In this thought provoking seminal article novelist, historian and poet, Teedzani Thapelo*, inaugurates a radical revisionist analysis of the political canonization of late president, Sir Ketumile Masire, and drawing from philosophic exposition, argues this action is not only premature but far too precipitate, rising as it does from hysterical hallucinations, and frightening disregard of the critical role of historical interpretation in the place of heroism in politics and public life.
The argument is part of his coming book; Sir Ketumile Masire: willow in the limelight and the gathering storm. The republic buried Masire in Kanye this morning; 29th June, 2017. In the last few days I have watched, fascinated, and appalled, a tempestuous flurry of hysterical allusions, and precipitate confirmations, of this man’s supposed political heroism; prompting my historical conscience to both revisit, and perhaps, rethink, in the same regard, the philosophical idea, and logic, of heroism in politics. This, I am told, is a country of educated people. So I am not going to waste time, and space, on political definitions. Batswana, I think, know what they mean when they talk about political heroes.
My second assumption is that Batswana know perfectly well political heroes are not fictional characters. Third, Batswana know, and I hope, understand, the history of political heroism in Africa, and African struggles for liberation, freedom, democracy, human rights, and human dignity, in the last five hundred years. Four, Batswana, I think, know, and understand, the idea, and logic, of political heroism in political philosophy, Christian doctrine, historical experience, and moral African traditions, even in our daily known world; a world of lived human experience. What type of a hero was Masire?
There are many archetypes of political heroism in political studies, history, and development theory. All these revolve around several cornerstones; the art and culture of war, man’s historical struggles for survival against the ravages of nature, and the elements, and for religious people, human struggle against mortality. All these heroic struggles are defined by the terror of existential menaces, and the necessity to impose sufficient restraints on them, and without such struggles, human history would by now be a thing of the past, and perhaps even planet earth would be extinct. Throughout history, political heroism has almost always manifested several strands.
First, rejection or affirmation of the human condition. Second, the struggle against environmental ruin. Third, and, in my mind, perhaps the greatest object of heroic political effort; the struggle against human extinction. I understand the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation deals with issues of peace studies, and the resolution of conflict, among other things. So I take it Batswana know what they are talking about when they advocate the republic must crown him a political hero. I also have sufficient reason to doubt the intellectual vigour of this political knowledge.
My concern here is simple: why should the nation crown him a political hero? Is this man, really, a political hero? From what historical premise does this heroism arise? Has it been sufficiently confirmed by historical experience? My second concern is also simple: empirical studies still have to be done to establish any claims to status of such imperial ranking in annuls of national history. But I might be mistaken about this. Sir Ketumile has been University Chancellor at UB, and it might as well be that political scientists and history professors there have already carried out studies to assist propel this argument forward; something I very much doubt.
In the absence of that, my question still stands: is this man a political hero? If these suppositions are simply journalistic impressions, not backed by vigorous, and objective, investigation, my suggestion is that we shelf them for future consideration. If, however, they are just outpourings of human emotions, we must reject them outright. Political grief is one thing, and political heroism, quite another thing. Most of the time the two do not even relate to each other. Some may say he is not a political hero, per se, but he has done so much for Botswana that it would be grossly remiss to not acknowledge him a national hero. Granted; but he alone?
We must, I think, read well, the marked difference between heroism, which, in essence, is individual or human triumph, over adversity, and therefore deserving of national honour, and excellence in one’s duty, which is a simple academic criterion for application of the human mind, and labour, to professional duty, and therefore deserving of a salary, and promotion. I grant both rewards are forms of appreciation. But the two still differ considerably. Masire was paid well for his work, and got the promotions he deserved in his lifetime. If now he must be recognised at a level greater than this, then there clearly is need to re-assess the peculiarity, and genius, of his political career.
This, I am afraid, Batswana have not done. To the best of my knowledge the Botswana national project was collective effort, mostly rooted in African moral principles of common humanity, and human fellowship, and these communitarian precepts are not unique to Botswana: Ubuntu, botho, buthu? To the best of my knowledge it’s untrue to say Masire alone embodied these African values in our political life. Not even the ancient organisational political principle of consultation is unique to Masire’s brand of politics or Botswana political culture in general. These things are common knowledge. Second, our political history is deeply rooted in republican constitutionalism, regardless of the flawed nature of our constitution; a thing that Masire conveniently ignored throughout his life.
