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Day of Evil in Selibe-Phikwe and Philosophy of Death

By Teedzani Thapelo


Local novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo* who researched part of his PhD thesis on certain aspects of Selibe-Phikwe a few years ago when the township was on the verge of economic collapse, and later dramatized this experience in his polyphonic novel, Seasons of Thunder, returns to the mining town only to encounter a terrifying wave of puzzlement and consternation.

Twenty years ago the question in everyone’s mind was, will the mine close or not? Today, following the abrupt closure of the mine bewildered residents are asking themselves, will the town die or won’t it, and nobody has a satisfactory answer to this nerve-racking existential question; not the BDP government, not the residents, and many are already returning to reclaim their roots in homelands left in the bush donkey years ago-a town founded on seismic fault lines has disappointed them and ruined lives, hopes and dreams of three generations.


The state of worry is a mark of both distinction and distress in chaotic society; distinction because among the ruins of such a society some people still manage to stand out no matter how desperate the situation is, and distress because many simply crumble and die, so that even when they are still standing and talking, walking about, and even laughing a little bit like everybody else, the spirit of life, the very soul of human life, departs, and what we really see are phantoms mingling about, senseless and irresolute in the midst of desperate ruination and despair.

 

Trouble is most such sorts of living forms are unfortunately usually smothered out of existence altogether through the wicked workings of linguistic register, the phony nature of medical science, and the general wilderness of inefficient words; words that often designate living people as dead, and the dead as living, it’s really a serious problem. The case of Selibe Phikwe clearly demonstrates this dilemma.


Sure, it does involve a very ordinary affair; the unexpected, and haphazard, closure of a mining venture. Words, we all know very well are the greatest enemies of reality. Whatever we don’t want to see we repress, overwhelm and stifle out with words. Whatever we feel uncomfortable with we restrain and conceal in a gigantic ocean of bewildering words. The things we love and desire we exult in words, even when they are out of our possession we still claim such possession with words.

 

To a student of languages this abuse of words at length becomes fatal to both imagination and learning. But politicians have no problem with this burden of unreality; what they see here is a gold mine. Some BDP politicians, for instance, still refuse to admit the mine was closed; “We are just still looking for another buyer,” they say. Oh, really? Why is it the miners and the people of Selibe-Phikwe were not told this before that day of evil, the day when, unprepared, a bunch of BDP politicians matched arrogantly in their town and told them the game was up, and nothing could be done to save the mine from closure, and their desperate lives from ruin and destruction?


Only one thing can guide us towards reality, force of insight and brilliant reading of difficult human situations; going behind words to explore the philosophy of meaning, and this demands clinical empirical observation. It is the one thing scholars are really good at, and the one thing politicians love to hate. Human beings easily get lost in the world of many words, and in many instances, what really appears to be a respectable man talking in such situations is really no more than a parrot squeaking.

 

Trouble is the ordinary Motswana is easily overwhelmed by argument and authority, even when such argument and authority are nothing but pure nonsense. The case of Selibe-Phikwe is illustrative. The illogicality of authoritarian attitude, the ardour of its speech, the hypocritical eloquence of their affected whimpering; all these things Batswana, not only hoard in their emotional breasts, but they fervently, even feverishly, gather them up, often cherish them, and they are always ready to pour them out by the hour in pubs, busses, radio stations, I would not be surprised if this things also formed part of post-coitus bliss, “Oh, that was great, honey, now tell me more about that fuss at Selibe-Phikwe”. No wonder we are no longer a romantic society!


Two things are a serious problem in our society; intellectual insufficiency, and imperfect trust in our own convictions. We also seem to be increasingly becoming too fond of inconveniences. Everything bad is allowed to pass. We even accord distinction to things that are simply too unintelligible to us. I have been accused of malicious investigation by some politicians in this country, and my crime? Writing articles for newspapers.

 

Does that make sense? The real problem with moral corruption, I think, is that the desire for freedom, for the flourishing of human aspirations…the simple love of justice, and even the fidelity of simple minds, are regularly prostituted to the lusts of hate and fear. That we now allow such things to happen in Botswana is something I never anticipated, but I should also admit I saw these things coming. Like most people my first reaction was ambiguous. Now I know better.


The people of Selibe-Phikwe are beginning to experience abandonment, and that is a fate I really would never wish anyone, not even my worst enemy. Batswana are beginning to pay a heavy price for their mystic acceptance of the principle of autocracy in our political culture, and let’s not forget that despotism is by nature a most unwearied industry.

