Tshekedi: The Almighty

SHARE   |   Monday, 24 October 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Tshekedi Khama Tshekedi Khama

The rot at Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism and Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) which is unraveling before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises (PCSB) portrays Tshekedi Khama as an untouchable minister, who only listens to himself. In a short space of time it appears Tshekedi Khama has emerged as the most powerful cabinet minister who has all resources at his disposal at times not seeking  cabinet approval to carry out his wishes.

Tshekedi scales the skies 
Immediately after being appointed Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism (MEWT), Tshekedi Khama embarked on an ambitious project of curbing poaching which was threatening the country’s fauna. In order to command both air and ground spaces, MEWT started to equip themselves, procuring four Jabiru J430 aircrafts in November last year. In an interview recently Minister Tshekedi confirmed that his ministry has also bought another aircraft which is used for official business and was quick to add that other ministries have been using it also. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) recently procured eight helicopters that will be used for anti-poaching and some are currently in Maun and Kasane. The ministry has been busy on a recruitment drive of pilots, most of them being poached from Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Air wing.

Tourism Intelligence Security
Minister Khama has indicated his desire to have their full-fledged anti-poaching unit and stop depending on other security agencies. In the past DWNP used to get intelligence information from BDF Intelligence Unit as well as Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) but after the appointment of former BDF deputy Commander Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo as the Director things have changed. DWNP has now established its own intelligence unit known as Tourism Intelligence Security and this was done without an Act of Parliament that will allow them to be recognised as a disciplined force and qualify them to can carry weapons of war. The unit is said to be made of former members of Military Intelligence. The establishment of TIS is said to have created tension among security agents who feel the new kid on the block is intruding on their space. This, security experts have warned, poses a great internal security risk the multiplication of intelligence units that are equally armed is a danger. Minister Khama has hailed his intelligence unit, saying it is most effective as it deals with specific area. “Yes, we have our own intelligence unit and is the best so far compared to others which deal with multiple issues while ours deals with wildlife intelligence,” he said recently.

Building of three multimillion anti-poaching camps
As a way of stepping up their anti-poaching efforts, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism through DWNP is building anti-poaching camps in Kasane, Maun and Kang. The design for the three camps which will each cost P70 million has already been completed and just awaiting construction.

Disregarding of the PS
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Elias Magosi broke the silence on his relationship with Minister Khama this week, saying it is a very difficult one. Magosi said Minister Khama does not consult him on any decision that he takes though protocol dictates that. He said that he has even reported the issue to Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi but nothing has changed. Recently when appearing before the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises Minister Khama said that he only works with people who understand his vision and think outside the box – taken to be a direct attack on Magosi.

BTO – a tuck shop 
The governance rot that is currently prevailing at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) has been best described by the chairman of the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises (CSBSE) Samson Moyo Guma. Shocked at how BTO is being run and the side-lining of both Chief Executive Officer Thabo Dithebe and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Elias Magosi, Guma leaned on his roving chair, shook his head and said, “Mo ga lona ke semausunyana hela (this is just a mere tuck-shop),” and then stood and asked to be excused for some time. On the hot seat were the former BTO CEO Dithebe and PS Magosi with Minister Khama having snubbed the hearing to travel overseas.

Dithebe’s notice reduced to five days
The first thing to shock the CSBSE was the  announcement by Magosi that Dithebe’s notice of resignation has been reduced from end of November to five days, ending 21st of October 2015. “There was discussion that CEOs notice be cut short and the meeting was attended by Minister Tshekedi, Acting PS Monggae and acting chairman of Board of Directors for BTO Lawrence Khupe,” said Magosi, who added that he only heard about the development when he arrived in Botswana last week Friday. Guma looked at him with his trademark smile that reveal his front teeth, tried to say something but paused and smiled in amazement again while MP Pius Mokgware held his mouth as if has heard of the passing of a close relative. After gaining some composure Guma posed the question which was clearly obvious. “So you now have a board and when was it appointed because last time when you were here with the minister both you said there was no board of directors?” asked Guma leaning towards Magosi. Without hesitation Magosi revealed that Khupe is the only board member who has been there for some time.

I have never met the lone board member – Magosi
Surprisingly he informed the committee that since he was appointed Permanent Secretary he has never met Khupe but only saw his signature on some documents though he is the accounting officer. Boteti North MP Sethomo Lelatisitswe asked if it was possible to have a board which comprises of only one person and Magosi answered in negative. An official from the Attorney General’s chambers advised the committee that the board chairman implements decisions of the board of directors but in their absence it will be illegal for him to just reduce the notice days for the CEO. Magosi, who seemed to be fed up by how he has been treated by his principal, revealed that he has tried to advise Minister Khama that he cannot unceremoniously cut short notice days for the CEO as he was in charge of lot of projects and proper handover was needed. Asked if his advice was taken, he shook his head and Guma who was the most puzzled and shocked committee asked rhetorically. Is this happening in Botswana…! “Guys are you serious this is happening in Botswana and done to you as Batswana or you’re not nationals of this country?” said Guma, sipping bottled water.

CEO’s sorry salary
Next on the menu was the realignment of BTO structure which was approved by Minister Khama on the 16 of August 2016. The realignment saw the daughter to Botswana’s Ambassador to United Kingdom (UK) Jillian Blackbeard be upgraded to Executive Manager earning P49,000 per month and Legal Officer Tswelelo Kebatlile upgraded from B5 to B4 and earning P50,000 per month. Mokgware’s question on how much was the CEO earning after the restructuring sent the whole committee into unison ‘aaaah!’ as he said his basic salary was P42, 000 much lesser than his junior officers. Dithebe said he tried to refuse to sign the proposed new structure by Minister Khama as he was not part of it. “He came to my office accompanied by Jillian Blackbeard and forced me to sign the letter,” said Dithebe, with a shaking voice.

David Newman’s wife
Another appointment that Dithebe said that he vehemently refused to approve was of Changu Newman, the wife to David Newman, Botswana’s ambassador to USA as Tourism Attaché based at Washington DC. Dithebe said that the reason he declined to appoint her was because she didn’t have the right qualifications as she has Diploma in Event management while they need a graduate and failed the interview. Though he refused to appoint her as Tourism Attaché it later turned out during the hearings that Newman has already started her work in Washington DC.

The Comair deal
In 2007 Comair was tipped to be a strategic equity partner in the controversial privatisation of Air Botswana and the deal fell off as the two parties couldn’t agree on the commercial terms of the proposed management contract in 2008. Mokgware asked about the allegations that BTO wants to take over Air Botswana and has already started talks with Comair. “Yes, it true they have been meetings between Minister of Finance Kenneth Mathambo and Minister Khama but I was not part of the meeting,” revealed Magosi, who added that the then Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenelo Mabeo was also not part of the meetings. He said that the talks are at advanced stage to transfer Air Botswana to BTO and be managed by Comair.

Dithebe, Magosi parting shots
As they were about to wrap up their interrogations on the two, Guma asked them to summarise their working relations with Minister Khama. “I was working under serious duress and they were times where he will come with Blackbeard to my office and force me to sign things that I didn’t know,” said Dithebe almost in tears.Asked if he has ever reported this to Magosi who is the accounting officer, he answered in affirmative. Magosi said that on several occasions he has tried to engage the PSP about his working relations with Minister Khama but that seemed to only make matters worse. “It was very hard on both side and I even tried to report to President Kh…” Guma stopped him before he could even finish the name Khama.