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In defense of political remuneration


MOTHAPELARURI MAXWELL MOATHUDI


Every man has a right to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs. You might be a voter,  a politician, or just a nobody – as some seem to think the rest of us are- but fight you must! I have been observing, for quite a number of years now, how voters and politicians fight for what they believe they are rightfully entitled to, a good salary and impressive conditions of service and living.

What bothers me though, is that, hard as the voter must fight, s/he is always, at the back of her/his mind, hoping that someone else will be backing their fight. I have just about given up on anyone backing my fight or any voter’s fight for that matter. Just recently, I think as recent as 2014, salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament were increased, and I mean massive increase. I am writing this as a “voter”, and a Motswana in Botswana. I am writing this as a man who fights to nurture democracy with his vote, though not enough, it is something.

 

This vote can either be for the ruling party or for those who oppose; who I vote for is not important in the interest of this article. What is important is my belief that politicians are there to represent the interests of those who voted for them, and of course, in the broader interest of the “country”. You see, the “country” is more important than the voter and the politician and even more important than the self.

 

There are about two (2) million Batswana. Out of this two (2) million Batswana, pardon me for I do not have the statistics, I can maybe say a million or so are  humble men and women who are capable of making choices. Some have made choices I cannot mention here, but there is only a few of those. These men and women have made choices, and humble as Batswana are, I can maybe say the majority of them made those choices in the interest of the “country”.


Some have made choices to serve the “country” as servants of the public (the Public Service) and are under the indirect control of politicians; nothing bad or wrong with that, at least in as far as this write-up is concerned. Some have made choices to serve the public in an indirect manner (the Private Sector). I am not mentioning the Parastatals, as they are public service officers anyway, the only difference between them and the direct public service is the salaries and other pecks that go with having been employed there.

 

Now, we have some who chose to serve the public as politicians; I have just recently learnt that they are not considered public service officers, though mostly they behave as such. All of these environments (the Public Service, the Private Sector and Politics) under which we have made choices to serve are pretty hostile, that is, in comparison with other countries which we can reasonably compare with. Politicians are the peoples’ representatives and as such are elected, “not hired” (otherwise we (the voters) will “fire” them, even before they complete their term(s))).

 

They, like the rest of us, have made a deliberate choice to serve their country in that capacity. Like the rest of us, they were not forced. Now it bothers me that they have made the “self” part of their mandate. When they stood for election it was never part of their manifesto to represent the “self”. The recent increase in their salaries and the continued justification for such really boggles my mind; it is all about the self, as oppossed to being about the voter and the country. Is it real, I ask myself, that a man, or woman makes a deliberate choice, fully knowing the conditions under which they are going to serve and, without negotiating with the “boss” (the voter), changes those conditions. Is the voters’ conditions of service and living not imperative anymore, as promised prior to elections?

I want to, as a voter, look through some of the justifications for the massive salaries and allowances increases our representatives put forth.These were carried in some newspaper a some months bak. Justification 1: Some politicians become destitutes after their term of office expires and they are not re-elected


Should this be the tax payer’s problem? If you had watched the movie “Where were you when the lights went out?”, then you already have the answer. First, there is something called “investment”. Our politicians, like the rest of us, must invest their meager earnings, in other words, “make hay while the sun shines”, unless our politicians beleive the sun will shine forever; and for a while it did seem so. This justification on its own should shed light on the kind of people our politicians are.

 

How does one lead people, in these present times of hardship, and not invest for the future? I believe leaders are in a way  like teachers; the rest of the people look up to them for guidance. Now, if our leaders cannot advise themselves … it tells a different story. Should the tax payer be burdened with politicians who fail to invest while they made deliberate choices to enter politics? If politicians believe higher salaries guarantee a life out of destitution after leaving office, then why do they not extend the benefit to the rest of us poor souls who have made choices bereft of self enrichment? If our politicians believe heftier salaries are a guarantee to a life of grandeur after political office, then they are in for a pretty nasty surprise. It is simple Mathematics actually.

 

If you do not invest while you can, no matter how much money you pump out of the system, you will still be a destitute after office. The advise to our leaders is to start investing now and those who do not know how to invest or what investment is are surely in the wrong place for we need leaders who are wise enough to invest or at least know what investment is so that they can advise us. A high salary is not the answer, it is simple looting of the public coffers, period.

 

One interesting observation is that politicians are the ones charged with ensuring that there is life after retirement, for every Motswana, not destitution. In other words they are charged with making sure that there are good investment opportunities for the masses and of course themselves. If they cannot coordinate such, then they are in the wrong place and the rest of us poor folks will be left in limbo.


Justification 2: Some politicians work for “Ipelegeng” after  their term of office expires and they are not re-elected. Uhu! So Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people? I have all along thought, though not necessarily approving of it, that it was for all Batswana who cannot find reliable and gainful forms of employment. Why should a man who does not know how to invest not work for Ipelegeng? If Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people, then I think those who occupy political office for five years, and even more, and end up destitute belong there.

 

So, stop worrying, at least you will have a job, or the semblance of one, and start putting aside P50-00 of the P600-00 or so aside for when Ipelegeng ceases, as at least you have learnt a lesson. And remember, politicians are the ones responsible for ensuring good investment opportunities and  a comfortable life after retirement. If they cannot work for Ipelegeng, who do they expect to?

