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Transforming Zimbabwe in a post-ZANU PF era (I)

A wind of change or shall I say a hurricane or typhoon is blowing across Zimbabwe whose epicentre are vendors, students, youths, the masses or lumpen proletariat. In the absence of a fractured opposition and a paralysed intelligentsia, they are now acting as the catalysts for change; the oppressed of the oppressed who have nothing to lose but their chains.

Even some of the diehard and unflinching supporters of ZANU PF now admit that change is inevitable, and it is only a matter of time before it comes. The wind of change is blowing across Zimbabwe precisely because the pain of remaining the same now outweighs the pain of change.

The regular collapse of the president in full view of the entire world is no longer a guarded secret; instead it is a portent that indicates the end of an old era is near. The sorcerers, witch doctors, magicians, spiritualists and pathologists alike may make their own predictions, but what is certain is that nature is going to take its own course, which blows out life like a candle at a predetermined time.

Even a meteor in the firmament will one day succumb to the force of gravity if it decomposes or loses its balance among other members of the solar system. This is the inescapable reality of life, and we must therefore work out how Zimbabwe is going to function in the aftermath of change. It is absolutely necessary to plan now because, if we don’t, Zimbabwe is likely to experience the same bad governance as the current one, and may even be plunged into a political cataclysm never before seen in our life time.

Myth of irreplaceability

The first thing-and I don’t want to beat about the bush by talking about constitutionalism or other “isms” that obfuscate the reality-is to start changing from the top. The myth that the current

Zimbabwean president is indispensable needs to be unmasked. For a long time some people have come to believe, and of course through sustained propaganda, that Zimbabwe cannot do without its current president. As a result, Zimbabwe has become synonymous with Mugabe who, in turn, has metaphorically recreated Zimbabwe in his own image. This has had a devastating effect on the image of the country which is seen globally as a rogue country ruled by what Winston Churchill used to call a “baptised tyrant”, when referring to Hitler.                                                                                                                                     

The idea of an all-powerful president may have been intended for nation building; but as we all know, it is one of the major causes of Zimbabwe’s woes which has destroyed the core value of unity in diversity. The result is that an omnipotent president has eroded the trust of the people as he is generally seen as an abusive, oppressive and divisive head of state.

Here, one needs to note that the deification of the president has not only diminished the reverence of the people, but has also provoked their indignation over what they see as a systematic plundering of state resources by the president’s family, his retinue of relatives and by members of his inner circle. And to show their anger, many people frequently insult the president and are prepared to go to jail rather than acquiesce.  

In the midst of all this, what is baffling is that in spite of his erudition, the president does not seem to have learned lessons from history that Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, Guinea under Sekou Toure, Egypt under Abdel Nasser, Malawi under Kamuzu Banda, Zaire under Joseph Mobutu, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and China under Mao Tse Tung decayed under their megalomaniac leadership.

The same history lessons also tell us that those countries in Africa and elsewhere that have done away with the hero worshipping of leaders have fared better in their social, economic and political development. A good example in Africa is Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, and now China, Ghana, Senegal and Mozambique which have been able to change their leaders smoothly, resulting in the attainment of greater peace and harmony.

In the case of Zimbabwe, it is sickening to hear that Mr Mugabe is the only person capable of running the country, even when he is in a wheel chair. It is well documented that Zimbabwe has a highly educated citizenry with abundant skills in the social, economic, political, legal, educational, medical, scientific, technical and administrative fields. Why should Zimbabwe fail to find a younger and more dynamic leader from its large intellectual reservoir?

The time has come for us to realise that it is better for the country to look forward to an attractive future than to cling on to the fading hope of the past. In fairness, and without running the risk of self-contradiction, the president may have done well in the initial stages but the weight of repression and ill-informed policies has scuppered all efforts towards prosperity. And the tragedy of it all is that for a long time our fickle and gullible world has been dazzled and bamboozled by Mr Mugabe’s bombast, rhetoric and heroics without scrutinising the regressive nature of his theatrics.

