In reshuffling his Cabinet President Ian Khama appears to have simply re-assigned his troops, showing great confidence in all. No one has been dropped. The biggest movers were from the backbench where four first-time MPs were elevated to Assistant Ministers position. Thato Kwerepe, Itumeleng Moipisi, Biggie Butale and Kefentse Mzwinila have taken up Assistant Ministers positions at Presidential Affairs; Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services; Investment, Trade and Industry; and Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. It was however in the elevation Dr Alfred Madigele and Sadique Kebonang to full Cabinet Ministers that the President left some observers pondering. Madigele has been promoted from Assistant Minister of Health to run newly created Ministry of Tertiary Education Research, Science and Technology while Kebonang takes over as Minster of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.
Madigele, Kebonang promotions
Both ministries are for sectors that are currently reeling from the serious challenges. At tertiary education, government is grappling with dwindling financial resources for funding students for higher education. Most high institutions of learning are currently finding it hard to survive as Government funding has dried out, resulting with admissions to both public and private tertiary institutions reduced drastically and hence bringing in issues of sustainability of these institutions into question. Claims have recently emerged that a number of these high institutions including the University of Botswana (UB) are on the verge of retrenching to deal with current challenges. Dr Madigele, a trained medical doctor, will also have to deal with accelerating plans to recover costs from students that have already graduated. For years this has been Government’s plan but its implementation has failed. Recovering part of the sponsorship money will ensure that the ministry has a revolving fund from which it could fund other new students. The ministry of education has always proven difficult and hence it remains to be seen whether Dr Madigele will bank on his youthful energies to succeed where others failed. Mandate: “Responsible for policy on student financing, tertiary institutions and coordinating research science and technology development to transform to a knowledge-based economy. Tertiary education focuses on producing graduates that are relevant to industry requirements”.
While Kebonang was seen by most as a performing star as an Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry his new assignment is huge – placing him among senior ministers since the Ministry of Minerals has been and remains the mainstay of Botswana economy. A trained attorney, Kebonang has to face off with a sector that is on its knees – commodity prices provoked by a slowdown in the Chinese economy has seen Botswana mines either closing down or being forced to go into maintenance and care, leaving some employees out of jobs and others unsure of the future. The immediate hot potato on his table is to handle the BCL mine crisis – which faces serious financial challenges as a result of the fall in copper prices. Besides that accidents at the mine have led to a serious stand-off in employees relations. Equally challenging has been the diamond sector – with Botswana mines having been forced to scale back on production due to the decline in demand of their produce. Diamond cutting and polishing firms have been forced to cut down on staff while sightholders – those who buy diamonds for their processing elsewhere – have also reduced interest as jewellery demand declined to the band state of the world economy.
Kebonang also a big assignment of addressing Botswana’s energy challenges, with a big hole having been dug in Government offers after the failed development of Morupule B which cost over P11 billion. It falls with him now to quickly ensure that the country’s power requirements are met and that self-sufficiency is met, particularly that there is a huge deposit of coal which has to be processed for power generation. The big question Kebonang will have to answer in his new portfolio is striking a balance between clean energy and coal processing. Mandate: “Coordinate Mineral Development and regulation of mining activities. Green technology relates to, among others, the use of renewable energy (solar and solid waste for energy generation) to minimize environmental pollution. The combination of alternative energy sources would ensure energy sustainability and security.”
Who will be SEMPs?
In the run-up to the reshuffle it was anticipated that Khama will look out for more experienced administrators to appoint to Cabinet. As things stand, it means that he will either do another minor reshuffle soon or that the candidates for Special Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) will remain in the back bench. The provision for SEMPs has been to help the President bring to Parliament people with special skills – mostly qualified for Cabinet appointment – to help him deliver his mandate.
The new cabinet
Following the re-organisation of ministry portfolio responsibilities on September 28 President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama has re-organised his cabinet. A statement from the Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, has confirmed addition of four new faces to cabinet: Thato Kwerepe, Itumeleng Moipisi, Biggie Butale and Kefentse Mzwinila. Eric Molale is the minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration assisted by Thato Kwerepe. Shaw Kgathi remains Minister of Defence, Justice and Security. Patrick Ralotsia is Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security assisted by Kgotla Autlwetse. Nonofho Molefhi is Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development. Dr Unity Dow is Minister of Basic Education, assisted by Moiseraele Goya. Tshekedi Khama is Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism. Kenneth Matambo is Minister of Finance and Economic Development. Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation. Dorcas Makgato is Minister of Health and Wellness assisted by Dikgang Makgalemele Tshenolo Mabeo is Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development. Prince Maele is Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services assisted by Itumeleng Moipisi. Slumber Tsogwane remains Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and still assisted by Botlogile Tshireletso and Frans Van Der Westhuizen. Advocate Sadique Kebonang is Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. Vincent Seretse remains Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, assisted by Biggie Butale. Kitso Mokaila is Minister of Transport and Communications. Thapelo Olopeng is Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development assisted by Kefentse Mzwinila. Dr Alfred Madigele is Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology assisted by Fidelis Molao. Edwin Batshu is Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The Cabinet appointments take effect from October 1, 2016.