What, then, constitutes his political heroism? What political attributes denote the heroic in his political philosophy? What I have heard Batswana say is based on personal observations, professional attachments, collegial cooperation, routine-and rustic- interactions, and, friendships, family connections, and highly select, and unacceptably subjective, historical memory. None of these things are sufficient intellectual tools, in themselves, to confirm the idea, and logic, of political heroism, on their own; not even collectively. The political hero, by definition, is born in war, and allied human struggles; struggles, historical, divine, environmental, eschatological, and metaphysical.
It doesn’t matter what you are talking about; saints, martyrs, statesmen, artists, philosophers, generals, humanist celebrities like Nobel Laureates, all these have homes in these areas of human conception, and imagination. Where, pray, does, Sir Ketumile fit? Is it possible, according to this criteria, to locate, and affirm, to place, his brand of heroism? I think not. And there lies the problem; the simple indifferent challenge of conceptualizing his political heroism. What appears to be indisputable is the fact he was an ordinary, honest, hard-working man. I should think, possibly a most decent fellow, at least to his family, friends, and those to whom he sought audience, and company.
In short, he was a typical Motswana man. There are more than a million men like him in this country. The major difference is that he entered politics, and reached the highest political position in the republic, and in this he is not alone. Are we then to designate all former Presidents political heroes? Isn’t this foolishness of the first order? Would not Sir Ketumile, himself a literate man, and passionate political animal, find this ridiculous to the extreme? Batswana must be aware scholars are already revising the heroic status of Nelson Mandela, the finest amongst African political icons. I have read just about everything solid there is to read about political heroes like Churchill, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela himself, Fidel Castro, and several other historical figures that caught my imagination in the last third years. I have also read the political villains; Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mabuto of DRC and Robert Mugabe; a man who tearfully calls Sir Ketumile his best friend.
It shocks me, profoundly, that Mugabe, a man guilty of killing revolutionary heroes in the land of Zimbabwe, can come here and talk about national heroism. He says in Zimbabwe, they would regard Masire as a national hero, and Batswana applauded him, but do they know of the villainous political criminals who lie in the Heroes’ Acre in Harare? Do they know that Mugabe committed genocide against the Ndebele and BaKalanga people in Zimbabwe between 1982-84, right under the watchful eyes of the Masire government?
Or should we take it Masire gave tacit consent to these crimes against humanity? Are we now being called upon to celebrate the horrors of Gukurehunde; the cleansing of chaff, the Zimbabweans Mugabe considered too impure, and unfit, for citizenship in liberated Zimbabwe? Throughout his tyrannical rule Mugabe has relentlessly brutalized, terrorized, intimidated, assassinated, ruined, humiliated, and exiled hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean finest intellectuals, artists, musicians, professors, students, and laid to waste fertile land that once was the economic backbone of Southern Africa. He has scattered millions of hunger-stricken citizens to all corners of the world so that today it is not uncommon to see the children of that beautiful land begging in the capitals of the Western world or being burned alive in South African cities and crowded, equally poor, townships.
The children of Zimbabwe die, lost, and miserable, in the most sordid ways possible, and this man has the audacity to come to a funeral in Kanye and talk about the genocide in Rwanda. Mugabe never mentions Seretse Khama in his inane reminisces about his fond friendship with the good Masire precisely because his politics are a radical pervasion of values that Khama cherished most; moral distinction, racial equality, tribal tolerance and cultural-historical consciousness in pursuit of the public good. Just what is it that constituted such a bond between these two men, Masire, and Mugabe? Should we not consider Masire just as guilty, at least by way of association, of many of the wrong-doings, and heinous crimes, committed by his good friend in Zimbabwe?
Just what are we expected to make of this relationship? Did Masire not care about the killings of innocent little Ndebele, European, and Kalanga children by the Mugabe regime? Then there is the irritating talk about Masire’s mediation exploits in DRC and efforts at reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. Oh, really? What did he actually accomplish there? Nothing, absolutely nothing. As I write Congolese children are still being raped, and massacred, in that permanently lawless country, and Joseph, the arrant son of Laurent Kabila, continues the legacy of his father unperturbed. Yes, some warlords have been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, but all this happened after Masire had thrown in the towel, and flown home to his farms. I really do think people should learn how to examine, and grade, political success.