And if we take a closer look at Mr Mugabe’s ambition to be the “guardian” of African independence, we will see that it is just a façade: his pan-Africanist posturing is patently hollow, artificial and highly inflated because there is nothing to show for it. In his own country he has destroyed the very essence of sovereignty by running down what used to be a flourishing country. As a result, many Zimbabweans now see him as a turncoat whose noisy behaviour has ruined their jewel.

The ripple effect of his insensitivity to the needs of the people is that the vast majority of Zimbabweans are dangerously disillusioned because they are hungry, have no jobs and are without social security. Can one then proudly stand on a hill top and shout “Zimbabwe is truly independent” when up to five million of our citizens have fled the country to seek economic opportunity, self-fulfilment, freedom and liberty in other countries?  Is this not worse than slavery? And does this not call for a change in the leadership to end the greatest betrayal of our people so that we can restore our dignity?

Establishment of democratic institutions   

But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that having a new leader is going to bring about the desired change because transformation takes time, requires dedication and sacrifice. Yes we need a new leadership, but most importantly we need to effect structural changes in the body politic of the country so that we can give birth to genuine democracy.

The leadership we need, unlike the current one which is too far removed from our people, is the one with a clear vision for the country, the one with an antennae to feel what ordinary people like, the one which bonds with the people, the one that feels the pulse, hears and plays the tunes of the people and the one that loves its people. It should be characterised by a deep sense of empathy, patriotism, destiny and the willpower to take our country to greater heights.

Unfortunately, the present leadership is merely obsessed with power and self-enrichment. It has little to offer to the people, except to dribble them and make empty promises that are never fulfilled. The failures are there for everyone to see: a crumbling economy, spiralling unemployment, bankruptcy, a critical shortage of electricity, a divided nation drained of hope and above all, an inept leadership that is seized with self-destruction. The question is: for how long shall Zimbabweans continue to carry the cross for their crucifixion?

In seeking change, we need to caution ourselves that it would not be enough simply to make cosmetic changes without overhauling the institutions that make democracy more meaningful. If we change the head only, it would be like removing one masquerade and replacing it with another, which will maintain the status quo. We need to pay heed to what our elders say who warn us that when the stem of a tree decays, it spreads its rot to the roots and branches. And so we need to make radical changes in order to remove the decay that has for so long afflicted our country.

One of the most important institutions that needs to be democratised is the army and police force whose barbarism and savagery has traumatised many of our people (Ask Dumiso Dabengwa, Morgan Tsvangirai and many other Zimbabweans who have lived to tell the horrors of state sponsored brutality). Although this matter has been raised before, one needs to reiterate the fact that the appointment of generals, commissioners of police and other senior positions in the armed forces should not be done by the head of state but by an independent commission that interviews and recommends their appointment.

Similarly, the chief justice and judges of the high court should be appointed by an independent judicial commission that sits openly with an input from the public to interview potential candidates.

This will ensure that we will have an impartial judicial system that protects the rights of ordinary citizens and not simply those of a powerful clique.  

From our past experience, we have seen that top civil servants such as permanent secretaries are appointed based on their political affiliation. This has been a monumental disaster. The unbridled corruption in many organs of the state and the dysfunctional quasi government organisations such as Air Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Railways, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, GMB, ZISCO, ZESA, ZUPCO, state universities and many other state controlled institutions is a direct result of appointing political stooges. Can you see why the wife of the president was awarded an “earned” PhD without going through the required rigours of research and publication?

To restore the dignity of our institutions, top government officers and all vice chancellors of state universities must be transparently appointed by adhering to the stipulated qualifications, rules and regulations. The public service commission must be transformed in order to restore its integrity. And universities and their councils must be led by visionary people who are prepared to make our institutions of higher learning the best in the region so that we can give innate hope and pride to our young people.

In hindsight, perhaps the much maligned Ian Douglas Smith, the last colonial prime minister of Rhodesia, was after all right when he emphasised “meritocracy” in appointing public servants. His only cardinal sin was that he was an unrepentant racial bigot who believed in white supremacy. But the same is true with the current regime that believes in the kleptomania of ZANU PF and its tribal bigotry. This must change in a post ZANU PF era if our country is to voyage with full sail into a stable future.

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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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Opinions

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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Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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