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When Rain Clouds Gather and Beauty Morphs into Ugliness

Teedzani Thapelo

Institute of International Education Fellowship Award Winner, and runner up national poet to the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, Teedzani Thapelo*, ponders the nationwide devastation wrought by ex-Dineo, her unchecked tempestuous depredation, and expresses his shock at national unpreparedness for this catastrophe, arguing that this horror, and its merciless cutting blade, tearing up roads, sending rooftops flying, stealing chicken and pigs, laughing at feeble BDP policy institutions, reflects lack of planning, the absence of fences and defence mechanisms against disasters, poor knowledge about the hazards of nature, and BDP flagrant disregard for human effort and national dignity.

The first part of the title comes from a novel by Bessie Head, a South African exile writer who lived and died in Serowe. I am very glad to note her works still hold place of pride at UB, no, not UB at Gaborone, but the University of Buffalo, in the US. There is nothing more fascinating to students of African literature these days than the literature of exile and refuge studies, and Head, sits among the pantheon of literary giants whose works still evoke tremendous intellectual fascination in both the West and Africa.


She had such a delicately sensitive feel about the land and people of her adopted political home, Botswana, that many still regard her as our only literary voice. South Africans, of course, don’t want to hear about this, and already they have usurped her genius and firmly implanted it in their canon and national consciousness, naming libraries and streets after her to promote public admiration and readership of her works. What do the people of Serowe have to say about that, I wonder? BDP government does not care.


As far as they are concerned she never lived here, she means nothing to our cultural heritage. Oh, boy, talk about ignorance. Can anyone imagine British authorities allowing Poland to do the same thing with that celebrated genius, Joseph Conrad? Enough about literary gems we will most probably never possess. Let’s get down to more mundane things; rain, rain, rain; and the horror, the horror!

Well, my grandma, Balebi Thapelo, also had a very strong and rather feverishly sensitive feel about our land. She was, I should think, a very spiritual woman. Trouble with her religion of things, was that it intermingled with too much booze. I witnessed the remaining part of her spiritual journey towards the declining years of her life, and just when I had managed to pluck enough courage to put her through a thorough interview about the whole mystical business she died. That saddened me a great deal.


To date she is the only person whose funeral I attended. One thing though stays in my memory, her stupefying knowledge of gathering clouds and impending rains. In this field she was miles ahead of Radithupa Radithupa. She rarely erred. Come every rain season, and we were in for great drama. I wonder if my family siblings still remember those mind-boggling escapades. The most fascinating thing is that hers was always a solo fetishism. She demanded no audience. We the kiddies could gather around her and enthusiastically clap our hands to her gyrations but you were not allowed to ask any questions; as I said she was a true weather woman.

Try to interfere with her furious dance and strenuous invocations of the rain and the river gods, and you could easily lose a leg. Everything was very solemn, just the way they do things at St Peters Square in the Vatican City, and we lived at Jacklas Number 1 village, right here in good old Botswana. Like most kids we feared the roar of thunder, and granny could imitate it; perfectly, and fearfully, substituting along the way the even more ferociously roars of lions, and yelling of hyenas; a perfect cacophony, but symphony to her ears.


In this way she taught us that even wild animals feared thunder. That man had good reason to fear and welcome thunder at the same time, it was the way of the world, the only way to live with turbulent, and unpredictable nature. Whenever the rain season started approaching she would insist all the huts be fortified with mud and cow dung. Stone bricks were also used. The whole thorn yard fence had to be overhauled; rotting corner poles replaced. Tall trees in the neighbourhood pruned.


It was heavy work, and we all did it; grandma breathing on our backs like an army general. Of course we grumbled a lot, and my uncles’ wives worried she was using up seed for ploughing to brew her ‘religious beer,’ but she stuck to her guns like a true commander in chief. I learnt early at home there is no government without critics, and I enjoyed it all. It was good education. It prepared me for the world of the future, the world of today; the world of tomorrow.

Grandma was the family matriarch, and she did her job well. By the time I was eight I had learnt to respect thunder, and I could take out our cows to grass, clad in a very heavy but very useful sack raincoat, and when it started raining, and the cows started gambolling about mooing wild-to dissipate their own fear of thunder, I would just sit on a rock and watch them dance till they tired, and started falling into small tribal groups for mutual protection and assurance. All these things I learnt from my grandma. They made my life easy, and happy.


