirm that the Botswana Congress Party in Gaborone Central is already making arrangements for food vendors in the constituency to prepare to start selling their stuff inside the government premises.

“The first port of call will be the Office of the President and BEDIA (Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority,” said the BCP spokesperson, Dumelang Saleshando.
This follows a directive, from the Office of the President, which directed all government departments, parastatals and government-owned companies to “reserve space for free in your foyers, reception areas or any other convenient space in your buildings to allow small scale caterers and vendors to sell their goods.”

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