 

The extirpation from the land of public conscience, of all the hallmarks of freedom in public institutions, the ruthless persecution of the rising generation…all these things Batswana welcomed with open arms and minds, and now BDP is hell bent on the destruction of the very hope of liberty itself. What do Batswana have to say about these things? We have even allowed these people to defile the temperament of our nation, and execrate its moral personality. Has anyone ever seen a republic that takes so few precautions for its safety?


For now we can expect two things from the people of Selibe-Phikwe; disorder, and political revolt. But our domestic god, the Autocrat of our wretched Universe, perched comfortably at Government Enclave, will not allow this. A strike by miners in that cursed town was in the past met with such violence that I doubt the cruel memory of that other day of evil is already forgotten.

 

In fact I heard BDP politicians boasting and gloating about that triumph of barbarian politics over poor, and unarmed Batswana workers, at the funeral of Mompati Merafe; it is considered a national heroic deed in BDP history. I wonder what our trade unions, and the suffering people of Selibe-Phikwe think about that.

 

As I write their appointed fate is already overtaking them, and the BDP never bothered to sound out any warning. Very typical isn’t it, this habit of suddenly striking other citizens dead to the ground, annihilating hope and life, and mercilessly ignoring the yells of horror. It happened to Basarwa before, so many times, I’d advice the people of Selibe-Phikwe to take a leaf from the history book of this arrogant politics from Basarwa. They should not expect any help from the BDP and its lackeys at Government Enclave. They must just accept they are on their own. Oh, they will be fed words, billions of words, signifying nothing.


History is teaching us great lessons in this country. The tragedy is that we are learning these things from harsh realities, from plagues, terrors and tomes covered with thorns and thistles. All the same we are learning, and this, I hope, is a learning curve we shall never forget. Even in the face of our rather infrequent moments of elation we really should never forget the dangers that menace our lives and public institutions.

 

The experience of Selibe-Phikwe is a stark reminder of the impermanence of human security, comfort and happiness in our country, and we should all remember a political culture that cannot safeguard these minimal standards of civilized life is a system based on falsehood and deceit. No faint apologetic smiles can compensate for such loses; for these facile gestures, too, are revoltingly dishonest and treacherous. The people of Selibe-Phikwe are beginning to learn these things in a bad way, and they are learning very fast.


Meanwhile at Government Enclave people are still receiving medals, and BDP monstrous institutions are still giving rewards and appointments to people who really should never have been in the civil service in the first place…to solve the problems of Selibe-Phikwe; the children and people of that wretched town, the very people painfully aware of the emotional tensions of their time, are just spectators. How amazing! Just how are these victims of pure political malice expected to defer to these strangers and their grand superior airs?

 

I suppose they will have to take these things in just as much great confusion as the crisis plaguing and blighting their lives…the jeering, and leering, the condescending murmurs, the French perfumes, and the peculiar emphasis on sterile bureaucratic resolutions…could there be anything more annoying, more disgusting?

 

Just imagine those poor people emerging as they are from those horribly irritating sulphuric fumes from the dead mine, and already being exposed to just as nauseating French perfumes, and meanwhile children are out of school, men and women out of work, businesses are collapsing, and professional artisans who have worked for decent wages all their lives are being told to go and till tomatoes for a living, learn to declare war on exotic worms that seem to have a frighteningly huge appetite for tomatoes…how weird!


Selibe-Phikwe is a town that was built by workers and foreign capital. Government only came on board later. Why now are these workers being excluded from decisions that so intimately involve their lives, their future, and the lives of their children and loved ones? Why are worker organisations being marginalised in these silly talks about redirecting the future of the town? Who knows better what the people really want beside the workers of Selibe-Phikwe themselves?

 

Yes, business can play a part in these belated efforts but not if disillusioned workers start gathering up their families and returning to their villages to start eking out some miserable existences there. What incentives have been put in place to keep these people in Selibe-Phikwe? None. 5000 workers translates to families comprising altogether more than 30 000 people, a whole political constituency…and these people are scattering to their villages in huge numbers even as I write now.

 

BDP does not care…they are still talking to the business community…what silliness! The economies of scale is disappearing, purchasing power is dying, and they are still talking to business…just who told them these disappointed people are going to stay in that wretched mess?

 

Who told them those who have already fled are coming back? What foolishness! Why does BDP despise workers so much? Can anything ever succeed in that town without the determined commitment of the people, of the communities, who built that town in the first place? Where is this madness coming from?


