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Sense and Sensibility: UDC+ and Great Expectations

Teedzani Thapelo

It must be hard for the UDC+ to deflect charges of political failure, that is to say, past failures by opposition to take power from BDP, and redefine the political landscape of the nation. But that I hardly think is the issue now; not if you take Botswana politics seriously, the way I do. The opposition, it is quite true, has badly failed Botswana in the last fifty years.


The reasons for this failure are many and well known; resource constraints, petty squabbles, regional particularism, ideological idiosyncrasies, bad leadership in some of the partner organisations, lack of political commitment in some quarters of this huge political marquee, structural weaknesses within many past opposition formations, often meaningless political agendas, opportunism, sabotage by the BDP, infiltration by divisive elements; the reasons make for a long list, and interesting reading.

But all this I want to believe is now behind us. As a united front UDC made a sterling showing in the 2014 general election, and there is no telling what they could have achieved had the BCP deemed it their business to harness resources and their strong voice to other opposition parties and square the ruling party. But lost possibilities are not the subject of politics. My point is it would be a terrible mistake for Batswana to view this political grouping as just talk among a group of bad losers.


By the way, even talk of this kind among a group constitutes serious politics. Even talk among a hunting group in the bush constitutes politics. What really matters is how this talk always “feedsback” in some key way making for greater successes and possibilities of more good work in the future. Despise UDC+ at your own peril.


Laugh at them only if you are hundred per cent positive you have them at a terrible disadvantage, only if you are positive you can beat them decisively at the game they are playing; politics. As things stand, I don’t see many in the ruling party laughing right now. 2019 is a year to watch in our political calendar. The world of politics is not a known world, neither is it knowable. The expression anything can happen in politics should never be taken lightly.

Several things will decide the fortunes of UDC+ in 2019, and the political fate of the nation; its assumptions, origins and political significance in the national imagination. For the first time BDP cadres will have a straining, and frightfully exhausting, opportunity to engage in serious politics with rival political elites. This is one election in which considered judgement should direct the nation towards the imperial need for political legitimacy to be made.


The entrenched political monologue of the BDP should now become a thing of the past. 2019 offers Batswana a unique chance to renegotiate not only the contours of political power but also the rationale and policy direction of a new class hegemony. It is an election about the political rebirth of a nation. The desire for knowledgeable governance is in the air and we all can feel it. My own assumption is that the rise of UDC+ is a logical outcome of a unified approach to the study of national problems.


UDC+ offers the country the chance to remove from society the ludicrous standoffishness that has kept men and women of character and commitment to social justice apart in our civilization for fifty years. It offers them the chance to conveniently come together in search of solutions that are capable of contributing to the knowledge needed by the democratic polity to hedge desperate citizens against the endless troubles of the new millennium.

The danger, of course, is that energy may in turn be dissipated on a miscellany of merely topical issues. I hope UDC+ will avoid this treacherous path and in this they will need our support and guidance; the very thing I am doing right now, writing this article. If they do not listen, by all means, let us send them back to the sea where they come from. The fundamental, and often neglected, problems which arise in the adjustment of human beings in society must be addressed, thoroughly.


Postcolonial society cannot survive on a policy vacuum the way Botswana has been doing this past fifty years. It’s time the entire context of postcolonial significant events was made the springboard of all political action and policy choices. Politics should not and cannot be allowed to create more problems for our bewildered citizens.


There is urgent need to increase the knowledge necessary for the improvement of practical democracy; democracy must exist and thrive beyond the ballot box. It is time voting became just a singular day in a contiguous and self-informing march of democratic culture in society. Batswana must learn to live like educated democrats, to eat and drink democratic values and cultures.

As a political system democracy is a watchman. If you don’t pay it much attention it abandons you. Latch it to your heart and it will prosper, leash it to a rotten tree and it will die. We should struggle not only to protect the physical dignity of citizens but also the realization of human dignity in public policy and national politics. It is not democratic for Batswana to go out partying when the entire High Court bench is under political attack from a prodigal and reckless presidency.


It is not democratic for Batswana to go and dance polka in Khawa when Basarwa are dying of illiteracy, hunger and starvation. It is not democratic for Batswana to laugh at hopeless young people who are spawn into dangerous and loathsome streets every year-at a rate of more than eighty thousand per annum for a population of 1.2 million people-poorly educated, and facing no prospect of landing good jobs with good pay in their lives.

In a democratic society you do not differentiate between public duty and personal conscience, and if you err you always do so on the side of justice. This is what Martin Luther King taught us. This is what Nelson Mandela taught us. This is what Rosa Parks taught us. If we do not learn these things from our own black people who will be our teachers? I do believe the UDC+ wants to teach us these things. Most of these people have sacrificed lucrative careers in law and academia to pursue these democratic ideals.


Who are we to give them deaf ears?  Who are we to turn our backs on them? Who are we to give them cold shoulders? Who are we to march in the opposite direction? UDC+ emerges in our country at a time when we are living in a world of an ever-deepening shadow. The threat to democratic values is real enough. If it does not come from climate change and political violence, it easily manifests in religious mania and terrorism, and worse, nuclear winter.

