Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Matsheka most qualified and competent Minister of Finance we ever had’

Former President Festus Mogae has been dethroned of a title that he has held for decades – best finance minister in Botswana’s history.


The dethronement came courtesy of the Leader of the Opposition and Maun West MP, Dumelang Saleshando, who wants to convince parliament that President Mokgweetsi Masisi is doing a lousy job and should step down. He is doing so through a motion of no-confidence that he has tabled before parliament.


By way of demonstrating Masisi’s incompetence, Saleshando told parliament that where stability would be desirable in a ministry responsible for the government’s response to a historic pandemic, Masisi has instead been rotating ministers and senior civil servants in and out of key positions in the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Masisi replaced Dr. Lemogang Kwape as heath minister with Dr. Edwin Dikoloti. The former is a medical doctor and the latter a veterinary surgeon. The president also replaced the Permanent Secretary in the ministry twice and the Director of Health Services thrice.


Saleshando added that it was also ill-advised of Masisi to replace Dr. Thapelo Matsheka as finance minister with Peggy Serame. Saleshando described the former as “possibly the most qualified and competent minister of finance we ever had in over 55 years.” To prove his point, Saleshando said that last year’s Hansard will show that the budget that Matsheka presented to parliament was so expertly crafted that both the opposition and ruling party MPs agreed that Matsheka had done a good job. Last year, however, Masisi decided to “outspan” Matsheka (redeploying him to the Ministry of Infrastructure & Housing Development) “simply because he has the powers to do so.”


Matsheka’s redeployment did indeed shock some people. He holds a Phd in Economics from the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom, an MPhil in Monetary Economics from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and a BA in Economics and Demography from the University of Botswana (UB). After a stint teaching monetary and macro-economics at UB, he became founding Chief Executive Officer of the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency and after serving for seven years, joined AON Botswana as its CEO. In 2017, he left AON in 2017 to establish Fiducia Services, a business support services company that is based at the Gaborone International Finance Park.


After winning the MP seat for the Lobatse constituency, Matsheka was the clear favourite for finance minister and was indeed appointed to the position. With that appointment, Matsheka became the first financial economist to become finance minister. Naturally, people were shocked when he was redeployed and it has been alleged in the media that the redeployment happened because he proposed an audit of Covid-19 expenditure. Interestingly, that audit did happen and while nothing implicates the powers-that-be, it is a long-standing tradition that the draft of national audit report is edited by the same powers-that-be before it is released to the public.


Matsheka was Botswana’s sixth finance minister after Sir Ketumile Masire, Peter Mmusi, Festus Mogae, Baledzi Gaolathe and Kenneth Matambo. Until 1998 when Ian Khama joined politics, the Vice President doubled as finance minister. VP Khama quit that position after holding it for some months and it was then that Baledzi became the first non-VP finance minister.


All along, the admittedly arbitrary title of “best finance minister ever” has been held by Mogae.

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