Wednesday, October 20, 2021

What if a semi-retired Choppies robber becomes president?

With former teachers having just begun national service as president and vice president, the education ministry has begun to coalesce at the Office of the President (OP) in all its previous and current iterations – which number four in all.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Thuso Ramodimoosi, is a former teacher. The Deputy Permanent Secretary to Permanent Secretary to the President, Ernest Phiri, is also a former teacher. To all intents and purposes, some meetings will take the form of a veritable “Teachers’ Forum” – that being a programme that Radio Botswana broadcasts on Tuesdays. If history is any guide, many more teachers will join the OP, precipitating a cloud of chalk dust so thick that non-teachers would yearn for the days when the OP was a barracks complete with a career obstacle course. History also tells us that with teachers controlling the main levers of state power, key positions in the civil service will be taken up either by teachers themselves or people teachers at OP find agreeable.

Already the headmaster has begun dismantling a vocational-tribalism structure that was built by previous administrations. As Private Secretary to President Festus Mogae and later Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Eric Molale ÔÇô who worked in local government before – is said to have chafed at the profusion of economists in the top echelons of the civil service. As Permanent Secretary to the President, he methodically began dismantling that structure, replacing economists in key posts with Local Government alumni. This cause was helped by the fact that the second president he served under, Lieutenant General Ian Khama, also felt that a lot of power had been concentrated in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. This structure was solidified when Molale entered politics and was appointed Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration. However, it collapsed this month when the new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, transferred Molale away to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. Then followed the transfer of Ruth Maphorisa from the Directorate of Public Service Management to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Molefi Keaja from Local Government and Rural Development to DPSM. Both are local government alumni and while they retain their rungs on the ladder, Maphorisa has been dislodged from a powerful post and Keaja is now second-in-command. Given that the current PSP, Carter Morupisi, has a very close relationship with Molale, it may be just a matter of time before he finds himself somewhere else.

There is a context in which this vocational tribalism holds tantalizing if hugely problematic possibilities. If a semi-retired career Choppies robber ever happens to become president in the future, the highest office in the land will be swarming with a greed of pimp-strolling former Maximum Security Prison residents. The downtime before meetings could see this brotherhood wisecracking about small firearms, stakeouts, getaway cars and designer balaclavas as well as exchanging tales about playing both material blesser and jailer to beauty-queen girlfriends held incommunicado (think confiscated T-bone-steak-sized smart phones) in Block 6 safe houses. Worse still, they could plan another robbery (of the National Petroleum Fund for example) right inside OP.

There is also the very real possibility of a “Fire!” church pastorate setting OP on fire and passing around a collection plate during compulsory in-house worship services.

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