A question was asked by Duma FM on Thursday 22nd April 2021 on whether or not it is good governance to be reshuffling Cabinet and/or transfering senior public officers regularly. Duma also wanted to know what does the phrase “serving at the pleasure of the President” mean? The import of the latter question was if H.E is the one appointing Cabinet ministers and senior public officers, why do we question his decision when he transfers or drops them from the job he had appointed them to do?
Let me start my response with the last question or the phrase “serving at the pleasure of H.E the President”. First Botswana at independence chose the path of democracy. Democracy means not only selecting leaders through an open and transparent system where every citizen of agreed age participates but equally critical, that every decision is made after consultation. This is in line with the Setswana saying that says ” Kgosi ke Kgosi ka batho” . Simply meaning that there is no room for autocracy or dictatorship. A leader must always consult others and seek advise before he/she makes a decision. Our Constitution has established institutions and structures such a political party, parliament, cabinet and the public service as platforms that a decision maker such the President, minister or any leader at any level must use to advise him/herself. This is both what democracy and good governance are all about. Anybody who sidelines these structures and institutions is undemocratic, autocratic and departing from the political culture of both the traditional and modern Botswana political tradition.
Coming to the first questions, it is both wrong, naive and poor leadership to be changing your leadership team be it at either Cabinet or senior public service level. We believe you appoint a minister or a senior officer, after careful and extensively consultation and that you have therefore chosen the right person or persons to the position/s. That is, you are not guessing whether the person you choose is capable or not.
When you present your appointees before the public, as H. E or any leader for that matter, you are asking the public to believe and trust that, those are the best members of the team for the task of developing the country which you were elected to do. You are like a man or woman making a span of oxen to plough. The process is not trial and error. You choose the best that will deliver the job. If it becomes trial and error then the job will suffer.
Or to use another analogy, you are like a sport coach, a good coach will always choose the best team from the larger group. This is because you need stability and time to ensure team work and team spirit. Stability and team work are primary ingredients of good results and high performance.
So why then do we criticize H.E the President for doing the transfers and appointments which are within his job description and authority? We do so for five reasons:1. Frequency – since 1st April 2018 when he became President, President Masisi has changed his Cabinet more than three times. Almost once a year. Granted there was a national election in 2019, he has still changed Cabinet twice post 2019. 2. The President has not only changed ministers frequently but even more worrisome, permanent secretaries and directors in public service and parastatal organizations frequently. These actions have brought about instability and memory loss in the whole system.3. Instability brings about poor performance and lack of service delivery. We see this in Health, Finance, and every parastatal organisation organization.
4. Rapid change of President Masisi’s team suggest that he either doesn’t consult or that his advisers are poor or even deliberately misleading him.5. Those inside this government , say it is both lack of consultation and poor advise. You change officials because you did not quite know their ability or because they have betrayed you. We do not know which is which here because he never gives reasons for the transfers or sacking of these officers.Two points need to made here in conclusion, one is that the nation is suffering because of poor service delivery and the second is that if those who are appointed fail to perform it all reflects on the ability of the one appointing them. We know of course that part of the problem is the insistence that only BDP cardholders will be appointed to senior positions in a BDP government. This was a resolution made at a BDP Council meeting and former minister Kgati was fond of going around rooting out non-BDP senior public officers and CEOs of parastatal organizations. Some of these were among the best performers. So the nation should seek explanations of poor service delivery, corruption and poor governance from a deliberate political decision to appoint their incapable members to these positions.
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