Two contradictory Savingrams from the Ministry of Health & Wellness and the Covid-19 Response Team are said to best depict a poor working relationship at government enclave, which saw Permanent Secretary Solomon Sekwakwa and his deputy fired on Tuesday.
When Sekwakwa was moved from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to that of Health and Wellness as Permanent Secretary, those who have worked with him closely started to pen down his public service obituary. Not because of incompetence but due to his stance when it comes to governance matters and that because he is man who believes in facts and research based decisions. “You must remember that most to the guys who worked at MFDP are very principled and don’t just accept orders from politicians and he is in the same mold as Festus Mogae during the NDP loans and then Serwalo Tumelo with the then Vice president Ian Khama,” revealed a close associate of Sekwakwa.
Mogae in 1992 refused to cancel outstanding loans by some cabinet ministers and MPs to National Development Bank and Tumelo defied Khama by refusing to appoint Joshua Galeforolwe as PEEPA Chief Executive Officer.
On Tuesday evening President Mokgweetsi Masisi fired Sekwakwa and his deputy Dr Morrison Senvula with immediate effect without providing reasons. Highly placed sources at the government enclave revealed that Sekwakwa and Dr Senvula didn’t agree with the number of things and approach taken by the COVID 19 Coordination Team and stood their ground leading to President Masisi dismissing them on Tuesday night.
Sekwakwa refused to comment on his dismissal.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the appointment of COVID-19 Coordination Team led by Dr Kereng Masupu, the exit door for Sekwakwa was slowly opening as he didn’t agree with some of the procurement decision taken by the team. This led to the team reporting him to President Mokgweetsi Masisi that he is uncooperative and doesn’t want to take instructions from the coordination team.
Things came to a public spectacle in March this year when Sekwakwa withdraw a savingram written by the Director of Public Health Dr Malaki Tshipiyagae regarding the mandatory quarantine for all those who came from countries affected by covid-19. The no-nonsense Sekwakwa wrote a savingram the following day withdrawing the savingram regarding the mandatory quarantine as he felt he was not consulted as Permanent Secretary in the ministry. “It was supposed to have been Dr Tshipiyage to withdraw the savingram not Sekwakwa because as it stands now it is clear that there is disharmony at the MoHW,” revealed a source.
Economist by training and profession Sekwakwa is alleged to have had another showdown with health officials in his ministry regarding the procurement of the rapid test kits from a certain company. “He questioned the price of the kits and why that company was chosen and whether there are no any other companies that supply the kits,” revealed inside source, indicating that Sekwakwa even refused to sign for procurement of the kits even after the instruction from the Office of the President citing lack of proper procurement procedures.
The outspoken Sekwakwa who has worked for Ministry of Finance since 1998 is said to have vowed that he is not going to facilitate for corruption practices to manifest before his eyes. The conservative Economist who holds Masters of Arts in Development Economics, Sekwakwa shocked many when he informed the Public Accounts Committee that they have long warned government about looting of the special funds. Appearing before the PAC in 2018, Sekwakwa revealed that they have long advised cabinet to move the special funds to Bank of Botswana. “If cabinet refuses to heed to our first request we will then move to the second stage of checking how the funds are used and whether they are used for the intended purpose. If it is not the case, we will raise the red flag,” he informed the PAC.
Sekwakwa started his working career as an Industrial Planner and has held a number of senior positions since he joined the civil service in 1979. In 1998 joined the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning as Principal Economist Thereafter, he assumed various senior roles at the ministry, culminating in his appointment as Secretary: Development and Budget Division in January 2007.
Not everybody believes Sekwakwa was some kind of a hero. Immediately after his dismissal some of his surbodinates at MoHW took to social media to dispel the myth that he was a principled man, who played by the book.
One of them (names withheld) wrote that, having worked under Sekwakwa for almost 10 years at the Ministry of Finance s/he observed traits that made his leadership deficient. S/he cited poor listening skills, where Sekwakwa would not allow a surbodinate to finish a sentence before he interjected, thus denying himself the benefit of professional advice.
The former PS is also accused of indecisiveness. “When seeking guidance from him you came back even more confused not knowing what you are supossed to do. Later you will be told you did not do as you were told when in fact you were told nothing and no decision or guidance was provided”.
Further, the colleague acused Sekwakwa of being argumentative, very casual in his approach and behaving more like a ‘village clown’. S/he cites the example of Sekwakwa’s withdrawal of the decision by Director of Health Services that all those coming from the UK must go through a 14 day mandatory quarantine. “It is clearly a sign of a leader who does not listen to professional advice and indecision. Dealing with corona virus which is a matter of life and death for people, economy and just our way of life, has exposed and magnified this leadership weaknesses. Now as a nation we are grappling with growing cases of corona virus, most of which are imported from the UK. Other cases from Thailand and South Africa are not as troublesome. Keeping him longer would have delayed the response to covid 19 which would keep us longer in lockdown with more resources diverted from their original intention,” the former colleague argues, firmly.