It's one of those things we'd like to pretend don't exist. We'd rather not talk about it because it exposes our hypocrisy and shows us the ugliness of our character we'd rather pretend doesn't exist. Unfortunate as that is, humanly speaking, I guess it's understandable. Every person thinks themselves perfect, despite knowing the opposite to be the case. It's human to feign goodness or uprightness.
Even the glaringly morally degenerate protest their innocence, claiming to be misunderstood. My subject matter this week has a long history. In fact, for those who are Bible readers and Bible believers, you'll realize that the subject at hand goes back to just a generation after the Garden of Eden. Yes, it's that old! I'm of course referring to envy and jealousy.
You see, the first instance of envy ever recorded was in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. That is the very first time we see the manifestation of this vice and its ugly consequences when left unchecked. Envy is found in almost every sphere of life. But it tends to read its ugly head particularly in the arena of possessions and wealth.
For instance look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac's accumulated wealth and how his neighbors – the Philistines – "envied him." Isaac's possessions are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff. This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren't poor by any means, but they still envied what Isaac had.
You can have a lot and still be jealous. To be fair, though, it's easy to want just a little bit more than we already have whether you're well off or have very little. I've seen established Pastors driving German sedans envious and intimidated by young upstarts still footing it or driving third-hand Japanese imports! Not only can we envy someone else's possessions, but also their power. In the Book of Numbers, we find that Miriam and Aaron were envious of Moses' power and position among the people so they began to criticize him along with his family (Numbers 12:1). We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Numbers 16:1).
In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read story after story of kings who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous acts; only to have the same things happen to them once they reached the pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war. I believe that – from a purely human motivation – jealousy and envy were the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and, later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1).
They feared that their own power was eroding. This is still true even today, sad to say. It is disconcerting and disheartening to see Pastors at each others' throats, covertly or overtly, simply because of envy. I'm not bashing Pastors. After all, I'm one of them and I have a very high regard and respect for them. However, the envy that exists amongst them is highly toxic and very destructive.
Out of envy, Pastors connive and conspire against each other daily. Some go out of their way to sabotage each other, frame each other, and plot against the downfall of one another. They gather with another Pastor as their main agenda. Dare I say, some fast and pray to see each other fall! How sad! How shameful! But why? I'll tell you why. It's nothing but the same thing politicians grapple with – Power. Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the political and business world.
Sadly, the Church is not exempt. Whose Church is biggest? Who's getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most members? Who has the best conferences? Who invites the best speakers? Who drives the best car? Who has the nicest building? Who preaches better? Who prophesies better? Who has the most influential and affluent members of society? These are the things Pastors fight over. These are the seedlings of envy that persistently plague the Church and retard its effectiveness.
These are the maladies that continue to ensure that the Church is worldly and carnal. These are the reasons why unity, much talked about as it is whenever Pastors meet, can never happen. Then there is the arena of performance. If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is high on the list – individually and corporately. Remember the story in the Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in Israel after he defeated the Philistine bully, Goliath. Jealousy and envy began to grow in Saul's heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go out to David, especially the womenfolk as they started to sing songs of adulation in David's honor.
Women will always get you in trouble, son! Believe you me, sometimes Pastors fight over women – women who are not even their wives! But I digress. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy and envy until the day he died. It is this madness of competition that has resulted in the murk we find ourselves in. Is it any wonder that we hear rumors of Pastors buying "powers" from Ghana, Nigeria, and Durban? Why this craze and obsession with being the best? It's nothing but the spirit of envy! You envy Pastor X because of what he has, so you travel thousands of miles to consult foreign gods so that you can best him! Our local Churches, I am sorry to say, are places where jealousy and envy lurk big time.
The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is because the Church is a "volunteer" organization. People give their money and "volunteer" their time, and as a result, feel they are entitled to certain things, whether it's roles of leadership, or recognition for special acts of service or giving.
People easily become jealous of one another across the board – people jealous of other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts. Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents' children. Women jealous of the Pastor's wife. Choir members fighting to lead songs. Sons trying to out-preach and out-prophesy their Pastors. Women elbowing one another in an attempt to catch the attentions of single brothers or single Pastors.
There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst. It's total madness! How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy in our midst. But even worse, how naïve we are to give in to it! The Church of Jesus Christ is the last place the bane of jealousy and envy should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us impervious to envy's attacks.
The seed of all this chaos begins with comparisons. Comparison is the root of all envy. Whenever you start comparing yourself, you’re in a no-win situation. If you compare yourself with someone who is more effective than you, you’ll be full of envy. If you are more effective than they are, you’ll be full of arrogance and pride.
Either way, comparisons will take you down. Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keeping us from realizing our full potential, and ultimately leading us into destructive behaviors. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. Once envy takes a hold of you, you soon act out of character.
Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don't have: a lot of money, a big Church, a pretty wife, an expensive car, a magnetic personality, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There's nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognizing that they do not bestow value on our lives, nor does their absence make us lesser human beings.
However, if and when these things become essential to us and are viewed as the benchmarks of success, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We'll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster. John D. Rockefeller, believed to be the wealthiest American who has ever lived, said when he was asked how much money is enough, "Just one more dollar," was his sage reply.
There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition for our achievements. But at times that craving can become a competitive spirit that has to outdo everyone else. When that happens, you can be sure envy is at the root. Today's society values people for their appearance or their achievements. It is very difficult not to be envious of the woman with a beautiful figure when you struggle daily to not gain a kilo. It's hard to feel good about ourselves when we've been driving the same car for ten years while others are enjoying this year's luxury models.
We don't feel accomplished flying economy while the person down the street is posting pictures of themselves daily on social media flying first and business class to exotic destinations. We don't accept ourselves as we are; we are unable to recognize our own strengths. Instead, we compare our weaknesses with others' strengths, and consequently we feel envious. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Athletes compare themselves with other athletes.
Lawyers compare themselves with other lawyers. Pastors compare themselves with other Pastors. And we compare ourselves with the ones closest to us. The successful Pastor across the country doesn’t bother us – but the one across the street does. F.B. Meyer was Pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town.
Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the Pastors I know. Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other Pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” Pastors on his right and left.
In time he found that his own Church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry! Similarly, Jack Hayford, a Pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other Pastor. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large Church down the street called First Baptist.
He prayed for God to bless and prosper that Church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow. That's the way to kill this monster – prayer. Until we can learn to pray for those who intimidate us and wish them well, we'll continue to suffer under the yoke of envy and jealousy.
And, let's not forget that these are not just character flaws or weaknesses – these are sins to be repented of! These are the parents of witchcraft! Back in the villages we hail from, we knew that witchcraft was begotten by envy. Those who were successful in life were often the targets of witchcraft simply because they had something, and the poorer village folks couldn't stand them and therefore resorted to witchcraft so as to halt their rise.
And it wasn't even like they had anything to warrant witchcraft spells! Such folks would be having maybe a small general dealer or a small bakkie! But the village witches would be up in arms! Well, it seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The witches of yesteryear in the village who wore hobo garb and feathers and beads riding baboons and hyenas, have now changed wardrobes and are now wearing Armani suits and driving Range Rovers in the city. Same script, different cast. May God help us to be able to not just handle, but also be able to celebrate the success of our neighbor without turning green and nasty.
“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
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.
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.