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WHERE ARE WE GOING?

When you consciously, with a clear sense of honesty, reflect on how our country is governed you will immediately realise that there are deep rooted political shenanigans and acts of political hooliganism going on in our country sponsored by the ruling party.

If you listen objectively to the political leadership in parliament at freedom squares at press conferences you will immediately see that what I am saying is nothing but the truth. It is clear that the opposition parties have no power to stop these political maneuverings and manipulations that are clearly driving our country steadily towards ruin. It is clear that the opposition parties can only talk against these and offer solutions which can only be implemented by the ruling party.

This can only happen if the ruling party had members of parliament with some modicum of integrity who can stand independently and firmly for what is right, not those who are driven by selfish interests, whose only desire is to please their president. The opposition members of parliament are truly toothless in parliament, they can only shout as much as they want but they neither have the mandate nor the power to implement any of their rightful demands or desires for the nation. It is the ruling party that holds the power, the keys and he sway to make laws and programs that can destroy or save this country.

The ruling party is willfully, with impunity taking this country on a free way to self destruction because it is blinded by selfish and relentless desires for self preservation. It is up to all of us who love our country to take a stand and speak out in support of the few sane voices in parliament.  Maybe the opposition ought to now develop extra parliamentary strategies to engage the public directly at their door steps or where they can be found to preach the message of change.

We must stop this slide towards ruin that even ordinary people in the streets can now see but are helpless in the extreme.
It is disheartening to learn that our president, who once called members of parliament ‘vultures’ when they called for their pay rises. He said this when he delivered his maiden speech in parliament in 2000 after which he abruptly left parliament giving parliamentarians no opportunity to engage him. 

He is the one who now wants to change the law in order to ridiculously increase his own retirement packages and benefits. It is the same president who has since drained our national coffers through his ill conceived selfish political motivated programs like the so called economic stimulus programme (ESP), the so called youth empowerment programmes that are not only wasteful, but will leave many youth permanently financially and morally disabled because many of these youth have not been trained to manage such funds.

Many of these youth will end up using these funds possibly for luxurious expenditure in the form of expensive cars, drugs and reckless lifestyles that will result in an unsustainable future whose end result could be laced with misery and shame.  We must state categorically that politically motivated youth programmes must be condemned and rejected. 

We need to do things the right way not for politically expediency. It is the same president who has wasted our money on the so called poverty eradication programs including backyard gardens and dishing out animals to people who never showed any interest in farming. Common sense will show you that in a drought prone country like Botswana only serious commercial farmers can survive.

How can the President be demanding increased retirement benefits for himself when he has refused to meaningfully improve the remuneration packages and benefits for the public servants who are earning income well below living wages? Instead he has reduced the benefits by allowing inflation to cut deep into these already very low salaries without any compensation for inflation.

He has cut the civil service by introducing ‘vultures’ to take over some services, like cleaning and security, ‘vultures’ who get fat cheques from government and pay their employees minimum wage set by government of less than a thousand pula per month with no other benefit whatsoever and very abusive and appalling work conditions for these poor people These ‘vultures’ do not give their employees any pension or any terminal benefits because the law which law is determined by the ruling party allows it.

Politicians cannot talk about increasing their remuneration when the country is economically bleeding; when the public servants are earning starving wages that drives them towards corruption and possibly wicked lifestyles. Politicians, I mean true politicians in my view are volunteers driven by their deep desire to serve their people and to protect all the national resources for the benefit of the rightful owners, the people; not to defraud the same people and misuse their resources.

It is indeed shocking that parliament instead of debating ways of stimulating the economy, creating jobs opportunities and improving benefits for their people, they are instead busy debating a bill to increase the president retirement benefits. 

As a side throw, they have also shamefully started debating and demanding increasing their security in parliament. They are now continuously talking about a harmless okapi knife found by their new found gadget, a detector that now scans people as they go into parliament. What pettiness from our parliament! Don’t they know that many self respecting Batswana men carry harmless knifes always in their pockets to facilitate some of their tradition pastimes.