Batswana always surprise me. They claim to be educated, and yet seem to know so little about the world around them that ignorance of simple realities has come to define us in the eyes of the world. It is because of our gallivanting around with rude, and rustic, characters, like Mugabe, that we have become the laughing stock of the world. If Masire could choose such men for company, and personal friendship, what does this tell us about his political judgement, about his sense of justice, and moral rectitude? What other kind of friends did he choose here at home? Things like these seriously call into question the personality, and moral integrity of a man. Is this how we want Masire to be remembered? What was that silly applause, broadcast live on TV, about?
The argument for Masire’s heroism is too premature, perhaps even misplaced. I look, in both political literature, and the historical drama continually unfolding in Botswana, at how Masire interacted with public servants, and his colleagues throughout his presidency, and how these people remember him. By the time he left office, and I left graduate school, there were already 10, 000 doctoral theses on Botswana, and I have since made it my business to make them my personal friends. Just about all of them are available online. I look at his relationships with civil society, the private press, academics and students.
I look at the presidential commissions, land tribunals, landmark court cases; just about everywhere this man left a fingerprint in the many years of his political life, and little, to nothing, suggest to my mind, this man is a national hero. I look at his political biography from various angles; cosmopolitanism, entrepreneurship, political innovation, administrative accountability, values of statesmanship, elderhood, and patriarchy, and still I am not convinced any case can be made for political canonization. I don’t want Batswana to misunderstand me. I am not trying to take anything from this man’s political life. In politics people do get embroiled in the most vexatious and violent disputes. The few who rise above these without scars, at great trouble, and peril, and some expense, and wearing the grand badge of political glory, are people who are capable of legislating their own path to this glory, people who are their own lawyers in national matters of the greatest importance, and these few we call heroes.
For the most part these people die good, wise, incorrupt, and free of slanderous aspersions, and social acerbities. Masire is not one of them, and this now brings me to issues that bothered me when this man was still president. I have heard Batswana argue these past few irritating days he is the architect of our republican constitutionalism, the crafter of our political culture, an undisputed guardian of the public purse during his heady days at Government Enclave, master of financial prudence and economic austerity, the master-farmer statesmen who gave name, dignity, and prestige, to rural production, the finest educationalist that ever strode the republic; it’s as if even Seretse Khama, and other BDP leaders never existed. I don’t even know how to address this emotional juvenile delinquency. It’s just terribly frustrating.
Can the people who argue he is a national hero answer these questions? Why, and how, did the problems of poor work ethic, productivity, and corruption in the public sector worsen under his administration? What really happened to our diamond wealth? Don’t Batswana want to know? Did we get an agreement that was right for the nation? Is it possible by partnering with this gigantic, and notoriously secretive behemoth, we traded away not only national wealth but certain fundamentals of our democracy as well? Is it possible this agreement clawed back our national sovereignty?
How does a small, uneducated, poor, legally and technically ignorant country, like Botswana, negotiate a secret mining agreement with a giant like De Beers in the turbulent, racist world, and climate of the late 1960s, and still claim political legitimacy, and credibility; even mutual benefit? What is the basis of equivalence in De Beers working together with the Botswana government through a corporate deal of this nature for so many years? The agreement is not transparent, it is shrouded in too much secrecy and darkness; does this not bother Batswana at all? Is there an arbitration clause in this agreement? What exactly is the revenue sharing formulae between the two parties, and how has this been affected by subsequent revisions of the original agreement, including the setting up of Debswana, and other attendant organizational and operational changes? Have all these things been done in good faith, and good will?
For example if there have been cases of over-mining, illegal smuggling of rough stones, gratuitous injury to workers, and the environment, has it been possible for government or other affected parties, to claim compensation? Who exactly is entitled to arbitration, and under what circumstances? What kind of legal protection did De Beers ask, and what did it get? Or is this a non-recourse commercial agreement? What are the limits to regulation? What about the issues of social contract and social conscience? How have these been handled, and continue to be handled at these mines?
Was this agreement a blueprint for others to come? Is it a legal precedent for other mining agreements with international mining companies in Botswana? More significantly, how much political capital was invested in this agreement? Is the agreement as progressive as its signatories claim it to be? These are important issues of commercial justice. Batswana rightly suspect the nature of this agreement stifled our economic growth and development, and that we gave too much away, and got little, to nothing, in return. The agreement has absolutely no contact with real society yet it applied to lucrative mining in tribal land, isn’t that the strangest thing? The voice of the people was totally ignored. Only a small elite of less than five educated Batswana found a sit at the negotiating and signing tables, and these people possessed no expertise! Is it possible the agreement took advantage of national poverty, ignorance and appalling levels of political anxiety to impose terms and even redefine political consensus? Under what circumstances can aggrieved Batswana sue De Beers? These are very serious matters.
