Senior government officials had to drop everything and make time to put together President Ian Khama’s speech for the Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing Congress two months ago ÔÇô it has been revealed.
A savingram dated 23rd April 2008, titled `Contributions to HE`s speech to the BDP youth wing` was circulated to a number of Government offices soliciting their input.
The document reads, in part, ` Please go through the attached list and respond to the issues following under your portfolio responsibilities in written form, and revert to the writer by 1500 hrs today`
It was further noted that the matter was to be treated with urgency, and, the conclusion goes “So, please let us meet 1500hrs deadline without fail.”
The Sunday Standard set out to investigate, and in the process encountered the convener of the spin doctors, himself, Mothusi Nkgowe, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture (MSYC)
In authenticating the document at issue, he stated, `It’s just that the Directors of the affected departments are not housed in the same building, otherwise it would not have been necessary to write the savingram. `
Further more, Nkgowe submitted that it was only incidental that at that particular point the information was directed at a BDP Forum. ` We would still render the service to anyone, including opposition, political parties had they presented similar requests`.
Additionally, he asserted that, it should not be made to appear like we were instructed for some ulterior reason, outside our mandate.
Nkgowe`s denial not withstanding, it has been established that he was acting on a time specific instruction from his bosses, thus the first sentence in the last paragraph of the letter he wrote to his juniors `The information is needed at the OP this afternoon (same day the instruction and the savigram were issued).
One might think that opposition parties would be heartened by this reassurance to have privileged access to written speech form information for the use at their own congresses. Instead they elected to take offence.
“To me these are indications of a reckless regime,” lamented Taolo Lucas, Botswana Congress Party spokesperson.
The reason why they would get government officials to contribute to a speech of the BDP Youth wing in this manner, is “to the current leadership the divide between government and the party is non-existent”.
In addition, whilst the O.P is entitled to gather information for use by the President, the BCP criticized as unacceptable their decision to go to the `extreme` extent of asking information for the express purpose of being used at BDP forums.
The BDP executive secretary, Dr Coma Serema, holds the view that although, “the central committee is mandated and indeed drafted his Excellency`s speech, through a sub-committee appointed for that purpose”, he finds nothing untoward about Directors being used in the manner that they were.
“They are part of long channel, in the process of research”, he quipped.
Dr Jeff Ramsay, Head of Government Information and Communications Services, sees no train smash either. “His Excellency by virtue of his position is entitled to information when he needs it,” he said.
Moreover, he argues that Government officials were in the ambit of their duty when they performed the task, in spite of the fact that the information was meant for use outside government structures.
All civil servants, it must be noted according to the Government Communication Chief, are bound by General orders to serve the incumbent Government, whether it’s BDP, BNF or any other party.
However, the Botswana National Front’s Moeti Mohwasa, on the other hand, frowned upon Ramsay`s postulation, saying it is inconsistent with Botswana’s declared system of a non-political public service.
It is generally expected that the ruling party has been mandated by the nation to govern, through the ballot, on the basis of a clear cut policy framework. It is this set of policies that public servants are to implement with a clear conscience, regardless of their own political or religious convictions.
To have these people serve the partisan interests of one political party, in this case, the BDP, in Mohwasa`s view, amounts to trampling on their moral consciousness and a denigration of their professional integrity.
Attached to the savigram under discussion, was a list of eleven items, headlines “ISSUES TO BE DONE BY THE MINISTRY FROM HE”.
Some of the items, include, ensuring the creation of Youth Post officer in every ministry, increasing partnerships with NGO`s that deal with Youth issues and facilitating Constituency League Tournaments.
There is also, `Talent search for all spheres of arts e.g. poetry, drama etc.
Thapelo Ndlovu, the National Director of Media Institute of Southern Africa ÔÇô Botswana chapter, suggested that, by clouding the line that separates the party from Government, a situation is being created whereby accountability and democratic governance would be relegated to the dark ages, and authoritarian rule, creeping into our once upon a time enviable democracy.
Perhaps Government should make it sufficiently clear at what level or what positions are political appointments, with a view to drawing a line of distinction between positions where people are elevated through progression on the one hand, and those that appointed on the basis that they will genuinely represent the interests of the ruling party.
The BNF spokesman posited that these may not be card carrying members but that they should show the ability or potential to effect change in line with policies of the ruling party, with due respect for their professional integrity.
One school of thought exists, and it paints a picture of the BDP steeping into a state of political bankruptcy , such that even as they see their leader going solo on serious issues, the least they can do is invest in the hope that an election victory be assured.
Khama’s appointment of army officials as his cabinet and senior government officials is an indication that loyalty is paramount, and therefore political expediency may be a consideration in appointments. If this should serve as a premise, it follows that he would not have people whose political inclination he does not trust to draft him a political speech.