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The driving forces behind Masisi’s Reset agenda

MBONGENI MGUNI CAVIN KANOKO TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
Masisi addressing the nation PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is banking on the Reset agenda to shore up public confidence in his administration and chart a way out for the public disfavour linked to the economy’s performance under COVID-19. But where does the Reset agenda come from and who are some of the brains involved? Mmegi reporters, MBONGENI MGUNI, CAVIN KANOKO & TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE sought to find out about the matter

Local decorated asset manager, Bame Pule, is emerging as one of the early architects and drivers of Masisi’s RESET agenda, the president’s blueprint to reconfigure the country’s economic fortunes and restore faith in his administration.

Pule’s career includes completing investments in the United States, Europe, China and parts of Africa. He is founder and CEO of Africa Lighthouse, a private equity firm which boasts of over P500 million in assets under management.

Pule, whom it is understood has the President’s ear, recently facilitated a full-day workshop for top accounting officers in government, who included permanent secretaries, where he reportedly revealed the genesis of the Reset agenda and his engagement on it.

The meeting also featured executives of agencies such as the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) as well as the Ombudsman.

The workshop, which the attending officials called a retreat, was regarded as the start of rolling out the Reset agenda within the public service, which Masisi, in a public address after the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) retreat, singled out as needing to be fine-tuned or revamped to carry out the presidency’s development agenda.

“I had a meeting with the President on the 11th of February where we talked about the need to bridge the gap between the President and Batswana along with the need to identify stakeholders needed to align the President with Batswana,” Pule said at the workshop, which was later closed to media.

“Our focus is now on the mandate of Vision 2036 and it’s imperative that we recognise the need to reset if we are to align ourselves with that Vision, that we introspect in terms of the services we offer to Batswana.” Coupled with that, Masisi also mentioned the young asset manager’s name at the BDP retreat, referring to him as ‘morwa Pule’ and saying he would help the meeting crystalise its discussions.

The President also revealed that Pule had facilitated the Cabinet retreat held earlier. “As COVID-19 was continuing to hurt, I called those I work with for a retreat to see what to do and I took quick decisions to say we need a Cabinet retreat to put ideas together,” Masisi told the May 8 BDP retreat.

“We had two days as Cabinet and it went into a third day and we had Morwa Pule to help us with these discussions. We had Pule to help us put things together, our ideas together, and these go along with the 2019 manifesto, the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and the mid-term review of NDP 11.”

Later at the BDP retreat, Pule, who spoke after Masisi, would be introduced as a motivational speaker. Acting permanent secretary to the President, Matshediso Bokole told Mmegi that Pule’s presence as a facilitator at the senior officers’ workshop stemmed from his membership of the President’s National Transformation Team.

The 16-man Transformation Team, housed under Vision 2036, was appointed in July 2019 and includes prominent members such as Peggy Serame, Moatlhodi Sebabole, Happy Professor Siphambe, Lorato Boakgomo- Ntakhwana, Simon Hirschfield and others.

“Pule is a young Motswana and there are other young people in that transformation team for a reason,” Bokole said on the sidelines of the accounting officers’ retreat.

“It’s not just about us who are older, the country should be moved forward by new blood, who can think in the current and look at real life challenges in the country and come up with homegrown solutions that are relevant to the time we live in. “He’s one of the members of the national transformation team and this is still part of transformation just that it’s now about prioritisation at this time. So he’s not new to the transformation agenda of this country.”

Bokole explained that implementing the Reset agenda in public administration would not mean rewriting NDP, but rather ensuring the President and Cabinet urgency for delivery is effected.

“What we are saying is

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that we are going to rearrange our priorities and make sure we implement and also review our implementation mechanisms and also make sure there’s close monitoring and evaluation, that there is value for every Pula that we spend towards development,” she said.

“The importance of this retreat is so that we align ourselves to what Cabinet has resolved and His Excellency has shared the five priorities which need to facilitate a reset and accelerate us towards development.”

Within the BDP, some eyebrows are being raised about Pule’s rising influence in matters of economic strategy. For instance, critics were questioning whether the soft-spoken asset manager is being paid for his advisory services and what official role he plays, if at all, in advising the presidency.

Historically, however, Masisi is not the first President to engage private economic advice. Former Cabinet Minister, David Magang, in his book Delusions of Grandeur, says the late founding president, Sir Seretse Khama retained his own “private economic advisor” called Carl Anonsen.

“Seretse, aware of his tenuous grasp of the intricacies of economics, saw to it that he was not mystified or blindsided by what I could term ‘economicalese’ by retaining his own private economic advisor – an econometrics expert of Norwegian origin called Carl Anonsen,” writes Magang.

In a similar fashion, the late Sir Ketumile Masire is said to have leaned heavily on former president Festus Mogae and others for economic advice, while former president Ian Khama looked to the Botswana Economic Advisory Council set up by Mogae.

For his part, Pule has not responded to questions sent to him more than three weeks ago. Mmegi  sought to know the asset manager’s exact role in the Reset agenda, what weaknesses he had spotted in public service delivery and what success chances he believed the Reset agenda would have against entrenched attitudes in the civil service.

The publication had also asked for his response to criticism that economic advisory to the presidency should have been tendered for.

Meanwhile, local hotelier and entrepreneur, Lesang Magang also set tongues wagging recently as being another of the brains that contributed to the formation of the President’s Reset agenda. Magang is gunning to be the BDP’s next secretary general.

The youthful hopeful said he had traveled to 50 constituencies, spoken to “endless” party members and fielded over 1,000 calls before adding his own observations. “In my observations, I have noticed that we agree on a few very basic principles.

It is those principles and philosophies that a group of my colleagues and I have developed proposals for an agenda to Reset the party and Reclaim new ground,” Magang wrote on May 23, about two weeks after the BDP retreat. Still on the matter, Masisi said the Reset agenda was critical to assuaging the fears of Batswana who feel the BDP used them for votes in 2019 and has since lost direction.

 “Batswana must rely on you as democrats to say even if it’s dark, I can trust you. They must be able to hear that voice, that respectful, loving voice and they must know that ‘I can go with these ones’. It must be a voice of trust and one that Batswana can put their hope in,” he told the party’s retreat.

Addressing the nation via Btv after the BDP retreat, Masisi said the Reset agenda would begin filtering into public administration, being aligned to the presidential agenda encompassing his roadmap and the transformational agenda.

He also took a swipe at the civil service where he said incompetence and corruption meant poor project and service delivery over the decades, which in turn caused disaffection to the presidency’s plans.

“We find an evolving culture of a democratically elected but increasingly pliable political leadership of the last three decades, held to ransom by groups of abrasive technocrats in low productivity mode, albeit with rising incidence of corruption,” he said.



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