Just look at our standards of living. Look at the high levels of poverty and unemployment. Look at the swathe of social wretchedness. It has been estimated we could have built more than six international cities the size of Johannesburg with money from our diamonds; what really happened here? How come this huge wealth failed to inaugurate a historic economic dynamic for radical social transformation, the creation of good sustainable jobs, high incomes, industrialization and modern knowledge society? The whole world is astounded at our missed opportunities. We really should get a prize for this briefest gleam of stupendous prosperity that passed by so swiftly and so inconsequentially.
It is obvious Batswana who signed up to this infamous deal were only looking at the political track; they had no knowledge of economics, and no vision of the future. They knew not the cost of doing such things, and could hardly ensure that choices were made with the fullest possible understanding of the facts, risks, and uncertainties involved. Yes, they had help from other white fellows, people who went on to work for De Beers and its affiliates like Anglo-American while those who stayed in Botswana joined the BDP and sat on the local board of the mining company. What do you make of that? Did subsequent renegotiations of this relationship rectify this anomaly? What should be done now? Kana re jelwe Batswana, go ile fela jalo?
My second issue with Masire relates to corruption and elite behaviour during his rule. We know for certain that substantial mineral revenues accrued directly to the state, which enjoyed monopolistic influence on how they could be spent for a good many years. We also know that massive politico-bureaucratic involvement in livestock production has been enhanced with the result that the rural livestock sub-sector has benefited through input subsidies, lax taxation legislation, and other forms of institutional support, but this involvement has left the majority of Batswana lurching helplessly in the poverty trap; and the institutional origins of state lethargy originate in the Masire presidency, of that most scholarship is agreed. What really happened, and why?
I particularly query Masire’s relationship with De Beers, the cattle industry, and his influence in the funding, and transformation of the entire rural economy. Under his presidency one man could be a senior civil servant, an active politician, a priest, a witch, a self-confessed thief, a businessman, a husband, a father, a community leader and a commercial farmer, and therefore, by virtue of all these accoutrements, a hirer of human labour, a trustee of public confidence, and a moral redeemer; a situation that angered progressive Batswana like Gobe Matenge to the extent the two remained enemies throughout their lives in government.
Let us consider the issue of economic austerity. Throughout his administration National Development Bank was held to ransom by agricultural producers, and at challenging election years, was forced to write-off millions of money it could not afford to lose. In 1980s the bank was under such brutal political siege that faced with uncertain elections, and shrinking BDP urban political support base, government had to save the NDB from imminent liquidation by writing-off over P24 million in debt payments owed by both arable and livestock farmers. When NDB was confronted by yet another bankruptcy threat government was once again compelled to intervene. Its accumulated losses at one point totalled P41.1 million.
Outstanding loans amounted to P91.3 million, of which over one-third were in arrears, most for more than six months. The Government's equity position was a negative P15.6 million. In addition, the Small Borrowers Fund, administered by the NDB for the Government, had at the same time accumulated losses of P32.4 million; 70% of its accounts were in arrears, almost all in excess of six months. The NDB was losing P450, 000 a month. The pre-pacified acerbic weekly tabloid, Midweek Sun, reported that NDB was owed more than P60 million in arrears, and borrowers, all of them BDP politicians, were refusing to service their loans. According to the 1991 Budget Speech, P31 million had been provided by the Government in 1988 in order to write off bad debts.
A parliamentary statement by the Assistant Minister of Finance appeared in the Botswana Gazette newspaper on 30 March 1994. In the article the minister revealed that the loans to the NDB had been written off in 1985/1986 and 1988/1989. According to the minister the total cost to the tax payer engendered by these rescue operations amounted to more than P35.5 million. Press interviews of disgruntled NDB employees, including unsigned documents listing NDB loans to Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament, makes the startling revelation that the Bank habitually sanctioned the rescheduling of loans on an across-the-board basis, neglecting individuals' creditworthiness. It tried to deal with this crisis by using ineffective instruments like direct grants, interest recapitalisation, suspension of loan and/or interest payments, conversion of loans into equity, increasing authorised share capital, extension of loans, hikes in rates charged by corporations, and revaluation of assets, and meanwhile 40% of Batswana lived in poverty.
