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Development: a decade of lost opportunities!


This is a follow-up on last week’s submission where I visited the 2008 inaugural address by the president; when he presented his four lanes roadmap, each with a D inscription (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline). He thankfully later added a Delivery lane. This was the road map to the promised land of peace, tranquility and plenty for all Batswana and residents.

Before I move onto the second lane of Development, I would like to digress a little.  Some of the speeches at the memorial service of the late seven Matsha students who perished in a cattle truck that should never have been used to transport them in the first place; some  of the exchanges in parliament and councils  chambers regarding this unfortunate event, point to a bleak future of intolerance where leadership instead of accepting responsibility that is clearly and squarely theirs and dealing with the consequences blame and viciously seek to silence those who call upon them to account.  Instead of apologising to the nation, they play ignorant and chastise those angry citizens who dare to raise their voices against the incompetency that allowed such a truck to be used for our dear children. Our democracy is indeed flawed. This is the same country with ’a shining example of democracy in Africa’, a   ‘democratic country’ in which only those belonging to the ruling party; those who sing their praises are said to be patriotic citizens, others are unpatriotic people who deserve to rot in hell. How naïve and how wrong? With this mentality can we really achieve the Development aspirations that this great nation deserves; the Development that the nation was promised in 2008 by our loving president?

With this type of mentality, what can we expect on the second lane of the presidential road map? We find a lot of pot holes, the road is bumpy and the driving is slow and perilous.  Here I am talking about lack of systems, procedures and human capital to drive the Development vehicles, the Development agenda. Also reviewing progress on this lane is very difficult if not impossible because it is not clear what is contained and packaged in these vehicles. It should have been clear at the onset; that vehicle A has these goods which will be delivered at this station, on such and such a day and the goods are for this particular purpose. This was never given; hence the difficulty in evaluation.

But perhaps we should guess.  What are the possible outcomes that the nation should legitimately expect to be delivered by these Development vehicles?  What are the outcomes to be expected from any development for that matter?  My guess would be to improve the lives of the people broadly in these areas; more jobs created, increased business opportunities, improved health services and care, improved personal safety, improved security (personal and property), better standard of education, more educational facilities, improved and more recreational facilities, improved and more road networks, better and more railway transport, improved competiveness, improved global recognition etc, etc. These are some of the legitimate expectations Batswana would aspire for as the country develops.

What have we achieved from 2008 to todate? What will we have achieved during this decade from 2008 to 2018? We are only left with three years.  What can be achieved in the remaining three years?  We can only really talk about the achievements so far and based on these achievements we can then perhaps make some projections. Let me briefly look at the list of expectation I made above:

JOB CREATION

Since 2008 the economy has lost more jobs than it has created. The official rate of unemployment remains at about 20 %.  The mining sector has lost over a thousand jobs due to restructuring and closures caused by the market and possibly poor planning on the part of owners including government inability to positively influence the developmental direction.  We have created and lost jobs in the diamond beneficiation industry. In my humble view, we could have done better if our planning was robust and far sighted.

CREATION OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

The relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre from London to Gaborone should have created a lot of business opportunities for Batswana but how much have actually been created?  This should not only be measured by the number of Batswana who have benefitted directly but by how much compared to the total value available. Without measuring these numbers, we are just talking and fooling ourselves.  The diamond business is a multi dollar business and for Batswana to meaningfully benefit they must be credit worthy, must have access to requisite financial resources and must also have the requisite business skills? These skills will not necessarily come from having a degree in business, but in adequate exposure to the diamond business. A proactive government would have ensured that our people are adequately prepared and equipped to benefit immensely from the relocation of the diamond business.

OTHER JOB AND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

There are also a number of failed projects that would have created both jobs and business opportunities if we had been more proactive and far sighted.  What happened to the 1200 MW Mmamabula energy project?  This was a coal mine and power station to supply electricity mainly to South Africa and Botswana. Due to poor long-term planning by both Botswana and South Africa, this project was suspended because the two countries thought they would have enough power by 2012 or thereabout. Look where both South Africa and Botswana are now? We are still constantly in the dark. This project would have created thousands of mining, energy and logistics jobs as well as revenue from energy sales and possible business opportunities for local investors. The business losses ad expenses incurred as a result of power outages would have been averted. We could have created more industries and attracted more foreign direct investment.  We must all learn that short-termism is really expensive.

