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Friday, 19 April 2024

Can Cyril Mend Fences?

Opinions

The ANC is riddled with factional fissures that threaten its stability and prospects for yet another tilt at Mahlamba Ndlopfu. Is Ramaphosa its redeemer? BENSON C SAILI provides a perspective.

It is one of the most bilious and spiteful facial innuendoes ever captured by a video lensman. If looks can indeed kill, then this one qualifies by the truckload. When Cyril Ramaphosa, 65,  was announced as the new ANC President, Jacob Zuma frowned, glowered, scowled, pouted, pulled a face, pursed his lips, turned the corners of his mouth down. Practically every hint of rancour in the book competed for a slot on his now seamed but still telegenic face while those noxious seconds ticked away. If there was such a thing as giving somebody a black look, that was very much it.

But that was what we saw with the naked eye. What was going on in his mind as he trained such an obviously churlish and disapproving eye at his No. 2 who is now No. 1 in the ANC structures and No. 1 designate in the structures of government? Was it a foretaste of his own medicine that he self-seekingly administered to Thabo Mbeki when he staged that famous palace coup of September 2008? If only we could read minds!  

It is no secret that Zuma was rooting for a woman first president of the ANC not that he has that much regard for the honour, dignity, and psychosocial peace of women.  He has married six times, impregnated the daughter of a close friend, and raped yet another daughter of a deceased comrade-in-arms because she came into his presence, so he said, wrapped in a kanga, which to him was a tacit invitation to bed her.  To him, women are no more than chattels, a mere means to satiate an end of sorts, which Nkosazana Dhlamin-Zuma apparently has been of late, and not to genuinely and impassionedly  love.

Nkosazana as we all know is  Zuma’s ex-wife, his third.  He was married to her from 1982 to 1998.  Zuma, who has 22 official children and as a atypically virile 75-year-old counting, has four children with Nkosazana, 68, meaning the two retain a tangible and enduring bond. Recently, they entered into a political marriage which was consummated when Zuma closed ranks with her as his  preferred future president of the Republic of South Africa.

If the truth may be told, Nkosazana was nudged to contest by Zuma, or Zuma’s children with Nkosazana, on behalf of Zuma. Why?  Because in her, Zuma saw his insurance policy against possible, in fact likely, prosecution once he constitutionally stepped down in 2019. With those 783 counts of corruption and fraud ticked against him on the rap sheet, I can swear by Gerrie Nel that at least one will stick fast, like Super Glue, and land him smack-bang behind bars for a lengthy stretch. That, folks, is the reason why Zuma threw his hat into the ANC presidential ring in the guise of Nkosazana and why he eyed Cyril with such glaring malice aforethought at the Nasrec Conference Centre.  

MANDELA’S BLESSINGS FRUCTIFY AT LONG LAST

Addressing the press the day after an election in which only one woman made it in the Top Six of the ANC echelons, ANC Women’s League President Batlabile Dlamini lashed out at the continued patriarchy within the 105-year-old party. She regretted that Kaizana OR Tambo, to whom the 54th National ANC conference was dedicated, must be turning in his grave to this virtual misogyny. Kaizana had in his gentle, mild-mannered way lobbied for women to be put on an equal footing as men in the ANC.   

Maybe Dlamini had a point, but what she overlooked was that there was another departed icon who unlike Kaizana must have been wreathed in smiles from the great beyond for a result that mattered the most at Nasrec. This was Nelson Mandela. It is common knowledge that Cyril was Madiba’s No. 1 choice for the post of vice president and therefore future president when he himself had rode off into the sunset. Madiba had a lot of question marks about Thabo Mbeki’s political rectitude but the factor that principally disposed him toward Cyril was his being a non-Xhosa, whereas he and Thabo both were Xhosas. Mandela was wary that the body politic might view the ANC as a Xhosa fiefdom.  Yet it was not his own rethink that made him sideline Cyril in the final analysis:

it was the powerful voice of the so-called Exiles, who had taken on the apartheid government from the trenches. The Internals, who were rallying communities largely behind the United Democratic Front (UDF) and Cosatu and to whom Cyril belonged, were not seen as having been pivotal enough to the struggle to take pride of place in the corridors of power.

In the event, the political leap forward for which Cyril had poised himself did not materialise, outmanouvered as he was by the shrewder and more calculating  political opponent that was Thabo. Cyril, who was the ANC secretary-general at the time, was so miffed by his losing out to Thabo that he boycotted Madiba’s inauguration ceremony as president in 1994. Ordinarily, that should have politically alienated him from Madiba, but the president took the snub in his stride and even courted Cyril with the foreign affairs portfolio, which Cyril declined so irrevocably disaffected was he.    

That,  now, is water under the bridge. Madiba must have beamed from ear to ear from his perch in the hereafter when Cyril was handed what is without doubt his greatest Xmas present ever at Nasrec. The parcel, however, can only be unwrapped in 2019 and even as many expect it turns out to be the key to   Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official residence for the South African president,  will it be the magic wand with which Cyril could reinvent the ANC and mould it into a cohesive and harmonious whole? Is Cyril the party’s long-awaited breath of fresh air since the halcyon days of Madiba the Great?

