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Basarwa and their Tswana Kinsmen: A Tale of Persecution (1)

In this tale about the horrors of history in Kalahari country, Botswana novelist, poet, historian, essayist, biographer, writer of short stories and travelogue, and human rights campaigner, Teedzani Thapelo*, looks hard at Tswana imperial dominion over Basarwa nation in the last one hundred years, and wonders what it is that makes people who profess to be civilised to behave in such a cold and cruel manner towards others. Is this a matter of race? Is it a question of cultural arrogance? Is it a simple matter of unmitigated human savagery? Is there something barbarian about our national character? Does our vulgar, pretentious, fake significance and brazen philistinism augur well for the future of this country? Is there a value to be derived from this violent mess? Do we derive pleasure from their loathsome miserableness? Is there an ideology and process to promote this violence that some of us don’t know about? What continues to promote this violence? What continues to radicalize the perpetrators of this violence? Is this thing a political proposition? Is it an economic necessity? Where do the perpetrators get their operational instructions, how and why? We need, Thapelo argues, answers to these questions so that when finally the hand of justice comes knocking at the door, bearing on the right a solemn Lady Justice, we should know where to point our fingers. This, he says, is a national duty if we have any conscience at all.

I took the trouble to go through extant historical sources these past three weeks with one object in mind; to explore relations between Basarwa and Batswana in the past hundred years. I just don’t really know where I should begin relating this story. One thing though is certain: throughout this period the life of a Mosarwa has been a theatre of unmitigated calamity and that of his Tswana kinsman a journey of remarkable progress and social transformation, at least by the miserable standards they set for themselves. By some unwritten law of God, oppressors, it would appear rarely ever truly prosper for long.

Anyway, throughout this period Basarwa have bore the brunt of Tswana tyranny and to this day they still find it hard to escape the vigilance of this relentless political despotism. Batswana have shown themselves to be inaccessible to entreaties and virulently determined to visit this spectre of terror upon their neighbours with a commitment so worrisome I doubt any people have ever suffered so much persecution in recent African history, and that is a subject I happen to know very well.

Yes, 800 000 innocent souls died in Rwanda in 100 days while the world watched and partied but the dead do not shed tears; and in some wretched but calm way they lie in the bosom of God: the ultimate author of all things, great and small. Basarwa are still with us, and their blood and tears mingle with the air that we breathe, and their mangled voices, the tolling bells of our cathedrals-the strangest thing for people who live in a democratic society.

We all agree, I think, it’s a terrible thing for the lives of others, their very welfare and happiness, to be victims of such tyrannical vigilance. I shall return to the issue of justice later. But what really happened to evoke such a vexing conclusion on my part? Well, the incidents of horror are well documented. We shall mention some of them by way of illustration. What I find most shocking is the form and shape this mode of persecution has taken in these years.

The toils of persecution are things so loathsome they scar not only individuals but the entire project of human civilization. We should never take such things lightly. The tyrant, however, is an animal too difficult to appease so that even as I write I know this brief memoir will do nothing to divert the deplorableness of this situation. But common decency demands that we record these blood spots in the annals of national history.

Our children may, with the help of God, and a much firmer grasp of civilised conduct, do something about them in the future. Yes, I do have faint hope posterity may by their own means and convictions feel it necessary to render justice which my contemporaries refuse. That’s one of the reasons I am writing this article.

The trouble with horrific national history is the difficulty of locating the sources of political depravity. So I’m not going to try. It’s always better to appeal to justice than address the sources of malady, something that is very difficult for a historian to do. But I’ll try. It’s important I set these parameters least I be accused of intellectual levity. My discovery is that this tale of persecution operates by supplying means and resources for destruction and refusing opportunities for conquering difficulties, a most singular thing.

The spring of action is political greed. Acts of insult and injury, of which there are far too many, are camouflaged with the cartel of honour, and violent effort is employed to engender hesitated confusion and irresolute answers. Simple scenes of revelry and mirth are contrived to divert the unhappiness of tortured minds, and these are also camouflaged by the episodic benevolence of superior actions that call upon the garb of veneration even under the deep groans of intolerable anguish. Colonialism was not this perverse. Nor apartheid.