BDP will succeed only in one thing; further weakening of the businesses operating in that town; banks, retail shops, small businesses, transport operators, learning institutions and manufacturing plants. So far they have already succeeded in cutting the number of political constituencies from two to one, and by the time we get to the elections in 2019 that town will be just one of the small wards in that vast region…just imagine that? You think it won’t happen?

 

It will happen…mark my words, unless this madness stops and BDP reigns in this irritating appetite by imperial bureau to always appear like the only competent arbiter of social ills and tensions in public life. These people are so incompetent they can hardly manage their own departments. What really can they accomplish in Selibe-Phikwe?


I might be wrong about all this. But I have seen these things happening before. Other people may think…but this is Botswana. Everything is possible here…a typical languid African habit of dealing with serious national crisis. Buffoonery of all sorts is allowed to flourish.  I doubt though if these queer ideas of industry are agreeable and encouraging to those suffering people. To begin with they are too horribly startling. Second they are ridiculous to the extreme.

 

The most discerning, and therefore most utterly confounded amongst the people are already leaving. But they are not done with the BDP. Oh, no. Their judgement of this horrendous situation is much more philosophical, and tactical. Their response more political, and strategic.

 

I am thinking of moving to Selibe-Phikwe, permanently. As I said, the drama unfolding here is most instructive, and I love learning, from real life situations-every writer does. I even discern certain first principles dear to the merciless minds of youths cropping up here and there. The cries of astonishment and dismay are slowly dying, giving way to harsh, brittle laughter, and ferocious anger.


BDP and Government Enclave, as usual, have no heart to hear the sounds of weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. They are calmly talking voodoo economics…in curt, self-confident voices. Tender roots are being uprooted from the hearts and minds of a desperate people, whole lives are being wasted, thousands of brains are seething with arguments, and even the most ordinary town resident is sick with indignation…the spirit of progress and truth is being destroyed, for far too many people, and BDP functionaries sit in their offices, drinking coffee, and munching scones…talking voodoo economics.

 

They don’t want to hear unguarded expressions; they have no time for useless gatherings, and street corner murmurings. All is quiet on the Western front. They see not the broken lives, ruined, and robbed of hope. The miserable existences in some filthy hole of a room, the sordid bed of an understaffed  hospital, the misleading peace of bitter calmness, the horrible discord, the minds morphing into abject things, the fears of permanent endangerment…under their noises, these are anomalies. Collected-cool as cucumber, BDP functionaries eat toast with butter, talking about corrections…oh, boy, just where do these people get their souls? Is it possible people like these leave behind posterity? It’s just amazing how they take pride in their futile purpose.


When, really, will they start dealing with the consequences? For how long do they intend to continue refusing to confront reality? And this burden of unreality, just how long can it survive the God of Justice that is enshrined in the hearts and souls of all suffering human beings? Are they waiting for history to put fate to the test? Is that what they really want? No nation wants to endure the crisis of its fate. It’s weary work. All rational people work hard to avoid this, to strike a less costly bargain with fate.

 

This is the basis of political philosophy; the cornerstone of all rational political activity. Just what is BDP up to? I am not saying they should stop eating caviar. By all means gorge yourselves while you still have time. But national problems, we all know, cannot be solved simply by way of mental extravagance and arbitrary proceedings bothering on recklessness…what BDP calls mananeo.

 

BDP has reduced all poor people of Botswana to the disreputable position of being treated by the Office of the President and underling ministries as nothing short of beggars off duty. Is this what they want for the population of Selibe-Phikwe? A town this big, this literate, this politically active, cannot, and will not, be degraded to the lowest social depths of the hopeless and destitution, not without serious political consequences.

 

Selibe-Phikwe is going down, and its death throes reverberate resoundingly throughout the entire central district and beyond. This is one political failure BDP cannot, and will not, manage, to live down. Its death, if death it really turns out to be, cannot but presage the political death of BDP itself. Is this what the party really wants?


It might be time has come for real work to be done at both Government Enclave and Tsholetsa House. Digging their own grave is all right so far as vanity goes, but in pure political terms, it is, irreverently, a most foolish thing to do. Teedzani Thapelo* is winner of the Institute of International Education Fellowship Award, runner up winner of the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, and former Distinguished Africa Guest Researcher at Nordic Africa Institute, Research Associate at the Centre for Economic Policy in Southern Africa, Economic History Lecturer at the University of Botswana, and author of Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: andonment and revolt, forthcoming in 2018.    

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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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Opinions

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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