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.
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.
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.
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org