Botswana: Thrown Under the Bus

11 September 2019

The appearance of Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi and his wife Pinny Morupisi at Broadhurst Magistrate court on Tuesday charged with money laundering, abuse of office and accepting a bribery which amounts to misappropriation of pension funds marked the most spectacular fall by the most powerful civil servant.

After almost 37 years meticulously planning his ascension from being an Assistant Animal Production Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture to the highest office in the public service, Morupisi now finds himself fighting for his survival. He is now serving a suspension pending the outcome of the case.

The possibility of being slapped with charges has been hovering over his head for the past 18 months as investigations into the dealings of Capital Management Botswana (CMB) over its handling of pension funds raged on.

However President Mokgweetsi Masisi's trust in him played a part in having him survive the storm until recently. Those close to Masisi revealed that the appointment of Elias Magosi as deputy PSP, a new position in government structure, was telling. It was indicative that Masisi was planning a transition from Khama's favorite man to his own preferred PSP. On Tuesday Morupisi accompanied by his wife walked into the state of the art Broadhurst Magistrate Court, a dejected man - truly in unfamiliar territory.

A powerful technocrat

The Malaka native joined the public service in 1982 as an assistant Animal Production Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture. His real first state of power was when he was appointed Deputy Permanent Secretary in the same ministry in 2006.

Morupisi was three years later appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology after the 2009 general elections. It did not take long before the then PSP Eric Molale moved him to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) as its Director. His ascension was a long and carefully planned process. It was under him that repressive laws governing the public sector workers were enacted. Morupisi found himself in collusion with public sector unions who viewed him as the enemy of the labour movement.

He was the then President Ian Khama's close ally in clamping down the public sector unions and became their number one enemy. Most of the public sector unions' leadership saw their careers ended as they were accused of meddling in partisan politics. Fingers pointed at Morupisi.

In 2014 the ancestors again smiled on him when he was promoted to become the most powerful civil servant - the PSP - the head of civil service. As the most senior public service servant this gave him an opportunity to represent government in most of the boards including at Debswana and Botswana Public Officers Pensions Fund (BPOPF). With the BPOPF seat came the chairmanship of the country's leading cellular phone services provider - Mascom - where the pension fund is a leading investor. It was at these boards that Morupisi tasted the real life of opulence - drawing sitting allowances that were enough to take care of everything.

It was at BPOPF that Morupisi allegedly developed the love for finer things as he was either the chairman or deputy of the boards of companies where they had invested.

It was during his tenure as the board chairman of BPOPF that they partnered with CMB through an investment vehicle called Botswana Opportunities Partnership (BOP). The directors of CMB were Tim Marshland and Morupisi' s blue eyed boy Rapula Okaile, who worked under him during his tenure at DPSM.

Things started to change for the better for Morupisi which drew the attention of the Fund board. As the most powerful civil servant in the country he brushed aside allegations that he might have connections with CMB. He also seemingly enjoyed protection from both the then president and the corruption bursting agency, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), which was under his wing.

Morupisi boat shaking

The BPOPF board developed balls of steel and took a resolution at their meeting last year to report Morupisi who was the board chairman to DCEC following allegations that "he had a beneficial interest through CEO Okaile in CMB."

This came after Bakang Seretse of Kgori Capital raised a concern regarding allegations that the chairman of the fund might be conflicted in some of the dealings. Despite that Morupisi dug his feet in and continued to deny any wrongdoing.

Just a few days before President Khama stepped down as Head of State in March 2018, Morupisi had a shock of his life when DCEC confiscated a land cruiser belonging to his wife, saying it is part of their investigations. Many thought this will signal the end of Morupisi but he survived as Masisi retained him as his PSP to the chagrin of many within the BDP and public sector. Masisi stood by him and said he could not fire him based on hearsays.

"Many people still serving are either under investigation or are being investigated. I don't know what is different," said Masisi at that time.

Morupisi vs Khama

To please his new master, Morupisi turned up the heat on former President Khama who reeling from immense humiliation labeled him 'Hitler'. Khama was seemingly rattled from his comfort when Morupisi ordered Debswana not to give him a lift in their private jet - that was after President Masisi declined to have him use official aircraft.

The relationship between Khama and Morupisi broke irreparably to the extent that one would think they never worked together.

As the judicial heat turns on Morupisi, the former President might be a happy man. Khama has on several occasions said that the time will come when Morupisi, who was his chief advisor, will also face the music.

Morupisi's other major assignment was to serve the then Director General of Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Isaac Kgosi with a dismissal letter.

The bloody Friday

The month of August proved to be a difficult one for Morupisi as his ship began to sink in particular after the arrest of Marsland in South Africa where he is awaiting extradition to Botswana to face the music.

The lawyer acting for Marsland let the cat out, citing Morupisi and Okaile for involvement in the P200 million BPOPF looting, saying they should also be arrested and charged. Friday 30th August 2019 will remain one of the darkest days for the Morupisi family as it was the day he was formally charged.

Like other public figures Morupisi has labeled his charges as politically motivated - signaling that this could mean the fall-out with incumbent President Masisi - whom he would be accusing of throwing him under the bus after fighting his battles.

Morupisi's contract which was extended in February this year was supposed to end in October 2019 when he reaches the mandatory statutory retirement age. With his case set for November, Morupisi might have seen his last days in office. President Masisi has suspended him from duty pending the outcome of the case.

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