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Dear African Child (iii): the gravity of Youth landlessness

“…Land and water are not really separate things, but they are separate words, and we perceive through words.” ― David Rains Wallace

My brief interaction with history literature has taught me that many battles in the African continent have, and continue, to be fought explicitly and implicitly in the name of Land. History taught me that; many precious lives were lost, many tribes and families detached, many deceptive collusions were orchestrated and, many children were left homeless and parentless all in the name of Land. To be more precise I learnt: -Land was the main cause of the Western Sudan violent revolt against the Sudanese government in the 1970s.

The Darfur Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as ‘janjaweed’ to repress the rebellion (Jones, 2006); -in the Democratic Republic of Congo, violence in parts of the northeast started over land in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died (Moore, 2010); -in 1998 Ethiopia and Eritrea dispute over the  border town of Badme turned into all-out war, recording 80,000 deaths in two years.

Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved and may be launched any time (Tareke, 2009); -In Kenya most indigenous tribes lost rights when the British privatized land holdings.

It is believed that when His Ex cellency -Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence since the 1990s (Moore, 2010); -the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is believed to have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension.  The country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves.

Yanagizawa-Drott (2014) strongly contends that though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence; -in Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe chaotically seized white farms and turned them over to blacks who knew little about farming. Consequently, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked (Polgreen, 2012).

In South Africa land was a key element motivating and fueling the struggle against apartheid. It was a key agenda item of the revolutionary 1955 CoP (Congress of the People), which adopted the Freedom Charter – a blueprint for the democratic South Africa of the future (Vadi, 2015). The Freedom Charter became an integral part of the ANC (African National Congress) identity; historians believe it played a very significant role in the overthrow of the apartheid regime in 1994.

Sadly land disputes are clearly not just a thing of the past in the African continent, past land disputes have overflowed into recent times. Simultaneously, new land disputes seem to be swiftly emerging in most African countries, including those that were historically spared from land disputes.  For instance: -in Southern Sudan the 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules.

Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake -the south is oil-rich (McNeish, 2013); -peace is finally driving people home in Uganda after 20 years of violence– and disputes are erupting over who owns property (Jonathan, 2014). Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority to resolve disputes or enforce land rules.

As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash (Moore, 2010). -in South Africa the post-apartheid government had planned to redistribute a good percentage of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed (Moore, 2010). After an outbreak of racial violence and establishment of revolutionary movements such as EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), observers fear the status quo with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake is explosive (Ramphele, 2013); -white farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils in Zambia, they were initially welcomed by the government.

The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions (Mbeki, 2011); -in Namibia a youth led EFF replicate was formed in 2015 titled NEFF (Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters). Land is a key priority among NEFF’s founding concerns. They have already staged a massive land grand and illegal land occupation campaign across the country in 2015.

Analysts and commentators fear the 2015 land grabs and illegal occupations are just the beginning of deeper land divisions. In light of this brief historical and contemporary land disputes background, it is clear the land issue was, and is still, one of Africa’s ticking time bombs. It is one of the drivers to what Morton Grodzins -renowned sociology and political scientist, coined as the ‘Tipping Point’ – a point in time when a group, or a large number of group members rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice. Therefore the Land Issue is a fundamental issue that needs to be swiftly, holistically and systematically addressed or at least managed.

Otherwise it will continue rendering the safety and welfare of African citizen somewhat endangered. Like most continental development headaches facing the Africa continent today, the land issue needs the involvement of young Africans in developing and shaping a swifter and effective way to address it,  to avoid the mistakes of the past. Continental Youth structures such as the PYU (Pan African Youth Union) under the auspices of the AU (African Union) hold the best structural and financial capacity to unite young Africans and ultimately deliver this necessary continental and generational reform.

Land State of Affairs: Botswana Context. Paradox

Our beautiful country (Botswana) is internationally hailed as one of Africa’s best governed countries.  She is also considered one of the most comfortable, peaceful and fiscally stable African countries. In this regard World Bank’s annual “Doing Business 2016” report considers Botswana one of the best places to consider for investment. Equated to other African countries, I also believe these comparative analyses are spot on. However as discussed in previous installments of this series (Dear African Child) Botswana has not been immune to contemporary African challenges.

She continues to battle a seemingly losing battle against most classic African economic development challenges. For instance Botswana is faced with economic development challenges such as; high under- and unemployment rates, high incidence of absolute poverty and, shocking income inequalities (Gini coefficient 0.6 -considered extremely high for a middle income country). However, today I would like to focus on the issue of Botswana’s Land allocation and access conundrum.

In my conscious this is certainly one of the key and seemingly growing hurdles threating Botswana’s internationally acclaimed and long upheld peace and togetherness. Without any doubt access to land and land allocation/distribution is one of the most devastating challenges most Batswana, especially youth and the economically disadvantaged, face.

Despite key instruments such as: the 1993 TLA (Tribal Land Act), Vision 2016 and the constitution, speaking unequivocally and definitively about making access to and ownership of land democratic and inclusive. The sad reality is many Botswana are still without land, many Botswana are helplessly and desperately looking for residential and at times commercial land in our beautiful country.

Early this year Hon. Prince Malele –minister of Lands and Housing, made it known that there are over 1million Batswana in the land application waiting list. This is half of the country’s population. Furthermore if you wish to practically witness the severity of this matter visit any Land Board during a call for land applications, you are guaranteed to see one of the saddest sights ever in this beautiful country. You will find multitudes of Botswana, young, elderly, male and female, gathered outside the premises.

They actually gather for a ‘Land Night Vigil’ by the gate a day before receipt of applications. This is mainly done on the assumption that Land will be allocated on a ‘first come first serve’ bases, and to avoid spending the next two or three days in the queue because thousands of people will certainly honor the call for applications. Sadly of late these developments have proved to be putting lives of fellow compatriots at risk, in almost all occasions riot police are forced to control the situation.

Actually it is now a norm to engage riot police in the land application process.  Correspondently and disturbingly, the land issue is now raising a worrying trend of tribal and racial discrimination among our very citizenry, despite aspiration of our constitution and the revised TLA. Some ethnic groups are now advocating for land quotas in their favor at the expense of other countrymen. Similarly this reality has resulted in sky-high rental and property costs throughout the country, especially urban and semi-urban settlements.

The high rental has made housing access and affordability a nightmare especially for the Youth and the economically unfortunate. This has also made operational costs and working capital for Youth businesses very high and in most cases upsetting the cash-flow-forecast and defying business purpose. These incidents and reality are slowly but surely frustrating and dividing fellow compatriots, it has been going on for a while and it’s not getting any better. It is a widely accepted fact that it can take more than two decades for an applicant to be allocated land in this beautiful country (Mmegi, 2016).

Our fear and priority as a nation, particularly young compatriots, is to constructively and collectively interrogate the Land question with intention of generating a better approach to our Land challenges before the our nation regrettably reaches the ‘tipping point’.
Dear African Child (iv) will focus on the urgency of economic transformation, economic freedom and the search for Africa’s economic prosperity in our lifetime.

*Taziba is a Youth Advocate, Columnist & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Development (7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk) 

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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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