Tuesday, April 16, 2024

What is Masisi’s immediate priority: A SADC position or the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic?

President M.E.K. Masisi is on full throttle in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region selling his Permanent Secretary Rre Elias Magosi to the Heads of the regional body to be its sixth Executive Secretary. Every time he boards and departs on OK1, a fellow citizen somewhere tests positive while the other succumbs to the ravaging Covid-19 virus. No fault of his own. But it is equivalent to leaving a family member on death bed to go on a hunting safari.

Whether you come back with a kill or empty-handed is largely inconsequential. You will have satisfied the appetite of your hunting escapades. Botswana is in the middle of the eye of a devastating pandemic storm where all hands should be on deck with the remaining few Pula and Thebe invested to weaken the storm. But lo and behold! The President has been, and continues to be in the greater scheme of fighting the pandemic, absent from the overall fight if you were to ask me.   Instead, the President embarks on a costly agenda resource wise, whose outcomes will not weaken the storm or better the socio-economic circumstances of Batswana.

Collins dictionary defines priority as ‘the most important thing you have to deal with, or must be dealt with before everything else you have to do.’ There are grave consequences for failing to prioritise. These are better and perhaps succinctly explained by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe when he says ‘things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’ Fighting the pandemic matters the most but it is at the mercy of a SADC position which in my view matters the least. The President’s conduct in the current circumstances I am afraid, is at odds with the priority definition.  Where and when there are no priorities, a lot of attention and energy is expended all over the shore with the highest possibility of achieving very little to none in both situations.

Proponents of the move to sell Rre Magosi would predictably say government machinery must continue to rotate whether we are experiencing a pandemic or not by citing the ‘new normal’ buzzword. Fair enough. But the sad reality is that the pandemic has exacerbated the already dire socio-economic circumstances such as unemployment where Batswana have continued to lose the few jobs they had to sustain their livelihoods resulting in the furtherance of poverty; the health infrastructure is overwhelmed to boiling points; the economy is almost at a stand-still position because it doesn’t generate enough revenue to get it moving.      

By any stretch of the imagination, I do not intend to play down the significance of Botswana assuming through Rre Magosi, the Executive Secretary position at SADC. From where I stand, that position is more ceremonial (for lack of a better word) than anything else. If anything, the person who stands to benefit handsomely is the occupant in terms of the perks tied the position together with the diplomatic status attached to the SADC Executive Secretary. Even without having a Motswana at the helm of its secretariat, Botswana remains the headquarters of SADC whereat I want to believe, a lot of socio-economic spinoffs accrue. SADC employees who come from outside Botswana have rented Batswana owned properties; Batswana are employed thereat even if most of them could be at the lower ranks of the organisation’s structure.

The false impression created for wanting the position at all costs seems to be that, Botswana will be able to determine and direct how SADC functions. It’s like we will be having some veto powers to determine and direct the functions to suit our own agenda.  The reality is that the SADC Heads of State and Government as the appointing authority of the Executive Secretary, give the strategic directions to the Executive Secretary which he/she must implement. The arrangement is in the mould of the Board of Directors/ Chief Executive Officer where the latter is under the supervision of the former. It is not a position like that of the President who can direct his political party to bring any Bill to parliament for his political expediency which ultimately becomes law. The point I am making is that Botswana, in the event Rre Magosi is successful, won’t have an upper hand in influencing the direction of SADC in her favour more than other countries.

Rre Magosi was headhunted by the President from the same SADC to join government soon after he became President where he assumed the position of Deputy Permanent Secretary to the President. He would be appointed the substantive Permanent Secretary to the President on 1st March 2020. By headhunting him and not promoting one of the many Permanent Secretaries to the PSP position, it is reasonable to suggest the President wanted him and nobody else to turn around the whole civil service to deliver to Batswana by driving the President’s agendas of transformation; not business as usual; inclusivity and so on from the highest public service position. There is talk that government wants to ‘right size the civil service’. Rre Magosi as the Head of the Civil Service would be expected to play a critical role in that regard. One of the promises the President made to public sector trade unions is that the Public Service Bargaining Council would be up and running by September 2018. Nothing close to this promise has emerged.

Now one year after headhunting and promoting Rre Magosi to the all-powerful PSP position, the President is ‘all out to see the back of him’ notwithstanding the many glaring problems and the dysfunctional posture at the Government Enclave some of which would be expected to be in Rre Magosi’s remit. The appointment of Rre Magosi by the President was a huge stamp of approval on him and for that stamp of approval to be removed so quickly into his appointment speaks volumes. Only time will tell. Are there no other Batswana who could be sold to SADC for the position? There are plenty I want to believe. That said, it is fair and reasonable to suggest the two may have had an irretrievable fallout in many or some of the critical decisions the President has taken. By fighting all out to get him the Executive Secretary position could be the amicable and dignified strategy by the President to ‘see the back of’ Rre Magosi.

With SADC comprising 16 countries and assuming the President will visit them all to sell Rre Magosi, he has just began with four, Tanzania being the latest. Thirteen are still to be visited with the overall expenditure possibly to be high. Particularly that he is personally overseeing the campaign process, it goes without saying that between now and August 2021 when the next Executive Secretary will be appointed, the President will be preoccupied with the said campaign. This means without doubt, extensive travelling with attendant high cost.

In my view, the President’s immediate priority is that of seeing Rre Magosi appointed SADC Executive Secretary. Covd-19 pandemic therefore becomes the least priority if we agree that ‘things which matter the most must never be at the mercy of things which matter the least.’  The sky wouldn’t fall if Botswana doesn’t win the SADC position in August. We are in the middle of a ravaging pandemic by virtue of which it becomes everybody’s priority including the President. The poor state of the Covid-19 programme in its totality suggests the President’s priority, as the champion of the Presidential Covid-19 Task Team, lies elsewhere. I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise as always. Judge for Yourself!

Covid-19 is still our immediate challenge, threat and therefore priority. Let us all comply with its preventative measures.

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