WOULD CYRIL RECALL ZUMA?

There’s no shortage of cynics who aver that with his election to the helm of Africa’s oldest party, Cyril has been handed a poisoned chalice given the factional fault lines that rage within it. That the party is so worryingly polarised was evidenced by the fact of the Top Six, who effectively run the party, being split crisply down the middle. Tony Leon’s barb of a tweet that, “A House Divided Cannot Stand: 3 against state capture versus  3 captured” spoke volumes on this comedy of strange bedfellows.

The captured ones (that is, those infected with the highly venomous Gupta bug and who are fanatically pro-Msholozi) are David Mabuza (Deputy President), Ace Magashule (Secretary-General) and Jessie Duarte  (Deputy Secretary-General). They hail  from the Nkosazana  camp. It does not bear emphasising that the three will exercise significant sway over the NEC’s  decisions.  They are certain to be the maverick executives sworn to see to it that the Cyril camp’s constructive designs to take drastic steps to burnish the image of the party through,  for example,  recalling  the catastrophically corrupt Zupta, are thwarted at every turn.    

To unite  the party, Cyril will have to tread a fine line between pandering to the agenda of either side of the factional divide. The problem is that in order  to radically reformat the ANC and endear it to the broader electorate, Cyril will have to cauterise it of its multiple tumours, which entails spearheading decisive action against the Guptas and upending the system of patronage and clientelism that is abroad in the land. That he cannot do without withdrawing  Zuma from the presidency given that he will be under pressure to demonstrate that he is made of sterner stuff, that he has what it takes to apply shock therapy to restore the country’s long-lost glory. That,  sadly, he cannot do with a neck-and-neck mix of the party’s top-brass.     

Cyril not only  has been presented a poisoned chalice for sure: he’s between Scylla and Charybdis, teetering  precariously between a rock and a hard place. Maybe it is the main reason he shed tears when he was declared the new ANC president as he cut a ponderous figure on the rostrum.

CYRIL’S BLACK MARKS


Coming into the Nasrec contest,  Cyril Ramaphosa had the support of that rarest of all alliances – business, labour,  and the South African Communist Party. It is not that  he was the ideal candidate: he was simply the lesser of the two devils vying for the top job. That Cyril has far from won the hearts of South African was laid bare by the wafer-thin margin by which he edged Nkosazana – only 179 votes.

For all  I care, Nkosazana is hardly electable material. She has no charisma, no glittering  accomplishments to her name as a former minister or head of the African Union Mission, and is far from a rousing speaker. Yet she took a charismatic, well-spoken, and politically stellar opponent that is Cyril if his role in  crafting the constitution of a democratic South Africa is anything to go by right to the wire.

Cyril’s ineradicable stain, which still haunted many  of the delegates at Nasrec, was Marikana. To some people, Marikana has become his middle name.  The spectre  of the Marikana massacre, in which 34 striking mines were shot dead by the police on August 16 2012,  has hovered over Cyril ever since, being a director in Lohmin, the company that owns the mine. The day before the massacre, Cyril had sent emails to the mine management describing the strike as a “dastardly criminal act”, this coming from a former secretary-general of the National Union of Mineworkers. To his detractors,  therefore, Cyril was effectively culpable in the ensuing shootings.

Cyril also has his share of ideological naysayers, who receive him as a capitalist first and foremost and a politician only secondarily. According to the highly respected US-based magazine, Forbes, Cyril has a net worth of just under R6 billion having benefitted from the talismanic Black  Economic Empowerment programme. As much a as he reportedly taps into this wealth to  assist in redressing the plight of the need, he has also been panned for  flaunting it.    For example, he once placed a R18 million bid for a buffalo, a gesture which drew howls of outrage from the masses.  

EYE OF THE NEEDLE FOR CYRIL?

 At Nasrec though, it was not only Cyril who had loads of unsavoury political baggage. David Mabuza presides over a private army in his native province of Mpumalanga. Magashule has been described by the National Education‚ Health and Allied Workers Union as “the Robert Mugabe of the ANC” for his penchant for despotism as the Free State’s ANC chairman, not to mention his shady associations with the villainous Guptas.

Duarte has been expressly implicated in the Gupta scandals. It is a pity that in Africa, we vote on the basis of regionalism, palm greasing, and sheer  blind loyalty as opposed to objective, well-thought-through criteria. In the more archetypal and politically savvy democracies, hardly any of the faces of the Top Six would have featured on the ballot paper.  

Meanwhile, in the chatter over the Nasrec results, it was EFF’s deputy Floyd Chimbavu’s tweet that momentarily transfixed me. It said, “It will  be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for you (Cyril) to become president.” Will Zuma mount a spectacular rally and a uncork an explosive  punch that will send Cyril down for the full count? Will he somewhat scupper Cyril’s prospects to replace him at Mahlamba Ndlopfu?

Once when Julius Malema was a vociferous Zuma imbongi, he repeatedly served notice that he and fellow youth leaguers  were prepared to kill for Zuma. Is there someone among   Zuma’s legions of  acolytes who has a similar mindset? Watch your back Cyril. This is not to mention your food, your movements vehicularly,  and your airspace jaunts.  Despite Marikana, I still hold you in reasonable esteem. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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