Harare – The Southern African Development Community marked another milestone in its regional development and integration agenda this week as Mr Elias Magosi assumed duty as the bloc’s seventh Executive Secretary.
Mr Magosi of Botswana takes over from Tanzanian Dr Stergomena Tax – the first woman to lead the SADC Secretariat – who completed her second four-year stint at the helm at the end of August.
A statement from SADC said of Mr Magosi, “He has over 28 years of experience in large-scale performance and process improvement, strategic management, human resource management and change management in public, private and parastatal (quasi—government) sector organisations.
“He has a strong background in restructuring, organisational redesign, planning and budgeting, and project management. He has very good skills in communication, facilitation, team development and management, strategic thinking, negotiation, advocacy and high level advisory.”
Mr Magosi holds a Master of Organisational Development degree from Bowling Green State University in the United States, a Graduate Diploma in Management Services from the University of Bolton in the United Kingdom, and a BA Degree in Economics and Statistics from the University of Botswana.
During a region-wide diplomatic offensive to secure the post for his former Cabinet Secretary, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said Mr Magosi was the man for the job.
“We do not bring a fluke to the table, he is no pushover. The man has impeccable credentials. He is a top-rated technocrat by our standards in Botswana,” President Masisi said.
SADC Heads of State and Government, at their August Summit Malawi, picked Mr Magosi for the region’s top civil service job ahead of the DRC’s Faustin Mukela to end what all parties agreed was a spirited though cordial campaign.
While much was made during the campaign of Mr Magosi being the first Motswana to hold the top job, an interesting article in Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper provides an interesting history of the post of SADC Executive Secretary.
Allow us to quote at some length: “In no way do we mean to rain on Elias Magosi’s parade but the honour of first Motswana to occupy the Southern Africa Development Community’s most senior position goes to someone else. That someone is Lebang Mpotokwane who served a stint as President Sir Seretse Khama’s Private Secretary between 1970 and 1973 and was Administrative Secretary in the Office of the President when he retired from the civil service in 1989. It is likely that Mpotokwane didn’t stay in the SADC position for too long because of political intrigue playing itself out in Harare.
“SADC’s first Executive Secretary was a Zimbabwean man called Frederick Arthur Blumeris. Prior to his appointment, Blumeris was Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the European Economic Community – the present-day European Union. At the time, SADC, which was founded in Gaborone in 1982, was itself called the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). Blumeris served from October 1982 to March 1984 when he died in office. Resultantly, Mpotokwane was appointed Acting Executive Secretary from March to July of that same year. He was more than qualified for this role because since SADC’s establishment, he had been serving as First Chairman of the Standing Committee of Officials.
“Mpotokwane recalls that through Vice-President Peter Mmusi, President Sir Ketumile Masire relayed a message that he wanted him to take up the SADC post on a substantive basis. All other SADC leaders, whom Masire had consulted, were comfortable with this proposal – until a few hours when Mpotokwane’s ascension was to be formalised.
“Such formalisation was to happen at a July 6, 1984 SADC Summit that was being held in Gaborone. A night before the Summit, country representatives were entertained to dinner at the Holiday Inn, then the only hotel in Botswana that could host an event of such status. Now on its third name change, the hotel became Gaborone Sun and is now called Avani Sun.
“Mpotokwane says that after dinner … (Presidents Masire of Botswana; Samora Machel of Mozambique; Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia; Julius Nyerere of Tanzania; Prime Ministers Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Prince Bhekimpi Dlamini of Swaziland; Angola’s Minister of Home Affairs, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexandre Rodrigues; Lesotho’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evaristus Sekhonyana; and Malawi’s High Commissioner to Zambia, M Banda) detached themselves from everybody else to huddle in a corner of the hall. Through a messenger, Masire notified the Botswana delegation (which Mpotokwane was part of) that when he was done, he wanted to meet it.
“When the informal mini-summit broke up, a forlorn Masire came over to inform the Botswana delegation that the leaders had resolved that Mpotokwane would not be confirmed as SADC’s Executive Secretary on a substantive basis the following day. Such honour would instead be extended to a Zimbabwean nominee. The rationale was that Zimbabwe still had a few more years left to serve out in that position and on such basis, it was only proper that a Zimbabwean be nominated for the post.
“Masire told his audience that he had done his best to resist but ultimately failed – largely because numerical strength favoured the pro-Zimbabwe position. Resultantly, Dr Simba Makoni was nominated and confirmed as the next substantive Executive Secretary. Thus ended Mpotokwane’s short stint as SADC’s head.”
After Dr Makoni came Executive Secretaries Dr Kaire Mbuende of Namibia (1994-1999), Dr Prega Ramsamy of Mauritius (2000-2005), Dr Tomaz Salomão of Mozambique (2005-2013), Dr Tax of Tanzania (2013-2021), and now Mr Magosi of Botswana.