Is it not surprising, that this has now taken centre stage in parliament, freedom squares, radios and general public discourse instead of national issues? Those who have found this to be such an important national topic do not even know that some of their own might be or are actually carrying hidden short guns to parliament for self protection. These political ‘vultures’ must open their eyes and research more about personal security.

Our hands, legs and heads could be used as lethal weapons by some crazy people; shall our hands, legs and heads be cut because they might be used carelessly for purposes they where never meant for?  Are our parliamentarians so crazy that they could engage in a way that knifes could be used as weapons of destruction in parliament?  Let us have a dignified parliament. Parliament is becoming a national disgrace, perhaps that’s why they cannot televise it, like other countries. Anyway, let me move on.

Where are we going, when with such a poorly performing economy still reeling from the impacts of the global economic down turn of 2008; the down turn that has seen dramatic fall of the global commodity prices resulting in many of our mines closing, some of them at the brink of closure and some having reduced production and their staff?

Where are we going when in the middle of all these challenges we are busy justifying in our parliament the increase of specially elected members of parliament and increasing the number of ministers? How is this going to address our increasing economic challenges we face? Where are we going, can someone who is objective see sense that I cannot see in the middle of this madness?

Where are we going when we have a population of around forty thousand (40 000) young people joining the job market each year with no prospects of finding any job? What are our politicians especially the ruling party doing about this growing number of unemployed people whose training has been paid for by the tax payer?  Remember during the last elections, the ruling party directly through the president issued a red card in which the president categorically stated that job creation was going to be the number one priority of his administration.

How many jobs have been created since that election and declaration?  I only know of thousands of jobs that have been lost in a number of operations around the country on the mines, the diamond factories, the banks and even the government.  I am not aware of any meaningful jobs created. Those who know please let me know how many jobs have been created in the country since October 2014 when the ruling party was re-election.

Where are we going when we are not able to execute any project on time and within budget?  Where are we going when we employ retired and failed politicians to manage government mega projects? Where are we going when we build a glass factory in Palapye for five hundred million Pula, we stop the project just before it is completed then we strip the factory and sell the equipment for about ten million Pula? Where are we going when we build an eleven billion Pula power plant in Palapye and then pronounce our intention to sell it because it was poorly built, because it is a maintenance nightmare and because it will not meet the rated electricity production? Who in his right mind would buy such a plant for eleven billion Pula or are we going to give it away at ten million Pula like the glass factory? Where are we going when we sabotage a private investor who wants to build a 700 MW solar power station in Jwaneng, a private investor who has done all the his homework including acquisition of land. Where are we going when we tell this investor that, go away, we are not interested we will build our own 100 MW solar power station at the same place?

Where are we going?  Where is the logic in all this madness?

Where are we going when we have a government whose sole purpose is to frustrate the private sector and at the same time tell the world that the private sector should drive the economy, the same government that is spending inordinate amount of money going around the world seeking foreign direct investment? We have to be serious and tell the world that we are not ready for private sector investment; tell the world that we are not ready for genuine foreign direct investment. Tell them we only want to do our own thing for our party and children using public funds.

Where are we going Batswana when we have a government that is using national resources for its own political campaigns against the opposition? Where are we going when the nation is daily bombarded with the ‘red’ political propaganda on our so called national television and radio, pure political propaganda in full party colours, where are we going? Our political leaders are leading this country astray towards our economic ruin. We need to wake up before it is too late. Soon, very soon we will hear that there is no money to sponsor our children to study at our public institution of higher learning, but those children going to private institutions will be sponsored?  Watch the space!

In conclusion, I repeat in part what I said last week. Our politicians need to realise that they must change and start serving the interests of their people. It is disappointing and disheartening that almost all the politicians in the ruling party have sold their soul to their party.  They have regrettably become spineless puppets on the string only to serve the interests of their party.

We need to raise the voice of consciousness and urge these politicians to pursue only their real political mandate regardless of their political affiliation. They must not accept programs and laws that will drain our national coffers without commensurate benefit to the country. We need politicians who will stand for principle, politicians who will champion the interests of their people.

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Opinions

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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