I am deeply concerned my brothers and sisters. I am deeply concerned about my country; makes me remember Alan Patton of “Cry my beloved country” novel, during my teenage years at “Swaneng ke Swaneng”. Go diragala eng ka hatshe la rona betsho?
Since 2014 or there about, I have spent sleepless nights asking myself this very question; albeit with no answers. Our country has been inundated with streams and streams of arguments and counter-arguments aimed at nothing. Nothing because it seems the arguments and counter-arguments are not providing any answers. The newspapers have been choke-filled with articles concerning politics and corruption, with no end in sight, though this is something (kudos my brethren in the private media industry), at least.
We have been busy cultivating corruption and corrupt people and making them part of our culture. Yes! Culture is man-made; but do we have to inculcate corruption into it (our culture)? Our clinics and hospitals are without the requisite drugs, to a point where, in a bid to cover up for our failures, we have started categorising drugs as vital, necessary and so on and so forth.
A drug is a drug, and its purpose is to save and/or preserve human life; no matter how we try to classify it. So! Let there be drugs, vital or whatever, for our people need them. But, is this possible with this rampant corruption? Hardly! The decade up to 2018 saw unabated and unprecedented corruption in our midst. Let us draw a list (even if I tried or anyone tried, the list cannot be exhausted: corruption has been made part of our culture):
Morupule B Project (P10 billion +)
Fengue Glass Plant (P500 million +)
National Petroleum Fund (P250 million)
Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF) – P400 million))
Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development (MYESC) – BOT50 Independence Celebrations (millions of Pula)
e-Government (P500 million +)
Digital migration (P180 million +)
The list goes on and on … and I am not going to attempt to address all the above incidences; I leave it to you to conjure-up what effect this will have on an ordinary Motswana’s livelihood. At the least, these are some of the scandals that made major headlines and have an everlasting impact on the lives of us, the ordinary citizens.
Do we have any recourse? I doubt; for we are a very humble people and believe all will come to pass. Come to pass, my foot, whilst the majority of well-meaning, hardworking citizens die of hunger and disease. Come to pass, my foot, while the majority of our citizens do not have portable drinking water, accommodation, electricity, you name it. What in God’s name happened to this beautiful country and its humble people? The answer lies somewhere in the just past decade.
We need to be reminded that, with the disappearance of the pension funds, and mind you, this affects the whole public service, a hundred thousand (100 000+) and counting; people are going to suffer. Let us remember that these are the very people who the Unions, Medical Aid Funds, Banks and so on and so forth pester during their active life and avoid like a scourge once they are out of work (pensioning).
Some might ask; but what is the direct impact of this on society? The question is very appropriate, and I will attempt, from my lay-man’s point of view, to hazard (just on the surface though) the impact this unabated corruption has or will definitely have on the masses; I take two or three examples.
Morupule B Project
How many of us depend on electric energy from Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) for a living? Oh! Is it living or survival? I guess the question should be; how many of us depend on BPC electric energy for survival? You might not recognise it, but for us to just survive, we depend very much on electric energy. How many of you ever considered how life “will be” if there is no telecommunications? Just telecommunications, nothing life threatening.
I am saying “will be” because the electric energy fiasco is far from over, and all because of the rampant corruption. Mascom, be Mobile, Orange and even the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) fixed lines and associated services will go down in the absence of electric energy from BPC. The services will go down since all these entities do not have back-up systems, or if they have, they are entirely unreliable. If you think I am lying, just wait and see.
Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) depends on BPC electric energy to pump the very water the lucky few who have access to portable water rely on and if they have any back-up system to talk about, it is not reliable enough for our survival; just wait and see. The hospitals and clinics; do they have any reliable back-up systems? Just wait and see. What use will be our mobile phones, our lap-tops, desk-tops and all such goodies, in the absence of BPC electric energy? Just wait and see. We still import basics like candles, and they are going to be in demand, and expensive; who can afford paraffin with the ever rising cost of fuel? Another by-product of corruption.
Do not let anyone lie to you that our electric energy problems are about to be a thing of the past. I learnt very recently that the sale of Morupule B is on the cards once again. Will this be in the interest of Batswana or we are just opening another avenue for corruption. “Ke a bona madi a motho a saa berekelang, madi a bogodu, a monate thata”. Are these few ladies and gentlemen permanently wired for corruption? Is corruption part of their DNA? It seems, otherwise how does one start to explain their insatiable appetite to destroy “the people’s lives”. In Phikwe we are left in the dark every time the wind blows or it rains. I assume there is no money to repair the very old electrical infrastructure. And where has the money gone? The corruption route; where else?
Fengue Glass Plant
This is yet another project where we failed as a nation, because of the rampant corruption; and we remained and still remain silent. The loss of a job by the then Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) chief accounting officer was not a solution. A thousand prospective jobs disappeared into thin air. These jobs will have gone a long way in alleviating the growing unemployment and attendant poverty. These one thousand people, who would have been employed at the plant, would have assisted us in fighting the growing poverty; we still depend on the extended family structure mind you, and now more than ever; we just might not realise it.