These were elaborate political machines that did not shy away from what they intended to accomplish. What’s happening in Botswana is terribly disturbing. The whole train of life of a Mosarwa is continually subjected to a deserted situation of political terror that is hasty, peevish and tyrannical. It’s like living with and serving a mentally deranged political master; a master whose disturbance and inflammation of the mind is characterised by brief and pale rhapsodies of visionary honour. Tried as I can I just could not give perspicuity to this horrible series of events.

As a child I found the ordinary Motswana possessed of an air of uncommon dignity, a dignity heightened by an expression of frankness, kindness and unreserved enthusiasm; a terribly charming fellow. I found the ordinary Motswana a creature almost encumbered with reflection, sensibility and an amazing good taste that never lost sight of humanity.

Now I am no longer so sure. I wonder what happened to the genuine hilarity of the heart. We have never been a brilliant and scholarly people but we always counted on our good manners to stand us good in all company and conversations. But no longer so. We have changed radically. We are no longer superior to suspicion. Is what I see today our true character coming out? Is what I read in the annals of our history our true character as a nation and a people?

I invite the reader to travel with me through Kalahari country and survey for themselves the criticalness of this situation. The tragic irony of the horror that separates a Mosarwa from his Motswana kinsman is that this same loathsomeness seems, in many instances, to be predicated on the fear for the progress that each party might have made in the affection of the other.

Both are aware of the dangers of this relationship. Both are exhausted by the endless rancour and blood-letting but this they choose, in the majority of cases, to endure with apathy; the Mosarwa because he’s powerless and helpless, his kinsman, because the very things that feed his frenzied gormandising; land, labour and the body of the victim, are not seen as finite resources.

In short there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. The Mosarwa must become accustomed to tormented submission and deference, and his kinsman to his imperious manners and the superior resentment of insolent questioning of his political privilege. The oppressor is always drunk with choler, and will not, under any circumstances, listen to a word that tends to check the impetuosity of his actions.

The victim traverses the land of Kalahari, no, his entire life span, with grievously perturbed steps, foaming with anguish, fury and rage. The oppressor has the honour of choosing any scene of action that pleases his diabolical fancy, the victim always has considerable difficulty appeasing the indignation of the master and the rapacious calling of his raw appetites.

Rarely are peaceful means employed to disarm the stateliness of these opposed resentments and nothing is ever done to effect even the smallest moments of mutual cordiality and happiness, and yet both these antagonists live in a democratic society, and often copulate sufficiently well to bring children in this land of plunder and agony.

The reputation of the tyrant’s courageous brutality is already so well established it cannot allow itself to be exposed to impeachment. The Mosarwa, it would appear, has little courage to subdue its imperial arrogance and unstoppable imprudence-and everybody calls Botswana a democratic society, how amazing!

What, I wonder, makes human beings to behave like this towards each other? Does this simply signify the weakness of human nature? Does it signify the weakness of society, its laws and political institutions? Is it always necessary to expiable haste and indiscretion with blood and sworn hate? Is such an unmitigated persecution of a malignant destiny a pleasant feature of democratic society? What happened to the fields of utility and distinction so well spelled out in parts of our constitution?

Why should one nation give accommodation and advantage to another in this way, a way that can only result in it rusting and rotting in the dungeons of oblivion? Why do some people think the world is made for them, and not others? How does a man explain this malignant contagious distemper in democratic society? I am not a philosopher, and the world, I know, is not governed by words. But these things haunt me like a demon.

I cannot wake, but I think of them. My friends at Government Enclave, I know, don’t care. Their attitude is simple: as we brew, we must bake, and life goes on. But this I think is the wrong attitude to take. Let me explain.

A little over a hundred years ago the traveller J.C. Chapman, met a group of Basarwa. He says in his book they called themselves dogs, pack oxen and horses of Sekomi (sic) the Ngwato chief. Asked if they wanted to do anything better than be slaves of this monarch they said they never thought of aspiring to any other position in life.

They called themselves dogs because they hunted and killed game for their master, pack oxen because they had to carry home the proceeds of their hunts for hundreds of miles, and horses because they had to act as his spies throughout his kingdom and run from one post to another with the least information so the man could always rest at peace knowing all was well.

In short, they fed his family, provided secret security services for his kingdom, without asking for millions of money like the DIS, made sure his authority was not challenged, and got nothing in return for their work. We may suspect they got some food but that is only conjecture.

