Because of the time difference between New York and Gaborone, when Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic Education Dr Collie Monkge went to bed on Sunday night, President Mokgweetsi Masisi had just finished his lunch and was interacting with Batswana living in New York, where he is currently on an official trip and scheduled to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA73) from 25th to 28th September.
During his interaction with Batswana in New York, and while Monkge was probably half-way through his first dream for the night, President Masisi dropped a bombshell. ‘‘I have fired the PS in the Ministry of Education,” he announced to his audience that included, among others, Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials. ‘‘He is an excellent educator however, his actions and methods of achieving my vision is not the direction I want members of my government to take,” a participant at the meeting quoted Masisi to The Botswana Gazette.
The announcemnt came as a surprise to all. A shock even, to Cabinet Ministers and government officials who were learning about Monkge’s dismissal for the first time as the President was announcing it, right there in downtown Manhattan, New York.
Officials in attendance claim that the president had not briefed them beforehand about his decision to fire Monkge. In fact, the President had not informed his secretary, Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi or Government Spokesperson John Thomas Dipowe. Actually, not even Monkge was informed about his fate prior to the announcement, which was decided and sealed 12,556 kilometres away in New York.
Monkge spent his Sunday the normal way where you either go to church or go out for drinks over jazz before retiring home to check if your Monday attire is clean and ironed. He slept on Sunday as permanent secretary. He woke up on Monday, still as permanent secretary and took a bath, put on his favourite suit, had his breakfast and drove to his office where his secretary ran him through his diary. He proceeded to a meeting at the ministry’s boardroom where everyone rose to greet him, as their boss; their permanent secretary. He was his jovial self at the meeting. No Monday blues. After all, his scandal was over, well so he had been made to believe, after Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi travelled to Palapye and apologised to the education managers, administrators and the public at large for the ridicule and demeaning utterances that have been circulating on social media attributed to Dr Monkge.
Addressing the education managers and administrators in Palapye, Morupisi said government has noted with regret the audio clip, alleged to be part of remarks that Dr Monkge made during his meeting with education managers in the sub region.
Some political parties and organisations however continued to call on Monkge to do the honourable thing and resign from his position. He refused. Meanwhile President Masisi listened to their protests.
When the participant at the New York meeting alerted this reporter on what President Masisi had announced, credible as they were, we still needed to contact at least three officials to affirm the veracity of the reports. PSP Morupisi’s initial response to whether it was true that Monkge had been fired was a short ‘‘No’’. When told that President Masisi actually made the announcement in New York, Morupisi responded, ‘‘I can’t confirm that because ke mo gae’’ (I’m here in Botswana). Those close to him say indeed he was in the dark, more so that he had thought the matter was closed after he had met with the aggrieved parties and apologised on behalf of Monkge.
The next person to contact was Government spokesperson John Thomas Dipowe whose initial response was ‘‘I haven’t heard anything. Where did you get the report?’’. He got the answer, New York. He promised to check with his colleagues in New York once they woke up.
The next person to check was Minister of Basic Education, Monkge’s political boss, Bagalatia Arone. Initially his phone was off but later in the day he read the WhatsApp message and did not bother to respond.
It was also important to contact the main character in the sitcom. A call to Monkge’s office was answered by his secretary who confirmed it was business as usual in the professional life of her boss. Monkge was in a meeting with other government officials, in his capacity as the permanent secretary.
At 1450hrs, Monkge responded to the WhatsApp message that sought to establish whether he had been indeed fired. ‘‘I haven’t been officially informed. Thanks,” a short and sweet response.
It was only on Tuesday at around 11am that Monkge finally received his dismissal letter, signed by Permanent Secretary to the President Carter Morupisi. Monkge finally confirmed his dismissal in an interview with this publication. ‘‘Obviously the president wanted to humiliate me but all the best to him as Almighty will make final judgment on my strong beliefs and what I stand for in the appalling and deterioration of student learning outcomes’’, he expressed his disappointment.