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THE RACE TO 2019 HAS BEGUN: SHOULD WE BE HAVING THE WATER CHALENGES WE CURRENTLY FACE?

Last week my submission was titled diamonds, water and electricity waiting for a key holder to unlock for our future prosperity. Yes, indeed we await a key holder who will open the doors; the doors that will lead to all the treasures that God has generously provided for us and safely locked up underground for us to enjoy when the time comes. That key holder will open the doors and will lead his people to deserved prosperity.

God has given us unparalleled wealth in the name of diamonds that are still largely locked safely beneath the earth.  God has also given us water, a life giver that is also safely locked beneath the belly of the earth.  Additionally, He has given us unparalleled amount of coal that is still to be fully exploited to produce not only all the electricity we need, but also much needed petro chemicals that will amongst others deliver petrol and diesel for propelling our economic growth and provide requisite wealth for our people.

Last week I talked about diamonds, although there is still a lot to talk with regards to our diamonds, the idea was to prod and nudge our law makers and the nation at large to start looking deeper into our relations with De Beers in order to seek to establish a new working relationship that is more beneficial to the nation. This week I want to talk about water in order to further raise our consciousness about this strategic resource. Like diamonds water is scarce, all good things are scarce by the way; they must be handled and managed with due care. I will talk about electricity another strategic and scarce resource next week.

Could we have managed our WATER Resources better?

It is a well known fact, that water is life, without water we shall simply perish.  God would never have created our country without providing enough water for our survival and indeed survival of its ecosystem.  Survival is more than just breathing oxygen; it includes social advancement propelled by economic growth that advances national prosperity. This is a fundamental fact that we must embrace in order to prepare a sound long-term national development plan as well as a long-term vision for our nation.

Our country is currently faced with crippling water shortage that could severely impact our survival, economic growth and our entire livelihood. This is currently blamed on our weather patterns especially climate change and the Eli Niño effect.  But the blame should be put directly at our door step because we have failed to effectively manage what God has given us. We now want to conveniently pass the blame to nature and others who have polluted the atmosphere through their industrialisation. While they may be some truth in this, our water management has been antiquated as was mediocritic.

The Minister has now confessed that we have abundant underground water and that they will explore and make that water available for use by the nation. When? God gave our country back to us in 1966, almost fifty years ago; what have we done all these years to ensure water security for the nation?   I know that, as far back as 1966 and before then, we new that our annual rainfall was low and highly unpredictable and that our temperatures were very high leading obviously to very high evaporative water losses. I have experienced this since I was born more than fifty years ago. What have we done to mitigate the effects of this low, unpredictability rainfall and high temperatures (high evaporative losses)?  All we have done is to build many open dams with large surface areas that only promote unprecedented water losses.

Our dams are large evaporation ponds as most of the water is lost through evaporation because of the high temperatures and large surface areas due to dam designs and topography. More than one metre per square metre of water is lost per year through evaporation in Botswana due to these high temperatures, therefore the larger the surface area the more the water we loose.  The large surface area will also result is large amount of water being lost through seepage into the ground as you are exposing more  and more water to dryer land.

Those scientifically minded will appreciate the magnitude of losses I am talking about. Now tell me the wisdom applied here, in a country with low and unpredictable rainfall and high temperatures, to build the dams as we have built throughout the country? In fact, I once told one of our ministers, now retired, then responsible for minerals, energy and water resources that in Botswana we do not build dams, we just build walls to stop the river flow; the water then spread right across the country side; consequently we lose a lot of it through evaporation and ground seepage.  I believe our dam building development plans are devoid of long-term critical and strategic thinking.

This has lead to gross wasteful expenditure in our dam’s development plans.   I would excuse farmers for building their dams in this fashion not our government.
If we wanted to build dams we should have built deep dams with a small surface area, to minimise evaporative losses and ground seepage. Excess water from these dams could have been used to feed our underground water sources as I will show later. This is what I would call imaginative concurrent use of underground and surface water.

Let us use De Beers and diamond mining as a positive example here. When De Beers discovered our diamonds, the first thing they did was to explore and develop underground water resources to support diamond mining. They also built their own power stations and in fact self contained towns, perhaps an indication that the country could not support that development.   If they had relied on government they would have failed to build the diamond industry in the country. What an indictment on our government!!

