Botswana: Khama Appoints ‘Outsider’ At Finance

kenneth_matamboFRANCISTOWN President Ian Khama on 24 July appointed award winning economist, Kenneth Matambo, (pictured) to head Finance and Development Planning Ministry albeit on acting basis amid loud dissenting voices.

The Tonota-born economist will take over the reigns at the government enclave from August 1 for four months. This follows Khama’s granting of sick leave on full pay to the substantive Finance Minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, who has been in and out of a South African hospital as an outpatient, where he was recently operated.

Information reaching Monitor from a close family member who could not openly discuss Gaolathe”s ailment, indicated that one of the country’s respected economist, Gaolathe was referred by a local hospital to South Africa.

Our source indicated that Gaolathe was recuperating well to the extent that he was able to go to his office last Saturday perhaps to temporarily clear his office.

In a press release authored by Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Eric Molale, issued last Friday, he stipulates that Khama has appointed Matambo Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning in exercise of powers conferred upon him by section 42(3) (i) of the Constitution, as read with Section 127(6) of the Constitution.

“Matambo’s acting appointment takes effect from August 1 and will be for a maximum period of four months in accordance with section 43 of the Constitution,” further reads PSP’s press statement.

The Tonota-born economist was in 1987 awarded a distinguished AFGRAD alumni award in recognition of professional achievement and outstanding contributions toward the development of his country. The African-American Institute granted the award.

He has had an illustrious career in the public service rising through the ranks from an economist (1972-1974), senior economist (1974-1976), principal economist (1976-1978), secretary for economic affairs (1978-90) and finally Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (1995-98).

To further show the 62-year-old’s shrewdness, in 1990-92 he served as an alternate executive director of the World Bank, based in Washington DC in the USA. Two years later he would become the executive director of the World Bank and affiliates.

He has also held directorships of organisations like Botswana Diamond Valuing Company, De Beers Centenary, Debswana De Beers Consolidated Mines, Bank of Botswana, Global Resorts Botswana (Pty) Ltd, and Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) amongst others.

Matambo has also held acting chairmanship of Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis, Lobatse Clay Works and others.

Independent economist Dr Keith Jefferis has welcomed the acting appointment of Matambo as a wise move under the circumstances.

“Matambo is well vested in the operations of the Ministry of Finance having served in various capacities until he finally ascended to position of Permanent Secretary,” said Jefferis.

Jefferis feels that Matambo has a similar background with Gaolathe. “The man has the right background and the right experience given the years that he had spent in Washington DC, USA as an executive director of the World Bank,” Jefferis added that he had no doubt that Matambo would deliver.

From the political point of view, whilst University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer, Dr Zibani Maundeni respects Matambo as an economist, he fails to understand why Khama has chosen to appoint outside Parliament.

“To me, from both Cabinet and the backbench, there are people who are capable enough to have been appointed to that position,” he said yesterday.

He quickly suggested that from the Cabinet, there are people like Ponatshego Kedikilwe who is currently Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Minister, who as an experienced economist could handle the challenges at Finance Ministry very well. Kedikilwe has worked with economists like former president Festus Mogae at the Ministry of Finance.

He further indicated that from both ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and opposition parliamentarians, there are people who are experienced enough to have been considered “factions and party affiliations aside.”

“In other countries like in the neighbouring South Africa, cabinet appointments are not necessarily the preserve of the ruling party as even opposition MPs are given the national challenges,” he said suggesting that Khama should have looked at all possible options before looking outside Parliament.

Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Botswana National Front (BNF) president Otsweletse Moupo feels the warring factions of the party possibly influenced Khama’s appointment outside parliament.

“One would have thought that Khama would have appointed from his Cabinet by shuffling people around or from within the BDP backbench more so that we only have about three months before the general elections,” said Moupo yesterday.

In his view, the appointment could be reflective of the deeply divided BDP “as consideration is only given to the factions first, before anything else.”

Moupo, who is an attorney by training, says that whilst he respected that there is a Constitutional provision which empowers the President to appoint outside Parliament, “that must be done as a last resort. Anyway, Khama has his own way of doing things.”

Meanwhile, former cabinet minister, Kebatlamang Morake has said that the appointment of a substantive minister outside Parliament is entrenched in the Constitution and should not be a source of worry.

“I am not really certain when, but I think in the past and especially during the tenure of the late Sir Seretse Khama the then president appointed a minister outside Parliament,” reminisces veteran politician, Morake.

BDP Chief Whip, Botlogile Tshireletso has hailed the appointment of Matambo as a wise move. She denied that morale could be low in the BDP backbench as a result of an appointment outside Parliament.

“Matambo is most suitable to act for the position because of his experience and skill. The ministry requires someone with a full financial background and Matambo fits very well,” said Tshireletso who is also Mahalapye East MP.

Mmegi Online

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