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A misguided political leadership

I have never really trusted politicians especially those in the ruling party since my youth. The reason being that during the elections every five years they came, made promises, ridiculed the opposition politicians as dreamers and went back only to come back for the same similitude after five years. Many of the promised developments, especially roads networks have still not been constructed almost fifty (50) years later making access to these villages very difficult resulting in a lot of our people migrating to towns and other villages.

Without roads and necessary developments who will be interested in investing in these villages? How many educated and informed people given a choice will remain in undeveloped remote villages, surrounded by poverty, with no social amenities?  How many people will choose to travel every weekend on dusty, bumpy and unsafe roads with their children to these far flung villages just for the sake of being in their beloved undeveloped villages? The fifty (50) year old song, the political song called diversification of the economy, will remain a song, a pipe dream that will last as long as we have the kind of politicians we have in this country, especially those in the ruling party.

The kind of politicians who do not realise that diversification will not happen until the country is first adequately prepared for it; the kind of politicians who do not realise that investors will come only if their livelihood and that of their families is not compromised; the politicians who does not realise that investors will need decent schools for their children, the politicians who do not understand that investors will need decent health care systems for their families, the politicians who do not appreciate that investors will need decent transportation infrastructure like road networks, railway facilities, telecommunication and air travel to reach the market and to fully benefit from and fully enjoy the benefits of his investment. Without the right kind of politicians no meaningful diversification of the economy will take place.  

Our politicians do not understand why Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone are so congested. They do not realise that it is because of our failure to decentralise and spread the economic burden to all the major centres of our country. Our politicians do not understand why the cost of living is unbearable for many living in Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone. They wonder why accommodation is extremely expensive in Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone.

They cannot see that it is because of poor planning that has resulted in concentration of all economic activities centred on these areas.  Gaborone was never designed for the population it is currently forced to support. The resultant congestion has complicated many things including land shortages resulting in expensive accommodation, on the lower end of the community economic spectrum accommodation is not only expensive, it is also appalling with many families living in one roomed accommodation which is used as a kitchen, a bathroom, a sitting room and a bedroom.

Roads are overflowing with traffic making driving not only a very expensive and dangerous occupation, but also a negative productivity factor as people cannot get to work on time and cannot carry their economic activities on time making the business environment very unattractive. Water supply challenges in and around Gaborone is a result of the volumes required to water Gaborone and the Greater Gaborone as a consequence of this congestion and poor planning and execution by our politicians. These politicians do not realise that developing rural areas will help in their diversification efforts and will ease congestions in Gaborone and surrounding villages.

As a young man I vowed never to be become a politician as I believed many politicians I observed as I was growing were just load mouths with very little in between their ears.  I was also told that it is the empty drums that make the loudest noise. I heard their loud noises in their load speakers as they bellowed and traversed our villages, at freedom squares canvassing for votes from desperate  and unsuspecting villagers who were always ready to hero worship these noisy politicians who always told them that they held the national purse for development of their villages.

I heard them too, they promised but never delivered. Every five years they came with their empty loud promises, and then disappeared never to be heard until the next five years. What a bunch of clowns!  See them at work in parliament and you will realise that indeed they are a bunch of clowns, not the honorables that they fake to be.

It is this crop of politicians who have not understood their role or who have deliberately misguided themselves for their own selfish interests, or who have not taken time to understand what their functions are or who neither have the ability nor the aptitude to understand their mandate or who are so malleable that they can easily be swayed to toe the line by the party leadership against their better judgment. It is this bunch of politicians who are purchasable, bought by promise of tenders and personal opportunities. It is these politicians who have sold their souls to their party at the expense of their mandate and the people they are supposed to represent. What a bunch of people!

The role of a politician is to represent the diverse interests of his or her people fearlessly with the courage and ferocity of a hungry lion to get the best ‘meal’ for his constituency and his country; to make laws that govern the country for the promotion of peace, tranquility and development, to allocate resources equitably through out the country and to be able to explain to the electorate the rationale behind each allocation of funds and the development priorities. It is not up to the Minister of Finance or the President to allocate resources. No. Their job is to manage and ensure a fair, transparent and equitable framework for the allocation of resources.  It is the responsibility of all politicians to allocate resources according to the needs of their people and the needs of the country using a fair and transparent system.

The people must see how the allocation will benefit them and it is the responsibility of the politicians to be able to explain these to their people as all the resources in the country belong to every citizen and therefore each citizen must be assured that the resources are allocated and used for his or her benefit one way or the other. When resources are used to benefit individuals and selfish interests then we have politicians who are irresponsible and lacking in character; then we have politicians who can be described as vultures and dishonorable; then we have politicians who should be purged and cast out of the political system.

Our politicians have given themselves responsibility to appoint and manage public servants including people employed in the parastatals. It seems they have even now expanded this self given mandate to influence critical and strategic appointments in the private sector because they hold the purse and influence on the civil servants. Politicians by nature are not experts in any field and they should not even want to be. 

Their job is to ensure that there is a legitimate, transparent and world class framework for appointment of civil servants, and employment of people running the parastatals such frameworks must be devised and managed by experts with politicians only playing an oversight role. Politicians should have no role whatsoever ever in private companies as this can only be a recipe for economic disaster that we see emerging in our beloved republic.

If you look closely to the failure of the entire government sponsored project you will realise that the politicians were and are running the show. The Morupule B it was the Minister of Mines who was running the show with BPC executive as just the minister’s messengers.  Just mention any government project and there are many, the ministers where and are responsible. At one stage when our current President was the Vice President he was given the mandate, his only mandate at the time to manage the implementation of all government projects. Did we get any of the projects implemented satisfactorily? No. But it was not his fault; he was not simply qualified to carryout that function. The current President continues to make the same mistake and has even made the mistake bigger and more expensive by now appointing retired and failed politicians to oversee government projects.

These are politicians who do not have any project implementation skills, how can they be appointed to manage projects and how do you expect them to make any positive difference? They are going to fail not because they are bad people but because they have been given jobs they are not qualified to do. Why can’t these people also realise that they are inadequately equipped for such jobs and decline these jobs? Do these people have the interests of the country at heart or only the interest to line their pockets? Do they care whether these projects will succeed or not?

What we need for these retired politicians is for them to be given adequate retirement packages to allow them to retire from public office gracefully and do their own thing in their own chosen areas of interest.

We do not need retired politicians to be made project managers when we have qualified younger people waiting to be given opportunities to prove themselves. We do not need retired and failed politicians to be made ambassadors when we know they have no such skills. What skills to they have to represent our country in foreign countries?  What skills do they have to find business opportunities for Batswana in those countries and what skills do they have to find investors in those countries and guide them to partner with Batswana to start businesses in Botswana? With good ambassadors we do not need some of the many politically motivated parastatals that have been created to promote foreign investment.

In conclusion, our politicians need to realise that they must change and start serving the interests of the people not their own interests. I believe what I have said here is a true reflection of our political status. However, I must admit that we have politicians in the past and now who have interests of their people at heart. They are however very few, I can mention a few but I will not.  It is disappointing and disheartening that almost all the politicians in the ruling party have sold their soul to their party forgetting their country and their people. They have regrettably become spineless puppets on the string to serve only the interests of the party.

We need to raise the voice of consciousness and urge these politicians to understand and pursue only their mandate and not to accept programs and laws that will drain our national coffers without commensurate benefit to the country. We need politicians who will stand for principle not only to satisfy their political bosses. Let us watch the American and European politicians at work and learn how function democracies work. The politicians including the president should not be above the law, the politician including the president should not be above his or her people; the politician including the president should rather be a true servant of the 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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Opinions

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

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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