Justification 3: Politicians should be paid hefty salaries and allowances beacuse they offer us a clean environment. This is the sentiment of one Councillor in Mochudi. Uhu! Pardon me for having thought that that is part of a politician’s job, providing a clean environment that is. And then again, that might be happening in Mochudi, and I have not been there for quite some time, maybe they have improved. In Selibe-Phikwe at least I know people live with their refuse, what with the dogs, donkeys and cattle opening the gates and tipping over refuse bins while foraging for a meal. Please extend such services to Selibe-Phikwe dear Councillor.


Justification 4: Politicians in other countries are paid handsomely.  Now, now, now! Just what countries are we comparing ourselves with? Corrupt countries where politicians loot public coffers? And did our politicians look at other non-political officers’ remuneration, while they were at it? Or did they just look at theirs? I wonder. Why is it that we are so fond of wanting to adopt bad practices. I am confident the countries our politicians are comparing their salaries to offer very unfriendly salaries to the rest of the populace. Why can’t our politicians maybe compare our country with countries like Singapore. In Singapore the Government ensures or at least strives to ensure that;  they find jobs for their people


they put a roof over their peoples’ heads (Singapore has one of the world’s highest home ownership at 90-%; we do not see that in Botswana) they raised the GDP from $500 in 1965 to $6500 in 2015 and much, much more .I think our politicians should strive to achieve for us what we yearn for mostly; good jobs, good working conditions, good salaries, affordable housing, affordable medical aid, affordable investment and business opportunities, the list is endless. With a happy people, our politicians can then go ahead and reward themselves, maybe no one will notice, or if they do, they might not think it a bad idea. Go ahead, make us happy, give us good salaries, give us good housing, avail the land, the list is endless; and no one will complain.


Justification 5: Politicians use their money to champion democracy
My my my!…pardon me for thinking politicians made deliberate decisions to be politicians. And again I am wondering, why regret such a grand contribution; promoting democracy; and why should anyone complain or want to be paid for doing good? Let me remind our politicians that they are not the only ones championing democracy, or maybe they only think the others only jump onto the wagon when we “celebrate our democracy (vote)”.

 

No! If you remember our first President’s words “Democracy, like a little plant, does not grow or develop on its own. It must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practiced if it is to be appreciated. And it must be fought for and defended if it is to survive”…Sir Seretse Khama…opening of the 5th session of Parliament in 1978. No need to simplify that.


If our politicians want to stake a claim to nurturing democracy at the exclusion of all the others, then we have another think coming. Why, in the name of God would you want to exclude us? The Public Service, the Private Sector and all the other informal sectors out there contributing to championing democracy. Let us have respect for each other and not justify looting of public coffers, in the name of promoting democracy. This country belongs to all of us and each of us, in their own little way, contributes to nurturing our democracy.


The list of justifications is so enormous it cannot be covered in one article, and actually does not need to be. One just needs to look at all these justifications to find just what kind of people we are burdened with. Why should we trust someone who cannot take care of  his/herself, to take care of us? Why should we trust people who think they are better than us? Why should we trust people who think they are the only ones responsible for protecting and nurturing our democracy? I think it is time Batswana woke up from their slumber and start advocating for their place in Botswana’ democracy.


Yes we will always have politicians, but we need politicians who will take care of us, not those who think they are better than or deserve better than us. We need politicians who will remove the “self” from serving the people. And yes, we need a strong and vibrant civil society that will keep the politicians in check. Left to themselves, as is the case in Botswana…bad recipe. So Batswana, let us not only “celebrate our democracy (vote)”, let us live it, every day of our lives. Nurturing democracy is every Motswana’s right and responsibility.


Now, the Weekendpost of Saturday 10 – 16 December, 2016 carries another story where MP L. Kablay of Letlhakane/Lephephe is advocating for another salary increase and other special incentives such as constituency vehicles and the like. He is reported to have said that democracy is expensive to justify the demands. Yes, “democracy is expensive, very, very expensive,” but it should not be “wasteful”. Again, democracy is not like beauty, “it does not lie in the eyes of the beholder”, it belongs to the masses. Ao! Ba gaetsho! In the midst of massive job losses.

 

Nnyaa the betsho. Let us, before we think of ourselves, think of the multitudes of BCL miners and other such who have just lost their jobs. These are people who work theirselves out in very unfavourable and mostly unsafe environments. These are people who dug out copper to make Selibe-Phikwe what it is today, trusting that someone will sell that copper so that they continue surviving…for ours is survival, not living. Let us think of the masses who cannot find jobs and still others who are under-employed. Please, ladies and gentlemen, halt the cry for bigger salaries and think of these people.

 

You must be in Selibe-Phikwe to appreciate the sad, harsh and inhuman reality we see everyday, where the former miners congregate by Area two gates in this simmering heat, supposedly waiting for “change” from their very little terminal benefits. The situation is tantamount to parading these desperate miners for all to see. Please, please, let us think of these poor souls who are guaranteed a future without jobs, who are guaranteed a futureless future. At the very least, let us excise a little conscience of humanity. And please, remember, you made a deliberate choice to be representatives of the people, please do that. Is there any difficulty in that?

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Can we cure ourselves from the cancer of corruption?

28th October 2020
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katholo

Bokani Lisa Motsu

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan

Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.

This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.

The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.

Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.

Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.

Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?

This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.

The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.

So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?

This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.

Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.

I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’  I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’

Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message.  Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?

The answer is – as always: now.

This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.

We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.

It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.

Let us start today.

*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana

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Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

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

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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