It may not have been an easy year for President Mokgweetsi Masisi as the helmsman at the Office of the President (OP), but certainly he has been in control. Upon ascending to the throne on April 1, 2018, Masisi purposed it upon himself to turn the situation around at the OP with his reform agenda. He had promised the nation that his government would amongst others be transparent, consult and combat corruption in all its forms and manifestations. True to this character, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE reports that signs are abundant that things are turning around
FRANCISTOWN: Upon assuming the reigns of power at the OP, Masisi did the unthinkable when he shortly cracked the whip and fired Isaac Kgosi who was by then the director general of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).
Masisi left the nation guessing as he did not specify the reason’s for Kgosi’s axing.
Kgosi’s immediate successor was the intelligence guru, Peter Magosi who was fired by former president Ian Khama from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) military intelligence. As the events unfolded, the nation was gripped by fear, since Kgosi apparently was believed to be ‘untouchable’ as by his own admission, he did not account to anyone including the President.
Kgosi was the head of the feared DIS, a intelligence outfit known for its ruthlessess and incessantly accused of judicial killings.
Kgosi is Khama’s blue-eyed boy.
His firing contributed to the fall out between Masisi and his former mentor Khama more so that Masisi’s administration could not entertain Khama’s insatiable appetite to fly the State aircraft, which was common during era of former president Festus Mogae to Khama’s decade in office as State president.
Khama’s efforts to return Kgosi to the public service through employing him as his senior private secretary was rebuffed, further injuring Khama’s ego.
The Khama/Masisi fallout has become a hot topic within our shores and beyond, but the Masisi administration does not seem bothered by this fallout.
But, by all intents and purposes, the President comes across as a reformist who listens to the interests of the masses. For the first time since its birth, Magosi is on the trail to open the DIS to the public in an endeavour to win back the much-needed public confidence in a discredited institution.
At party and government levels, the pro-Masisi faction is in total control and it seems this poses a danger in that the marginal faction now known as New Jerusalem is fighting tooth and nail for inclusion. The fight for the soul of the party has a danger of further affecting the ever-dwindling fortunes of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
The BDP goes to Kang next weekend to elect their president and already it’s apparent that factions are at each other’s throats. Serowe South legislator, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has broken the party tradition to challenge the sitting President for the party presidency.
Upon declaring that she was challenging Masisi, Venson-Moitoi was fired as minister of Local Government and Rural Development. The Masisi administration within a year in office has won the hearts and minds of the public sector trade unions as it provided a platform to hear trade unionists’ side of the story even when the two did not diametrically agree on issues.
About a decade ago under Khama, the relations between the public sector trade unions and the government were at their lowest ebb.
One of the interesting developments about the Masisi administration is his international relations.
As the face of the country, Masisi seems destined to take the country to greater heights by strengthening relations with the countries within the region and beyond.
He has justifiably been globetrotting, something that will continue to give him exposure to the international norms and standards.
After a decade of tension between the private media and the State, Masisi has opened State House doors to members of the Fourth Estate, which was almost taboo under Khama. Generally, the Masisi administration is credited from many fronts for being consultative in approach as compared to the previous regime.
Currently, ruling party legislator, Samson Guma Moyo is on self-imposed exile, as he is apparently wanted by the law in connection with allegations of breaking the law in a hefty P30 million saga.
Under Masisi, the police have heightened their efforts in combating various crimes especially stock theft under the auspices of Kgomo Khumo campaign and the anti drugs campaign.
State-owned television station, Btv names and shames suspects.
The Masisi administration has been listening to the concerns of the people as demonstrated by the change in the Liquor Act especially concerning trading hours which has been worrying some for a decade as the industry collapsed as a result of stringent regulations.
University of Botswana (UB) senior lecturer in politics, Dr. Kebapetse Lotshwao concurs that within the year of stay in office Masisi has demonstrated to be consultative indicating, “this is important as it allows government to hear the people and respond accordingly through relevant policies and programmes.”
Amongst others Masisi has consulted with trade unions, the private media and the public broadly.
Lotshwao posits that the President is doing a good job of fighting corruption, which became entrenched in the last decade. This corruption has led to loss of public funds, poor project implementation, low quality infrastructure and massive wealth of those involved.
“As the chief diplomat, Masisi has done a good job of representing the country in international and regional gatherings where some critical decisions are taken,” analyses Lotshwao noting that there are still some challenges though where more work needs to be done.
“In my view, thus far, President Masisi is far much a better leader than his predecessor, Khama,” Lotshwao says. He hailed Masisi for consultation.
“That’s very commendable; a leader must consult and not just impose his decisions on people like Khama did for the 10 years that he was in office.”
Masisi has engaged with the media and trade unions and has also consulted Batswana on the issue of hunting ban, which Khama had imposed through a directive.
“He has done very well in the period under review by asserting Botswana’s position internationally as he has attended UN Summit, AU, SADC, World Economic Forum and others.”
“More work needs to be done to diversify the economy,” he says adding that the President has to come out and clearly articulate his strategy with respect to diversification. He adds that more has to be done in improving public services such as health, education and others. The UB don is however worried that not much has changed in public hospitals and schools.
Unemployment especially amongst the youth remains a problem and Lotshwao emphasises, “more job opportunities should be created.”
“Despite the fact that Botswana is among the most unequal countries in the world, President Masisi has not done or said much as to how he intends to address this challenge, which if not dealt with, can lead to instability in the future.” Although no one has been found guilty, Lotshwao insists that many citizens are happy that finally corrupt officials will be held accountable.
“To a large extent, those fighting Masisi within the BDP are fighting him because they see him as a threat to their businesses and economic interests.
They accumulated wealth unethically over the years and they feel very threatened by his drive to cleanse the country of bad governance.” In a recent interview, lecturer political and administrative studies, University of Botswana (UB) Adam Mfundisi said when comparing Khama and Masisi was able to distinguish himself from his boss Khama by proving his democratic credentials as compared to his, “dictator former boss.”
He acknowledged that Khama was anti - private media and did not associate with it most of the time and even accused it of fake news.
He echoed his UB colleague Lotshwao’s sentiments that Masisi is pro- private media and it did not come as a shock to him that the latter has reciprocated with numerous praises of the President.