This political burlesque irked, and riled, a public that was only beginning to awake to the sad reality that pirates were in power, vultures that were daily navigating their horrid and ruined lives with greedy eyes that spared no human carcass. Faced with a possible rebellion from angry citizens, especially poor people like us, government turned to constitutional changes designed to make sure we remained compliant, submissive, biddable, and compromised. These laws have protected corrupt, greedy, lecherous, vile, villainous, unethical, immoral, crooked, avaricious, gluttonous, lustful, randy, dreadful, loathsome, evil, contemptible, base, shameful, unpleasant, horrid, and nasty large cattle producers, multinational corporations, senior civil servants and the various members of the liberal professions for a worryingly long period of time. This means that all these oppressors have licence, authority, liberty, privilege and freedom to abuse us, our women, our children, our resources and our fragile environment with reckless abandon and legal impunity. Is it any wonder that these same rulers laugh at us, ridicule us, mock us and play games with us all the time?
Another issue that Masire lazily, and complacently, ignored is the serious matter of grave civil rights violations in the country. While he was busy accumulating wealth, poverty was worsening in the rural sector as shown in the household incomes surveys of 1975/76, 1985/86, 1993/94, 2002/03, the BIDPA reports of 1997 and finally acknowledgement by President Mogae in the 2004 Annual Address to the Nation Speech (see RoB 1976 1986 1994 1997 2003 2004). The plight of Basarwa communities, most of whom had been pushed out of ancestral land to make way for TGLP ranchers, national parks and game reserves, diamond mines and emerging townships like Gantsi actually worsened to the point that by 2004 thousands of these people were irking a living in economic camps, some will say death camps, called remote area dwellings (RADs).
Are all these disturbing facts marks of heroic politics? My point? Studies in political heroism are a minefield. More often than not, one man’s hero is another man’s villainy. To me, this presents a serious problem. I take it I know Botswana political literature well. I also know the history of this country. In fact just about all educated Batswana know these things very well. We also know the story of our country’s development. We understand, I think, the politics, of this country well. I have heard Batswana speak about this man since he died; in the streets, on social media, radio stations, BTV, and a few other infamous places I would rather not reveal. It is, I think, not a particularly good thing to speak about the dead without compunction. But this does not mean those who choose not to speak in public have nothing to say. To most Batswana, and under such emotional circumstances, it is always prudent to subscribe to the cliché discretion is the better part of valour.
So it is, that I have noted, with great concern that certain sections of the republic have deliberately chosen not to participate in these debates. So it is that I have noted these people more or less chose to discreetly boycott the entire funeral dialogue, and process. So it is, I doubt, they will very much miss the late Sir Ketumile, and many of these people are prominent BDP members, past, and present. Yes, statements of condolences where issued, but reading between the lines it is obvious the praises for Masire, were deliberately designed to criticize, and spite, the Khama presidency, instead of directly honouring Masire, on the basis of his own political merit.
Almost all living former cabinet ministers, high court judges, senior civil servants, ethnic minority human rights activists, intellectuals, trade unionists, cultural workers, stayed away. It would not be an exaggeration to say this man was buried, from the depth of hearts, mostly by his best friends, family, foreigners, and tribesmen. Government officials, and some leading politicians, seemed appalled, even annoyed, by this stupendous hysterical exhibitionism. Why? Do they know something that we don’t? When parliament convened to pay oration, three of the four parliamentarians who spoke were Masire’s tribesmen, and the last an opposition member. The rest just watched, almost stunned.
All this is very disturbing. But what I find even more disturbing than this, perhaps even most extraordinary, was the appeal from certain other sections of the republic for emotional restraint during his burial. This is surprising. What was the meaning of these appeals? I particularly remember the appeal by Vice President Masisi. Botswana is a democracy. Masire was a democrat; perhaps not a perfect one, but a democrat nevertheless. So far as I am aware, I am the only citizen who responded, in print, to the last public lecture delivered by Sir Ketumile at a university in Botswana. I admit I disapproved of his domkrag politics. When this man was still president I was refused permission to research Basarwa anthropological anger in Botswana.