Anyway, back to water, De Beers developed underground water resources for all their mines. This was a clear indication that we had abundant underground water resources. 

Because of the criticality of water in a water stressed country like Botswana, it was no brainer for De Beers to include in their plant designs used water recycling. In addition rainwater capture and use was also an on going concern and part and parcel of their water management. Why couldn’t our government copy from De Beers or more appropriately Debswana?

With the diamond resources that opened up after our independence through De Beers and the exceedingly large revenues that accrued from these diamonds, we should have invested in concurrent development of our underground and surface water resources; with designs that allowed excess surface water to be used to replenish or top up our underground water reserves?

Fifty years on, we are still building our dams the same way and relying on this water for everything in our very well known unfavorable weather conditions. We still do not recycle our used water when the world over, even in countries with abundant rainwater, do recycle their used water for balancing their ecosystem. We still have not developed a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system. This clearly shows that we have a failed leadership who continue to come up with unsustainable solutions regardless of our prevailing conditions. The recent use of these ‘evaporative ponds’ we call dams, for agriculture in the north will drive our stressed water situation even further into the doldrums. 

Agriculture naturally uses a lot of water; using Dikgatlhong and Motloutse dams for agriculture is ill advised as it will drain those dams so fast; we will have no water for the country very soon especially if this Eli Niño continues.  Our national planners are simply failing to think beyond the now, they are unable or are refusing to read the poignant signs; hence their actions.

However to their credit, the government commissioned an international study to revise its national water master plan, which study was completed in 2005/6 with a report to government that had an array of recommendations to address the current and long-term water security.  What was the use though, after spending multi million Pulas of public funds on a study and then allowing the study to gather dust for ten years before it can be read?  When the Minister, some weeks back said in parliament that there was plenty of water underground he was not dreaming, he was correct, perhaps he had just read the 2005 national water master plan, ten years later? The report highlighted a number of easy wins including the following:

Abundant underground water resources, potable and saline were identified in areas that were clearly stated in the report. These areas were to be explored to quantify the amount of water and then develop extraction plans for using such water for national development.

Mining was to use saline underground water instead of potable water for mineral processing. Potable water was to be reserved for domestic and industrial consumption only.
Use surface water to feed underground aquifers to minimise evaporative and seepage losses.

Recycle all used water (a major source of water that is currently being thrown away to pollute our environment). This is a quick win that government is failing to implement

despite the fact that it is an international standard with mature technology in place.

Design and build rainwater harvesting systems

A water regulator for providing a regulated framework for water development and supply.
If we did these simple things would we still need to invest so much in bringing water all the way from Zambezi; all the way from the northern dams to the south; all the way from the Lesotho highland water scheme??  Are we using our God given resources wisely here? My gut feel says NO, we are wasting our diamond revenues.

Free Food for thought!

The Zambezi water should be used to develop agriculture and food processing in the Chobe area to feed the nation and create a food export industry in that area.  We must find local underground water to supply local needs throughout the country. The surface water can then be used to supplement ground water when that water is available and more importantly to top up our underground sources, rather than allow it to evaporate away.

As an important add on, we must jealously guard and protect our rivers and our environment to avoid pollution and ‘killing’ them. If you go around the country, you will be saddened by the callous dumping of waste in the environment and in our rivers. Rampant unregulated sand mining is also killing our rivers.  Is this not a result of failed or failing government systems? We need to challenge these irregularities as a nation.

Like, I said earlier, I will cover electricity next week. Let me now conclude by saying, we can do better, much better under a different water development arrangement; an arrangement that takes into account our unique and specific circumstances and use that to our advantage;   a management arrangement that will  use the  challenges  we face as hidden opportunities to be explored and exploited for the benefit of our people.

I want to end by quoting once again the following; ‘in times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with the world that no longer exist’.  We need to develop a leadership that is willing to learn new lessons; a leadership that is willing to change; a leadership that is willing to see and adopt a new long term vision for the country, not a leadership that is driven by self interest at the expense of national interest. Let us try to reinvent ourselves, learn anew and move to move our country decisively forward.

Again let us thank our loving God for giving us so much hidden treasure in the form of underground water and diamonds.  Let us also ask Him to forgive us for coming up with unsustainable, not well thought through water development programmes and further ask him to give us new wisdom to envision better and plan better going into the future.

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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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