I always felt safe because I trusted her government and her religion of things. I only regret I never had the chance to talk to her about these things. I always noted the roll of thunder would go on accompanying her performance till she fell to the ground exhausted, or dead drunk, or possessed by some awfully powerful spirit, or all these things combined, and then, lo and behold, the heavens would open, and at times it could rain non-stop for days and nights. We always had a hard time of it lifting her and taking her to her shrine. Like all governments she was big. Oh, those were thrilling times.

I have been thinking about these dramatic personal experiences the past few days as our country was going through the most magnificent, and equally frightening, heavenly showers in living memory. I also took the trouble, whenever I could, to venture out and witness this unfolding drama first hand. Drama? Well, those of us who grew up on that stupendous intellectual extravaganza, Greek literature, will no doubt see what I mean; read Homer’s Odyssey.


Batswana who know nothing about Homer must still have seen something of his stunning apprehension of the world of man and nature in the continuing struggle for survival on planet earth these past few days as ex-Dineo hit home with garrulous impetuosity tearing up roads, sending rooftops flying, knocking down doors, stealing chicken and pigs, laughing at Government Enclave and generally making our lives miserable. Oh, I know some people are hurting, terribly, and I sympathise.  

But we did say we wanted rain. Radithupa warned us to expect a deluge of it nationwide; a perfect storm in the tradition of Hollywood films, and we did nothing to prepare ourselves. Grandma would have done a good job of yelling, cajoling and putting up fences and defence mechanisms in place to avert disaster. It would appear to me the fact it caught us napping is no reason we should be cursing heaven. We have got only ourselves to blame. In a world so full of dangers and risks people must always be prepared for anything.


In fact by definition human life is temporal, mortal, existential, and mostly insignificant in the face of assault by the elements, especially water and fire. If we don’t evolve safety measures to protect ourselves then we do not have anyone to blame but ourselves. Government should take the lead in building such defence mechanisms and educating people about the hazards of nature, but BDP is not the sort of government up to such tasks.


Keep looking up to them for protection and guidance and you will find yourselves sheltering under one huge blanket, donated by Indians, the next time another cyclone, another Dineo comes visiting. What good will that do? Ask the people of Mozambique what a really furious hurricane can do. A blanket, no matter how well knitted, will just not do. I doubt even Homer would have cast BDP in his works; they are just too dismal characters. I miss my grandma’s government.

Homer would not have had much trouble casting grandma in his work, even the weathermen of our time. The rain season is a unique experience. Most Batswana think about it only in terms of ploughing and harvesting. That is not good enough, and the present season clearly demonstrates why we should evolve a new convention with nature when it comes to this time of the year. If we don’t, there is no telling what is going to happen to both our lives and our properties in the future, to both our land and country in the future, and to both our universe and planet in the future.


These are fearful things to put to people who have up to now taken such things for granted. In other parts of the world already people do things differently. Let us not wait for a national catastrophe to hit home before we put the necessary defensive mechanisms in place. I doubt though Government Enclave will heed this call. Unlike Grandma’s authority, these people are really not a government. They are a social club; a gormandizing social club. So long as their stomachs are full they never care about tomorrow, they never plan ahead, and this explains the horrors of ex-Dineo in many parts of our country.

A few incidents awakened my personal consciousness to the gravity of floods in the face of relentless rainfall and devastating rolls of thunder. I did not even know some parts of Botswana are so prone to lightning. Had I interviewed my grandma, no doubt I’d be already a very informed man about these things. Unfortunately I didn’t, and now remains the task to spend long hours poring over literature in public libraries. No matter. I am used to this sort of thing.


As soon as reports of floods and public damage started filtering in through social media, I raised my antennae, broadened my intellectual radar, and hit the road. The precautions I took along the way, excluding the sack raincoat, I learnt from my grandma. In one plain field I encountered an old woman with about three Zimbabwean help hands. She didn’t mind my enquiries about the feel of the land. Also I had good chilled water to which she seemed very partial. So we conversed freely.