I then proposed to write on De Beers and diamond mining but still I found myself struggling against a wall. Infuriated, I turned to something else just so I could get my doctorate. By the time I reached that decision, I had read so much literature about Botswana politics, and development thrust, that when the PhD Selection Committee demanded I should furnish them with development literature review to demonstrate I had sufficient grasp of what to write about Botswana after such a peripatetic shuffling by the Masire presidency and his bureaucratic machine I gave them 200 pages of modern development theory in three weeks. It was only recently I discovered Debswana had been financing Masire’s farming business, and Basarwa sitting on diamond wealth in CKGR.
I have never met Masire in person, but I know about his rule. I lived under his administration. I too have a lot to say about him. As I said, the conception of political heroism is grounded on historical reality, and not only the attributes of a man. Character is important to heroism, but it is what a man actually does accomplish that makes him to stand out as a hero. The accomplishment must be extraordinary, and of infinite benefit to humanity. I don’t believe Sir Ketumile is a political hero. It might be he was admired within BDP but his presidency was certainly not a distinguished chapter in the history of our republic. Many have suggested he was not the right man for the job in the first place. I will not be that ungenerous.
But I do doubt it was a good idea to keep him in the job that long. He has occupied too huge a space in our lives, and brought far too many citizens great misery, and mistrust of the art of politics. No one can deny these charges. He did try to develop a constructive approach to opposition politicians, but the aim was to accommodate, and destabilize the opposition, and not to nurture it. Otherwise he would have allowed government to fund it. We need to be honest about these things. He retired because, like a pillar of salt crumbling away rapidly, he was losing authority in the party.
It cannot be said a man who could not control political dissension, and revolt, in his own party, was also a man happily enamoured to the interests, and agenda, of an organised outside opposition that wanted to torpedo his government. That is a contradiction of terms. Of his forays in international politics after retirement, I really have little more to say. The strangest thing is that he went out to defend political values he routinely violated during his own tenure in office, political values he allowed his best friends, like Robert Mugabe, to also routinely violate; international law, human rights, and personal dignity.
How will I remember Masire? He was a lucky man who found himself thrust in the momentum of history. Sadly, he did little, to nothing, to benefit his own people, and humanity, with the political light put in his hands by benevolent gods. But then there’s always something egotistical about grand lofty things, about mountain tops, a sort of wisdom that is woe, a path in life that takes those who wonder out of all human understanding, even while living, in the congregation of the dead. Such is the road that men like him, and his friend, Robert Mugabe, have travelled. In the end only history can judge them. We are too human, I think, to pronounce the last word in their careers. For this reason alone, I don’t think political canonization will do his memory much good. Let him rest in peace.
Teedzani Thapelo*, is author of the Botswana novel series Seasons of Thunder, Vol. 1(2014), Vol. 2 (2015) and Vol. 3 (2016) and forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: abandonment and revolt, The Argument Against the Botswana Democratic Party: an intellectual inquiry and Khama Presidency and Vanity Fair in Parliament: an African political tragedy, and Sir Ketumile Masire: willow in the limelight and the gathering storm.
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.
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.
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‚Äô 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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
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‚Äôd be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company‚Äôs 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 – ‚ÄúA brand is a person‚Äôs gut feel about a product or service‚ÄĚ. 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‚Äôt 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 ‚Äėbrand bonds‚Äô 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 ‚Äėrelationship‚Äô 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 ‚ĄĘ exercise wherein we test people‚Äôs 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 ‚Äėtheir‚Äô brand. They simply won‚Äôt easily ‚Äėbreakup‚Äô with it. Doing so can cause brand ‚Äėheart ache‚Äô. 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‚Äôs fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is ‚Äď 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‚Äôve 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‚Äôve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‚Äėstrategy sessions‚Äô ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‚Äėfeel‚Äô.
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 ‚Äėsome of the commenting described the new packaging as ‚Äėugly‚Äô ‚Äėstupid‚Äô. 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äėadjusted‚Äô 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‚Äôs vision.
We‚Äôre 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‚Äôre 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‚Äôre struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We‚Äôre 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‚Äô 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 ‚Äėmake a plan‚Äô 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 ‚Äď its ‚Äėwhy‚Äô. 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‚Äôt buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don‚Äôt 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‚Äôve done the important research and strategy work. It‚Äôs 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 ‚Äėland‚Äô 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äď 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.