At about the same time David Livingstone, a great humanitarian, died in central Africa fighting to stop slavery and the abomination of slave-trading. America was still smarting from a civil war to end slavery in that great republic, a war that cost millions in human lives and property just to procure the freedom and human dignity of hapless black souls who had hitherto remained tied to the mainstream society by denigrating and dehumanizing bonds of blood, sweat and tears. But in Botswana, a country that had just run 5000 miles across the sea to ask for protection from an old woman in Britain, slavery continued to flourish.

In the 1930s the writer Diana Wyle estimated that Tshekedi Khama owned 300 000 herd of cattle and 3000 Basarwa. This translates to one Mosarwa looking after 100 cows. Bangwato are what they are today because of Basarwa. I could quote many similar data for relations between these suffering people and Bakwena, Bangwaketse, and other tribes.

The tragic plight of Basarwa is a matter of recorded history. The blight of their lives has always been, and remains to date, a function of Tswana prosperity. For centuries they remained the backbone of the country’s transport network, serving wealthy Tswana tribesman as porters, postmen, messengers, and the historical record shows they could even be used to convey their masters and trading goods on their bare backs for hundreds of miles.

Basarwa have always been, and remain to date, master trackers. It is an open secret that it was these much oppressed and maligned people who opened the odiously exacting hinterland of the great Kalahari Desert for commercial exploitation, scientific investigation and tourist marvel and adventure.

For ages they lived in this enchanting paradise with poets, philosophers, scientists, artists, geologists, film makers, intrepid and wayward missionaries, adventurers, celebrities and all sorts of lost human souls from all parts of the world.

Today these great pioneers, these quiet, unassuming, hospitable, and humble souls have been reduced to mere objects of exploitation and tourist fascination. They are outsiders in a land they conquered through great spiritual contemplation and compassionate communing with nature and beasts. The uncontaminated Mosarwa is by nature and philosophical disposition a mystic and wanderer.

He tames first his passions and excesses, and then next tries the best he can to live with his known world-a world of immanent human experience. The way Batswana treat Basarwa today is appallingly disturbing and morally reprehensible principally because it is a horrendous violation of the law of human hospitality-a principle that has been the hallmark of all great civilisations since time immemorial. It is the worst case of bestial internal colonialism ever recorded in human history.

The greatest shame is that it is precisely because of the way we treat these hapless people that the civilised world is beginning to use our oppressive interactions with them as a yardstick to measure our humanity. What a shame! What a horrible fate! What a scandalous self-denigrating proposition! The tragedy is that we do this horrible thing for the simplest reason in the world-we want to be rich. We want to be affluent. We want to be big men and women. The tragedy is that we call this wholesale dispossession and exploitation of fellow citizens civilised behaviour.

The world is laughing at us. It has a right to. The opprobrium of decent voices is engulfing the very soul and spirit of the nation. Rightly so. I just wonder when we’ll tire of this dishonour, humiliation and ignominy. It is a tragedy of our own making. The land claims, legal disputes, intellectual contestations, constitutional determinations, international outcries, activist social science, anthropological anger and discontent, and Basarwa nationalisms and liberation struggles that have characterised ideological, political, moral and legal discourses and actions in Botswana between the first constitutional intervention and pronouncement in 1978 and the sustained High Court battles in the recent past all arise from these historical injustices.

To this day Basarwa struggle for freedom rages on. As I said, the tragic development biography of Basarwa has already become the greatest feature of our definition as nation. There is no worse affront to the magnificence of the human estate than the deliberate vehemence of brutality against others in modern society. The history of Basarwa in Botswana occupies prime position in university bookshelves around the world in all written languages.

There’s hardly any leading anthropologist at the world’s top hundred universities who has not written about Basarwa in the last hundred years. The story of Basarwa has appeared in all leading newspapers of the world. It has been debated in the House of Commons in Britain from as far back as the 1880s and as I write that august house is still open to such debates; its hansards a record of our great folly as a nation.

This story has been the subject of congressional lobbying in America. No leading global television network has not covered this story. No prestigious international magazine has not featured it. This story has featured in films, documentaries, academic conferences and remains the subject of animated discussions in classrooms and private homes in just about every part of the world.

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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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