There is an unprecedented shuffling of chairs at the Government Enclave as the transition phase enters final push. Senior government officials are being reshuffled with others seemingly being retired while new blood is being infused in to take charge of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration when he assumes presidency on April 1. Interestingly, the focus for now appears to be on appointing officers to positions of Deputy Permanent Secretary and below with permanent secretaries being allowed to continue working with their ministers. Things, however, are set to change after April 1 when Masisi would be expected to undertake a major overhaul which will include firing some of the ministers and their deputies. As new president, Masisi will barely have the luxury of time as he would be expected to work overtime to ensure that his party – Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) –retains power next year. The party almost lost power in 2014 when an opposition coalition did exceptionally well at the polls, forcing the BDP to have its popular vote fall to 46 per cent. All eyes are on him to lift the spirit of the nation by creating more jobs, appeasing the public servants through a generous salary increase and re-energising the economy. It is anticipated that the 2018/19 budget that will be unveiled on Monday will carry an enhanced development provision to fund projects that will endear Masisi to the nation and in particular voters who will determine whether they give him a full presidential term in 2019 or not. Masisi will immediately appoint a new cabinet that is expected to carry new faces while also reallocating portfolios to retained ministers. Like his predecessors it appears that the Ministry of Basic Education remains the biggest headache that he will have to resolve. The current minister Unity Dow has faced growing criticism for deteriorating performance in schools. Masisi knows the education challenges well as besides being an educationist, he had at one point been appointed to act as education minister as President Ian Khama grappled with trying to find solutions to the sector.
Even after dividing the ministry into two, performance issues have remained at Basic Education. It falls to Masisi to restore confidence that the future of local children will be guaranteed and protected through provision of quality education.
As Vice President, Masisi has been overseeing and assessing the performance of ministers and this works in his favour as he already knows those who are not pulling their weight. It suspected that he will not retain ministers who opposed his rise to presidency. A section of senior ministers had also at some point openly told President Khama that Masisi was not good enough to be his successor. Under automatic succession constitutional provision, the Vice President automatically takes over as President when the incumbent retires or suffers any calamity that leaves him incapacitated from serving the country well. While he would have forgiven some of the ministers or could be held back by their competence to sack them, he is set to wield his axe and chop those whom he feels went too far. Minister Nonofo Molefhi who contested against Masisi for party chairperson seat and assistant minister Biggie Butale who supported Molefhi are among those mentioned in some quarters as ministers that will be dropped. However Molefhi’s huge experience public administration could work for him as Masisi needs the best brains around him to deliver. His main problem is the fact that the party has a weak backbench with only a few individuals with the capacity to lead at ministerial level. Most likely he will promote economist Bogolo Kenewendo to at least an assistant ministerial position and reward veteran politician Guma Moyo with a full ministerial position. When most were unsure of Masisi capabilities, it was Moyo who shouted loud about his credentials and worthiness for the top job. He canvassed for Masisi relentlessly, winning over those that previously doubted him. Kenewendo together with MP Mephato Reatile – former MP for Ngwaketse West – were parachuted to Parliament under a special dispensation that saw Parliament amending the Constitution to increase the number of Specially Elected Members of Parliament from four to six.
This provision was introduced primary to assist the ruling party to bring individuals with special skills and those critical groups that would have been under-presented into Parliament. However, the BDP has been accused of abusing it by rewarding loyalists than securing highly skilled individuals. Reatile is also likely to be promoted to cabinet. In this month’s promotions and deployment Government has moved swiftly to install substantive leadership at Mass Media Complex where two directors were appointed to head broadcasting and information wings respectively. The positions had lied vacant for some time with individuals appointed only on acting capacity. Veteran media personnel Maria Leshongwane and Keiterele Mathapi are new directors of information and broadcasting respectively. With almost 20 senior appointments in just two weeks, it appears the Head of Civil Service, Carter Morupisi, is under instruction to get the wheels of Government business running faster with optimal deployment of personnel to critical sectors.