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Our public service or civil service as it is commonly known is very unproductive by any measure. It currently lacks initiative and creativity. It just exists and does not make any real meaningful and measurable impact on the lives of Batswana in general and business in particular, if anything, it frustrates the efforts of ordinary people in their individual efforts to enhance their livelihood and also it limits the business community by making the business environment in our country onerous and unnecessarily unattractive when the contrary should be true.

I refuse to accept that our people are by nature unproductive. I refuse to agree that by nature our people in the civil service lack initiative. I refuse to concur with those who believe that our people by nature lack creativity. I believe strongly that our people can be productive, can be efficient and effective. 

I believe our civil service has the capacity, the skills and aptitude to be as productive, as efficient and as effective as the best civic service any where in the world or better. What then are the challenges that prohibit our public service from being the best it can be?  I would like to explore these challenges, but not as an academic exercise but as a social observation based on the existential realities in our country today.

The World Bank and or the IMF have said many times that our civil service is blotted and inefficient. The ordinary man in the street has experienced the full force of the infectiveness of our civil service in countless areas. The business community can also attest to the inefficiency and in effectiveness of the civil service. The government has also acknowledged this problem and even came up with a whole parastatal called the National Productivity Centre, which has made minimal impact on the productivity of the civil service. What then is the problem? What are the root causes?

Trying to address the productivity of the civil service without understanding and dealing  a fatal blow to the root causes is like trying to remove a tree by cutting the branches  without removing the roots, that tree will not only  continue to grow but it will grow faster with more branches sprouting out fast and furious much more than before. So over the years we have unknowingly been fertitising the inefficiency and the unproductivities of the civil service. We need to stop, ponder and carve a new path for our public service.

Here are the challenges facing our civil service as a clearly see it. The first significant challenge is wicked pay structure and very poor remuneration and benefits that our public service is subjected to. They say if you pay peanuts and treat people like brainless puppets, you must look for monkeys and puppets to do your work. The second major challenge is role clarity that is duplication of roles which is a sure way of making decision-making a slow and a very dubious process.

The third major challenge is poor communication resulting in unhealthy industrial relations and the emergency of unionism within the civil service that as we see has become so divisive and self seeking. The other challenge is political influence that together with the three challenges above have resulted in a very unhappy, very corrupt and consequently a very unproductive and inefficient public service.

Pay structure

Despite being one of the richest African country blessed with the richest mine in the world in the name of Jwaneng;, a country with a per capital gross domestic product of over US$7000, a country whose natural resources are the envy of many in the world, our civil service remains one of the worst in terms of remuneration in the world and in Africa. This is an insult to our people.

The disparity between the highest civil servant and the lowest is also gross and depressing.  I am not going to give the exact figures but the actual figures are publicly available for those who want exact figures. 

Our civil service, like any organisational structure has the executive, the management, the supervisory and the operatives. The executive earns between P20 000 and P40 000 (US$2 000 and US$4000), the management cadre earns between P13 000 and P20 000 (US$1 300 and US$2 000), the supervisory level earn between P4 000 and P13 000 (US$400 and US$1 300) and the bottom rung earns less than P4 000 (US$400) with some earning around P900 (US$90). These are monthly earnings not weekly earning as some in other country may think.

As you can see the difference between the lowest and the highest is gross, P900 to P40 000. The number of people in this structure will typically follow a normal distribution curve like any organisation where the very top and the and the very bottom will constitute about 5 % of the working population while the majority of the workers (more than 50%) will be in the middle earning between P2 000 and P10 000 which is by any standard very law and very depressing.

In a country such as ours where a typical worker supports at least four children and has extended relatives who are not working and expect the working person to support them, these earnings are gross and will result in these people being very unhappy, unhappy people cannot be productive, unhappy people do not simply care about their work. Because of this low pay these people will find other means, many times unlawful means to earn more money to support themselves and their families.  They will create overtime that is not necessary.

They will engage in other personal activities at work in order to get more money. This low pay is a breeding ground for corruption in the work place where artificial problems and bottlenecks are created in order for service seekers to pay bribes called by other sweet names in order to be assisted. No amount of training, no amount of schooling, on amount of degrees obtained, no amount of attending productivity workshops will change the status quo. Without enough money to meet their survival needs the civil servants will continue to be unhappy and unproductive.

Duplication of roles

It is true that the civil service is blotted, there are just too many people doing the same level of work, reporting in a long chain that only makes the work of a civil servant boring and exceedingly unattractive. How can one be creative in such a scenario, how can one be productive in such a scenario, how can one be concerned about the level of productivity, how can one be happy in their work place in such a scenario. 

Each person needs to have a meaningful, challenging and measurable job that he or she can call his or hers that will occupy 8 hours of his or her day, not sitting in an office waiting to append a signature on someone’s work. I was taught as a young man that idleness is the devils workshop. If you are not fully occupied during your workday, you will find other personal and or even evil things to do to keep your mind occupied. Gossiping, idle talk and interfering in other peoples work will become a norm thereby killing productivity in the work place.
Poor communication

Unionism has grown very fast in the civil service in recent years. I believe it is a result of a frustrated civil service that is now asserting its rights very aggressively due to poor communication. It is a realisation that the establishment does not care about the civil servant.  Come to think of it, what can this country achieve with civil servants who only carry their bodies to work and go home without having applied themselves in anyway, who feel that they are not appreciated?

Do we realise it is through the civil service that we can regulate, police the business community and make the business community function effectively, it is the civil service that collects all the taxes and revenues, it is the civil service that ensures that laws are written and obeyed, it is the civil service that ensure our children are educated, it is the civil service that ensures that we have a functioning health care. What service to we have that does not need to the civil servant. If the politicians think they are in charge they are still in deep slumber. The politician’s job is to empower and tool the civil service to deliver services in an efficient and effective manner. Poor communication and lack of appreciation has resulted in the status quo.

Politicising the civil service

The politicians have failed to manage our civil servants; they have turned the civil service into an unparallel militant body that will not propel this country forward at the speed it is destined to progress at. In my view the civil service should be totally apolitical, real neutral when it comes to politics.  Politics should be a taboo to the civil service.

The president and others in the ruling party have potiticised the civil service, they have publicly stated that they will appoint those card carrying members of their party into the civil service and will give offer government tenders based on political affiliations.  Imagine our police force taking party lines, imagine our solders doing the same, imagine our teachers, imagine our nurses and doctors as politicians and unionists.

I think like Chinua Achebe intimidated long time ago, things have fallen apart, the centre can no longer hold. We need a new centre to bring back glory to our civil servants, to reorganize and appropriately size the civil service, to give it a new mandate that of managing our country professionally with politicians being only facilitators and their mouth piece in public.

In conclusion, the civil servants must be paid well, really well in commensurate with the status of our economy. The civil servants must be recognised as professionals above politics. They should be no need for unionism within the civil service. Underpaying them, not recognising them as professionals, undermining their intelligence has created the current unproductive, self seeking and a very corrupt civil service. Good communication will endear the public servants to the government of the day.

Their job is to serve the nation regardless of which party is in power. Where civil servants are expected and in a way forced to be card carrying members of the ruling party is gross and must be condemned.

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Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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