Under these circumstances it makes sense we use our far too limited intellectual resources for the defence and extension of our democratic values. UDC+ symbolizes a creative rearrangement of, and enlargement of, a political map that defines these problems as perceived by all concerned citizens.


Their political diversity is essential for one thing: the obliteration of lust for power just for its sake-a terrible disease in African politics. A united front is far better at dealing with the endless problems that plague us on a daily basis than a driven personality. We have had enough of this nonsense from the BDP. We cannot heal the polity by pandering to the egos of megalomaniac individuals.

Right now Botswana stands as an unsatisfactory social state. About this we all agree. The question is: what is to be done? How can we, as individuals, best fulfil the requirements of social cooperation in conditions of accelerating economic change and hardships? We all accept, I think, it is institutions, and not the moral and economic individualism of the BDP, that are the necessary conditions of satisfactory social coexistence.


The UDC+ we all can see is such a political institution; diverse, sophisticated and politically committed to social justice. It is an institution in which many diverse individuals and political cultures have come together so they can more effectively grasp how their actions will always involve the regulation of relationships with others, through one impartial instrument; professional collegial judgement in a coalition of equals. Could there be anything more beautiful than this, could there be any political machine more effective, no, more efficient, at running the affairs of a multicultural society in this most troubling moment in national history?

The UDC+ politician is defined by the relationships he has with others so that even an individual is a social system and not some wayward sovereign maverick.  This is very important for party discipline and policy delivery. Is it any wonder opportunists and political adventurists are already decamping to the feeding bowl that is BDP? There is no room for corruption here, only selfless public service, and the greedy wolves are already running.Good riddance.

Let them go now when there is still time. But the gatekeepers, those who are totally and irrevocably committed, should not open the doors for a mass stampede; political education has never been more crucial. These people know not what they are doing. They need our help and guidance. Teach them and value their contributions. This is how I see the UDC+ as an outsider, as a political theorist. This is my understanding of this strategic alliance. I might be wrong about all these things.


But the role of a thinker is not to shy away from what his brain tells him. My duty is to debate these issues, not avoid them. I put them in the public domain with an intellectual purpose which is deliberate; perhaps to a certain fault, to test their validity. It’s not the most empirical way to do things. But my purpose is overtly political. This much is obvious to all readers. I am not going to pretend to any element of objectivity. The future of this country is at stake.


And our moral duty as scholars is to protect the country, not the sectional interests of individuals and political parties. If you disagree with me write your own political monograph-I just finished writing two on these very same issues. Meet me squarely in the republic of scholarship. I will answer to your charges pound for pound in the clinical way most profound.

One thing, however, still demands consideration: is it possible the UDC+ may be composed of just a patchwork of individuals and political parties held together by whatever thread appears to be appropriate to the circumstances of the moment? This, in fact, is my greatest fear; that Batswana may be unwittingly nurturing just another unprincipled political monstrosity.


Rarely is political activity a conscious human purpose. As I said, politics is almost always unknowable. There is no point in just playing one bunch of political elites against another if there is no real politics in such a game, if their interests are coterminous and mutually beneficial to the exclusion of all other interests.

It is critical that we carefully assess the emerging nature of our politics. This we must do before Election Day, 2019. We must learn to educate ourselves about the world we live in. It’s the only way to guard against political annihilation in modern society. Is UDC+ who they claim to be? Are they truly concerned with our national problems and the relationship of the BDP to these problems? Are they truly concerned with what the BDP does, and what it does not do, to further the health and wealth of the nation?


Do they have units involved in policy research and development to originate better ideas and policies to combat the problems that continue to bedevil our national life? Are they just a lobby group masquerading as a political movement? Are they just another pressure group for vested class interests? What kinds of policy arenas, fields, communities, and networks are they involved in? Are they genuinely seeking a fundamental alternative to the present government and its way of doing things? What political reality do they share as a political community?


Where do we, ordinary citizens, fit within this vexing political reality? Is this reality problematic enough to effect a radical change in society and affect the lives of citizens positively in the long term?  What are the ties that hold these disparate political parties as a political group, and how durable are these ties? How are they going to deal with the problems of convergence and shifting class loyalties when they get into political office?

If UDC+ cannot answer these questions then they have no business in national politics. Politics, we all understand, is human imagination. It involves experiments in thought. Surely these suave men and women should know what they are about? Above everything else politics is self-education. They must know this country well. They must know our problems as a nation. They must have a plan for the future. They must mean business. But do they really know these things? Do they really care?

This is what I mean when I say UDC+ still has a lot of work to do if they are to rally the entire nation behind them and carry the vote in the next election. I am not trying to teach them their business. But if they need my vote they must answer my questions. No Motswana, I am sure, expects less from them.

Teedzani Thapelo* is former Research Associate at the Centre for Economic Policy in Southern Africa, Distinguished Africa Guest Researcher at Nordic Africa Institute, Economic History Lecturer at the University of Botswana, and author of the bestselling three-part series Botswana epic novel, Seasons of Thunder, Vol.1. 11 and 111

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IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

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

Incompetence or Disrespect?

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

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

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

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

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


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


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

4th April 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brands are important

27th March 2023

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

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


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


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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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