Botswana Public Officers’ Pension Fund (BPOPF)
This one is really heart-breaking; how exactly does one explain stealing from one-self? I thought maybe we could hide behind a finger and claim the government money we steal is not ours; but stealing pension funds, how absurd! So! We steal from ourselves; how shameful! We are talking of money belonging to more than one hundred thousand people, the majority of whom are innocent, hardworking family men and women. In short we are talking of stealing directly from more than three hundred thousand people; that is a sixth of the population. Re bolaile sechaba! I keep saying we; yes it is us because we are as guilty as those with their hands in the cookie jar. We are not making the right noises and therefore we are as guilty as the real culprits.
I mentioned earlier that we still depend on the extended family structure and as such we need to factor in three or more people per “one” of the more than one hundred thousand plus directly affected and we are talking of more than a sixth of our population. Shameful, isn’t it? But here we are, silent as ever. These corrupt fellas take our silence as motivation. We should be making a lot of noise, this despite the legislation denying us the right to peaceful demonstration.
Geez! Fifty years on and we are still not allowed to go into the streets to protest, and it is as normal as going to sleep on an empty stomach, in a dark, little house without portable water! Yes! We are the real cheer leaders! Go on guys, loot the country, there is no one watching! I do not know, “gongwe re tshaba di-sjambok! A mme gone thupa ea bolaya?” On a serious note though, are we willing to subordinate our rights on the basis of fear of being beaten up? Are we willing to let a few individuals enrich themselves at the expense of more than two million people on the basis of fear? Come on!
This deafening silence is amazing and leads me to think that maybe we are all involved. Are we lurking in the shadows, to pounce, in the event that an opportunity presents itself? Or maybe, just maybe, from the extended family perspective, we all get kick-backs from this incessant corruption. I fail to understand how a people, robbed in broad day light, can afford to sit back and relax and think this milking of our economy will come to an end.
You see, corruption is like an infectious disease, it permeates society to a point where everyone is infected. It seems we might just get to that point, a point where every jack and jill is involved in corruption. I call upon you Batswana, let us stand up against corruption, that is, if we are not all involved. We cannot leave it to state machinery like the DCEC, they cannot fight it alone.
As if the above is not enough, our Chiefs are at it. I wrote in one of my past articles that our Members of Parliament (MPs) will soon be demanding luxury, chauffeured seven series BMWs. Before the ink has even dried on the paper, members of the House of Chiefs (Marara), are up in arms demanding chauffeured seven series BMWs. Come on guys! Where will the money come from? The above list represents roughly P12 billion of wasted/looted public funds and you want to add more to these losses. I have just enquired on the price of a brand new BMW seven series (P1.2 million), and from the top of my head we have roughly forty (40) members in the House of Chiefs. So! Our dear esteemed Marara want to take at least another P48 million from the public coffers, and for what, absolutely nothing!
I wish we could take ourselves more seriously. Where is the P48 million coming from? A total of 46 432 candidates sat for this year’s Primary School Leaving Examination, with a 99.9-% pass. Assuming they will all be admitted to Junior Secondary school, we are looking at nearly 50 000 pupils who will need classrooms, well paid and motivated caretakers (teachers, cleaners, cooks, etc., etc.), stationary and the like. Where do you think the money needed to take care of these poor fellas’ education will come from?
These are your very own children, your very own grand-children, ladies and gentlemen in the House of Chiefs, please think of them. It is required of you to be selfless. It is required of you to serve this nation, please be reasonable and stop comparing yourselves to Government Ministers. What will happen to this beautiful country and its humble people if everyone else wants to have what others have? If at least you had a reason for wanting luxury chauffeured cars, besides comparing yourselves to Government Ministers, I might just, just might, be on your side, not now! What value does a chauffeured BMW seven series add to the job you do? Absolutely nothing! You will still be expected to carry out your duties diligently even if you had to drive yourself to work in a “MaoFit”.
Some of us are working very hard to acquire such BMWs for ourselves, without asking the tax payer to foot the bill; why can’t you? Some of us are trying very hard not to be wasteful of public resources, because they belong to the future generation. Let us all, dear Batswana, strive to make this, our country, a bastion of selflessness. We have a future generation to think of. A generation of innocent children. Let us think of them!
Maxwell Mothapelaruri Moathudi writes from Selebi-Phikwe
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.
This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.
The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.
Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.
Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.
Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?
This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.
The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.
So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?
This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.
Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.
I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’ I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’
Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message. Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?
The answer is – as always: now.
This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.
We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.
It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.
Let us start today.
*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana
Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.
So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair. When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees. They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.
It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government. To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.
It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.
If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer. It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.
An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.
On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.
Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country. Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.
Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country. The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?
Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.
When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised. If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?
Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land. Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.
His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.
The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.
The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.
Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.
Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?
The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.
The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly. So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?
COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.
Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.
Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.
Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.
Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.
Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.
Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!
This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety. Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.
Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.