oshua Galeforolwe and Serwalo Tumelo, former classmates from Swaneng Hill School in Serowe and now the two big hands behind PEEPA, have nurtured seething resentment. What started off as a dispute over the way forward for Botswana’s privatisation has now snowballed into a live and let die battle for survival.
Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) Chief Executive Officer, Joshua Galeforolwe, knocked off from work with a promise of an offer to renew his contract.
The following day, he found himself without a job. There were no good-byes. No hand shakes. Just an unfriendly order: “This man must leave this room.”
With only Parks Tafa on his side, board chairman, Serwalo Tumelo, sat amid empty boardroom chairs and ordered Galeforolwe out of the PEEPA boardroom saying, “This man must leave this room. He can not sit in our meeting because he is no longer employed by this organisation.”
By Monday morning, staff members were trading gossip as they pored over a memorandum announcing the expiry of the erstwhile chief executive officer’s contract, signed by Tumelo.
Galeforolwe had not finished clearing his desk when Tumelo’s memorandum was withdrawn by Cabinet. By the end of this week, he was back behind his desk, and board members were tendering their resignation letters in protest against Tumelo and Tafa’s decision.
Galeforolwe’s first term at PEEPA is full of such moments. Earlier this year, he found himself with his back against the wall as he stood eyeball to eyeball with Tumelo over PEEPA’s way forward.
Galeforolwe feels that Privatisation should be guided by legislation. This position is supported by the International Monetory Fund (IMF) and the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC).
Tumelo, on the other hand, is not ready to let go of his hold on PEEPA. He prefers the current position where the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning says the last word.
When Vice President Ian Khama and the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) moved in to give the privatisation process a push, they found Galeforolwe and Tumelo roiling over how PEEPA should move forward. Khama and BEAC recommended that Galeforolwe should start reporting to the Office of the President, instead of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
Tumelo, who is also Permanent Secretary in the ministry, bulked at the decision.
The result of Tumelo’s resistance is a letter in his top drawer, summoning him to appear before Vice President Ian Khama for insubordination. With a warning letter from the Vice President’s office, Tumelo’s career seemed to be on the skids.
Galeforolwe and Tumelo, former classmates from Swaneng Hill School in Serowe, have nurtured seething resentment, and what started off as a dispute over the way forward for Botswana’s privatisation has now snowballed into a live and let die battle for survival.
With Galeforolwe’s contract coming up for renewal, Tumelo and his board apparently seized the moment to get rid of the PEEPA chief executive officer, once and for all. Instead of reappointing Galeforolwe automatically, as was expected, the PEEPA board placed adverts inviting applications for the post of PEEPA chief Executive Officer.
As was the case with the previous tussle, Khama took sides with Galeforolwe and ordered the PEEPA board to reappoint Galeforolwe automatically.
Tumelo, however, braved a suicide mission. He seemed determined to put his career on the line, just to ensure that Galeforolwe is ousted from the PEEPA top post.
With a “never disobey the Vice President again” warning letter in his top drawer, Tumelo plugged his ears to the Vice President’s instruction and proceeded to process applications for the PEEPA top post.
In an interview with the Sunday Standard, earlier this year, Press Secretary to the President, Jeff Ramsay accused the media of exaggerating the difference between Khama, BEAC and Galeforolwe, on the one hand, and the PEEPA board, led by Tumelo, on the other. Ramsay was at pains to convince the Sunday Standard that ‘there may be policy disputes, little divisions that will be resolved.”
The full extent of the differences, however, played itself out in public this week, with Tumelo throwing out a Cabinet recommendation to appoint Galeforolwe and kicking the PEEPA chief executive officer out of the boardroom. Amid empty boardroom chairs, Tumelo, with only Parks Tafa on his side, ordered Galeforolwe out of the PEEPA boardroom saying, “This man must leave the room.
He is no longer employed by this organisation.”
Those close to the controversy say the stakes are much higher than Tumelo and Galeforolwe’s posts.
It is understood that two PEEPA board members have an interest in one of the companies bidding to buy Air Botswana and Galeforolwe has been frowning upon what he felt was a conflict of interest. The whole strategy was, thus, to get Galeforolwe out of the way.
Others are reading an even more sinister motive into the attempt to oust Galeforolwe. That it is the same old Tswana and Kalanga battle playing itself out all over again.
They point out to the Ministry of Finance’s decision to drag its feet in renewing CEDA chief executive officer, Thapelo Matsheka’s contract. It is understood that the strategy, which is part of a much bigger scheme, is to frustrate Matsheka out of office. There is, however, a slight problem with this analysis – Tumelo is not Kalanga.