Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Rise and Fall of Carter Morupisi

Carter Morupisi spent his days of active duty surrounded by power, influence and all the trappings that those bring.

This week he cut a lonely figure of isolation and helplessness when he appeared in caught in chains.

He had not seen that coming.  Morupisi spent a better part of his adult life walking along the corridors of power.

He thus would never have prepared for such a humiliating spectacle of himself.

Appointed Permanent Secretary to the President in 2014, he was always a call away from the president. For the last few years now, he has always been a presence at the table when key and momentous decisions were taken.

As Permanent Secretary to the President he is the head of the public service and also Cabinet Secretary.

That makes Carter Morupisi one of Botswana’s most powerful people.

The Head of State relies on him for some of the most sensitive errands.

Fast forward six years, Morupisi is a man in deep trouble with the law.

Many of those people that feted him when he was still in office have since deserted him.

Morupisi became the public face of Government’s onslaught on trade unions by former president Ian Khama.

And when Khama retired from office Morupisi became Masisi’s most prized attack dog.

He was at his most vicious when showing off his skills against Khama, the man who appointed him to the highest office in the civil service.

At one point Khama teased him that he was trying to buy his own job, as there was somebody waiting in the wins to take over from Morupisi at any time.

Khama’s statement has now proved prescient.

This week government announced that Elias Magosi has been appointed Permanent Secretary to the President effective March 1.

Morupisi is officially on suspension. His contract with government will come to an end March 29. Down the line the possibility of time in jail awaits.

A career civil servant, Morupisi started his public service career as a veterinary field officer in 1982. He was to later work under supervision of such professionally trained hands like Micus Chimbombi.

Later when the tables had turned Morupisi controversially forced Dr Chimbombi out of his job as a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Dr Chimbombi went to court and the judge found in his favour.

A High Court judge said either Morupisi or the Attorney General, Abram Keetshabe had lied under oath.

He maintained that it was not possible that both of them could have been honest when giving evidence.

“Both Keetshabe and Morupisi showed great determination; enthusiasm and desire to have Chimbombi exit the civil service at the earliest opportunity. Morupisi wanted the letter from Chimbombi urgently, whilst Keetshabe on the other hand delivered the message in real time. This is demonstrated by the hyper speed at which Keetshabe moved to Chimbombi’s office as if the skies were falling, interrupting government business; viz, the Minister’s meeting with Chimbombi, without ascertaining its importance. The need for Chimbombi to exit the civil service preceded in Keetshabe’s view any other government business and the fact that he had no information about why his fellow Christian friend as he calls him, had to leave service there and then was of no consequence to him.”

It is clear the relationship had started to sour when both Dr Chimbombi and Morupisi were at the ministry of Agriculture.

It is likely that Morupisi seized his progression to PSP to mean a payback time for those who had crossed him along the way, including Dr Chimbombi.

Morupisi’s first big break came in 2006 when he was appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

After a short stint as Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure he was immediately promoted to a Permanent Secretary and then moved to the Directorate of Public Service Management.

In his home village in Malaka, Morupisi is not counted among the popular natives mainly because he often runs roughshod even on his own.

When Eric Molale retired from civil service in 2014, Carter Morupisi was appointed to replace him as Permanent Secretary to the President.

If president Ian Khama’s intention was to find somebody who was unlikeable and divisive as Molale as a replacement, then with Morupisi he was successful.

He relished the power and glamour that came with the job, but as time went by, he often seemed out of his breath. Judged by his appointments of the senior civil servants and also the general performance by public service during his tenure, there is no evidence to suggest that Morupisi grew into his job.

He leaves a legacy of a polarized civil service.

Today’s paralysis in the public service is in no small measure the after-effect of divisive leadership styles of both Molale and Morupisi.

Morupisi relations with trade unions were brash, openly hostile and unapologetic.

He maintained a combative if often entirely consistent posture.

But he stuck to his guns and took no prisoners, along the way achieving in the unenviable status of being public enemy number one among various trade union.

He became the lightning rod for trade union disaffection with government.

As when he sacked a Council Secretary Koto Molefi on the spot.

The PSP was accused of arbitrariness, overreach, heavy-handedness and disproportionateness.

When he was called to appear in court he demurred.

A High Court Judge was not impressed.

“I’m not going to listen and allow the PSP to tell me on how I should conduct the business proceedings of this court. I’m not going to postpone this matter just for the sake of PSP. But I will allow you to advance your position going forward,” said Justice Ketlogetswe in response to a Government lawyer who had said Morupisi would be willing to come to court when he is not busy.

But it is his time at Botswana Public officers Pension Fund where he served as Chairman that has brought him into trouble with the law.

At BPOPF he presided over investment decisions surrounding the billions under the control of BPOPF.

He made decisions surrounding asst management companies that included CMB; an unconventional company owned and led by an unconventional man called Tim Marsland.

His meeting of paths with Marsland is an encounter Morupisi might leave to regret.

As it is Morupisi had been under the DCEC (Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime) radar for a while.

One morning he received a call. On the other end was the DCEC Director Joe Mathambo.

Mathambo had with him a charge sheet he wanted to read to his boss. The charges related to Morupisi’s time at BPOPF, specifically his alleged dealings with Marsland and CMB.

It was the beginning of a scandal that was to carry Morupisi through a whirlwind.

So too was the beginning of the end for what hitherto looked like a glamorous public service career.

The following day he appeared in court to face the same charges. Also charged was his wife, Pinkie.

And then a bombshell; President Mokgweetsi Masisi suspended him.

Elias Magosi – a backroom operator who had hitherto remained in the shadows even as it was clear he was being groomed to take over from Morupisi was immediately catapulted into the spotlight.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary to the President, became Permanent Secretary to the President and also Cabinet Secretary.

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