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Can Cyril Mend Fences?

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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Can we cure ourselves from the cancer of corruption?

28th October 2020
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katholo

Bokani Lisa Motsu

“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

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Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

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.

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Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

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.

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