The clouds were dark, and heavy, and I knew I had to be careful. It could rainy anytime. She, however, was not concerned with that. Her concentration was on the soil. She took a pinch of it and ate it. I was so startled I must have ejaculated my astonishment. Grandma used to do exactly the same thing. I saw her roll the dirt round her mouth, and, I think, she swallowed some of it. The remaining bit she spat to the ground with knowing satisfaction, and a very grave face. Then she shaded her poor eyes with her right hand, and looked at the gathering clouds for several seconds. After a heavy sigh, she waddled to her dilapidated truck and collapsed into the front seat.

I followed her and put a direct question to her about that startling incident. She tried to dodge it. So I explained about my grandma. She listened to me very carefully, asked a few questions of her own, and I answered as best I could. It soon transpired she came from Matebeleng village in Mochudi. She spoke both Ikalanga and IsiNdebele well. She told me all she thought she knew about people like my grandma, and her quaint religion. I know Matebeleng well but I did not let this out. In a way I was not surprised.


Her field is just on the road to that village, and my guide had informed me I would probably meet only people from the neighbourhood in our trip. But I had hit a jackpot. This old woman seemed to be cut from the same cloth as my grandma. Unfortunately she clumped her mouth shut soon as she realized I had company; the local guide. They started arguing about some old money debt, till we left. Once again I had failed to connect with my ancestral past regarding the rituals of rainfall. When it started raining I was already on my way home, and a very disturbed man.

That evening, and in subsequent news, I really was not surprised by the devastation shown on television. Thanks to my grandma I had read the signs well. What shocked me was the level of unpreparedness throughout the whole country. Just what good is our government? What do these people do on a normal day? Who really are these people? Are they Africans? Did any of them go to any schools? What do they want in office? How come the nation is so vulnerable and the whole country so fragile? Ai madoda, I really do miss my grandma’s government.


This is not the way to live. People can just not get anyway this way. There’s terrible rot in our political system, in our public institutions and moral consciousness as a nation and a republic. If we don’t change the way we do things, and do so fast, there is no telling where we will be as a people in five years’ time. I mean who wants to build a house today and have it ruined tomorrow? Who wants to travel a road today and see it destroyed tomorrow? Who wants to build a bridge today and see it collapsed tomorrow? Who really wants to live in a world of futility? Why do we permit these fatal arrangements? What is wrong with us? Why can’t we create enduring things? Why do we hate beautiful and useful things?

Take Nata for example. It is a long time since I travelled that part of the country. But I loved it enough to write some reasonable good and memorable poems about my adventures there:
One night in a lodge
Is all it takes to savour
A country feel to my land
One amazing ride in the river
Bathing off the spleen of rage
And sleepless nights
Is all it takes to savour
A pleasant bush….

A blinding beauty
Blighted my sight
This day
Amid flamingo bird
And barren wasteland
A transit landscape
Fit only for the intrepid spirit
Possessed of passions
In a rugged land
Of mysterious trunked trees
Robust flowers
Of an age….

The girl flirts about the green field,
And screws up her lips
Into a raw pout of tenderness,
Playing a dialogue of wanton carelessness,
And watching her, I fear tomorrow
There shall be tears upon this score….

I remember well, my bothers
The luxurious sturdiness of childhood,
But why remind me old age,
Of the disastrous sojourns of time past,
At this hour of truth,
When I stand an indistinct spectre,
In the cruel theatre of life,
And one foot in the grave,
When the bones now can only rattle in the body?

I just picked out four parts from my poems; A Country Feel About my Land, Makgadikgadi Pans, Foul Field and Memoriam, from my collection of poems, Black Sunlight, and all these were written during that memorable trip to Nata and beyond. Later on I would write the 600 words poem Okavango Delta which won a literary award.


This is what natural beauty does for people who care about their country, it inspires them, it makes them human, it gives them culture and knowledge. So you can guess how I felt when I saw want happened to the land and people of Nata and surrounding areas; poor planning and ignorance killing hope and human livelihoods. Who should I blame for this negligence but BDP?

I am angry, and disappointed. But that is what BDP wants. They trade in misery of citizens. People in that region are mostly very poor. They need help, desperately. But I can bet my last coin nobody is going to help them get out of this rut. The land there is beautiful and rewarding. But nobody is going to do the best they can to put things to rights after these horrible floods and destruction.

How sad. How truly sad.

Novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo*, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London. He is author of Seasons of Thunder and the forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, and Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe.

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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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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


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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