What happened to the ACTIVOX Refinery plant in Francistown whose bankable feasibility was completed and construction of the plant commenced only to be stopped due to the drop of recessionary nickel prices and uncertainty in the power supply. We know recession come and go and astute business minded people invest during the recessions in preparation for the next boom cycle. This plant was a unique patented hydrometallurgical plant that would have recovered copper and nickel metal from sulphide concentrates at high recovery rates. This would not only have obviated the need for expensive smelting process and refinery oversees but would also  have enabled us to recover more metals from low grades. This would have made Botswana a regional hub for metal refinery allowing us to export finished products to Europe and elsewhere. What a missed opportunity!

There are others like the famous fengae glass factory project in Palapye that was abandoned because of incompetency and possible corruption after close to P550 million was disbursed and plant built. This factory was going to source coal, silica and soda ash from Botswana and would employ over 500 people.  We have lost millions of Pula, job and revenue opportunities. We have lost an opportunity to be a regional glass exporter. Indeed a decade of lost opportunities.

OTHER ASPIRATIONS FROM ANTICIPATED DEVELOPMENTS

I will now group the other aspirations that include health care, education, safety, security, recreation, transport and competitiveness among others. I am not aware of any improvements in this area accept perhaps in the area of sport competitiveness and global recognition in some good and bad ways. We have done well in the sporting arena. Our athletes have done us proud and we need to motivate them all the sport codes to do more.  We have built more stadia albeit grossly outside budget and time. We expect more in the coming years on our sports and art Development.

As for education, we have deteriorated badly in terms of quality and infrastructure. We have lost the reason for sending our children to school as they graduate and stay at home or do ipelegeng. The situation is dire and needs argent attention.

We have added heath facilities but our hospitals remain over loaded, under staffed and in many cases without medicines. We have cases of millions of pula worth of expired medicines that have been thrown away.  We seem to have an incompetent health system that builds hospitals and clinics when there is no provision for requisite medical staff including just medical doctors and nurses?

The transport system is a failure as evidenced by many people hiking on all our roads. It becomes a nightmare during the holidays. The Bechuanaland train finally gave up the ghost increasing the load and cost on our road transport. Safety on our roads has thus been severely compromised by bad road behaviours, congestions and possible increase of unqualified drivers with fraudulent acquired licenses.

Depending on what a Motswana calls recreation, the reduction of night life hours has deprived many Botswana from their livelihoods. This was not replaced by any modern facilities where people can meet and mingle in public and have fun and share their life stories and miseries. We have not seen theaters and recreational facilities being built to support the performing art industry. The billions of pula from the alcohol levy that we seem to be so proud of should have been used for some of these alternatives.  

How about our personal security and security of our properties?  We continue to experience increased breakages in our homes and people killed by thugs and some disappearing.  We continue to hear increased cases of car theft.  When we were growing up, we never locked up our homes and cars. We never imagined someone snatching and running away with our belongings. These are now daily occurrences and the nation is increasingly getting scared.

CONCLUSION

It is very clear that our development vehicles as well as the road they are travelling on require carefully planned maintenance including appropriate schedules and man power.  How can we have developments when we have failed to produce enough electrical power for domestic and industrial use? How can we have developments when we cannot supply enough water to drink and to propel our industrial growth?   How can we have developments when our people do not have land to develop for themselves and industrialise? How can we have Development if we do not have adequately trained manpower to support industry?

I believe the water situation is dire and first priority in our development together with power. If no developmental measures are taken urgently, we are headed for a rapidly collapsing economy. The water from Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong dams will not sustain the SPEDU region with its planned agricultural projects together with the entire eastern corridor and southern parts of the country including Lobatse, Barolong, Bangwaketse and Bakwena regions. It is impossible especially with our erratic rainfall patterns and on going irresponsible use of our rivers.  My advice is that each area must have its own local fully equipped underground water supply.  We must not entirely depend on surface water including possible supply from Lesotho and Chobe. These should just be available as and when required to supplement our own local efforts.

The much talked about ESP should have focused only on sustainable water and electricity supply. We need massive underground water exploration across the country and fully functional supply infrastructure. We also need to urgently treat and re-use all the waste water in our towns and major settlements.  To avoid the massive evaporative losses we experience on our dams we should be spending money on infrastructure for using available surface water to recharge and keep our water in our underground aquifers away from the evaporative losses we experience as a result of hot weather and large surface areas of our dams.  With electricity we should know what to do.

Instead of praying for rain, we should pray for wisdom to enable us to deal effectively with the Developmental challenges we face.

Bernard Busani
E mail;  HYPERLINK "mailto:bernard.busani@gmail.com" bernard.busani@gmail.com;   Tel; 71751440

 

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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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