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Our Democracy is CRITICALLY flawed!

Following the SONA week with the much talked about ESP that left more questions than answers; the tragic week that saw seven of our young lives lost in an unfortunate truck accident and many injured leaving the parents and the nation critically wounded and heart broken. This incident has shown us the best and worst of our people. May the souls of these young lives  rest in peace and may Batswana be comforted in the knowledge that we are largely a caring nation and may the culprits be hunted down to face the full might of the law. This was an aside. Today I want to visit 2008 when the president gave us an inspiring roadmap for his presidency.

During his inauguration in 2008, the president presented a roadmap in which he articulated four Ds (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline) that would define his presidency.  We were excited as Batswana that here comes a president who saw the need for our Democracy to be improved and modernised; who saw the need for our Development to be accelerated to give all our people a more Dignified standard of living and who saw the need to improve Discipline nationally in order to support the pillars that would anchor his roadmap. He later realised that a Delivery vehicle was required and fittingly crowned his Ds with a fifth D which he aptly termed Delivery.  This roadmap was going to leave a lasting legacy that posterity would cherish and build on. We believed that the president was on a mission to take Botswana to a new destination where our country would assume a significantly new and vibrant shape.  We believed that the ‘savior’ had arrived and he was going to place Botswana in its rightful place globally. I think the time has arrived for us to evaluate where we are on this roadmap and demand feedback. I will start with Democracy and the rest will follow in subsequent submissions.

I believe when a Motswana talks of Democracy, he or she is talking of ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’. If I am not mistaken, the president is on record describing democracy in the same manner.  This is a definition that was coined many years ago by the then American president Abraham Lincoln which definition has largely been universally embraced including by our own people. So when the president included Democracy as one of his first key deliverable, he must have been concerned about the state of our democracy and was planning to meaningfully enhance it. He was not talking about maintaining the status quo or weakening the already weak Democracy he inherited.  So what has the president done to enhance Democracy in our country?  I believe there are many opportunities and areas where he could have made significant improvements, but we still await his interventions more than seven years later.

The Democracy we currently practice is a watered and weathered down version of democracy which means a form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections and independent courts of law. Many people would argue that we barely meet this basic and narrow definition of Democracy, hence the excitement generated by the inclusion of this D in the roadmap as his number one priority.

What then are our expectations as Batswana?   Maybe we can answer this by asking another question. What are the ingredients of the democracy that we aspire for, the democracy that was aptly defined by Abraham Lincoln as ‘a government of the people, by the people, for the people’?  What are the critical success factors?

There are many areas that the president should have attempted to address on the Democracy lane of his road map. I will highlight these ingredients by posing questions that the president should have answered during his two terms. I will also briefly mention some possible interventions that could have been adopted in an attempt to enhance our democracy.


How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when access to information is limited and biased in favour of one party?  The people must not only be allowed to vote, but must be given information that would allow them to choose their representatives wisely.  All the political parties and their candidates must be given equal exposure by the national electoral process including public broadcasting.  BTV, Radio Botswana and the Daily News which are national assets run and maintained by the tax payer must be availed to all political parties in equal measures for them to reach the electorate equally.  These media outlets belong to all the people of Botswana.  Therefore all these facilities must be used equally by all Batswana especially during elections. The president has done nothing to ensure equal access to the public media by all the political parties. If anything he has somehow made it even more difficult for the opposition parties to access the public media because he is always given lengthy and unqualified coverage thus denying others access.  A recent glaring example was the state of the nation address that was covered live by both BTV & Radio Botswana and then repeated over time on the same stations.  When the leader of opposition was responding officially to the same address in parliament, BTV and Radio Botswana were no where to be found. Only a handful of people who found seats at the parliamentary gallery could listen to the leader of opposition live. Some people were rudely kicked out as there were no seats available accept for elders from the ruling party… true, no exaggeration! They were not even allowed to listen from outside because no provision was made for the public. This is our sick democracy, where people are only shown one side of the political coin and the president ought to intervene and have this corrected.


How can it be  ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’ when only less than 50% of the people bother to register for elections and only about 80 % of those who bother to register actually vote?   Can this be true democracy when only about 35% (700 000 people out of a population over two millions) of the population participates in the elections? This is an area where the president would have looked at closely to find ways to make registration and the voting process easier to encourage more people not only to register but also to vote. The opportunity is available. Technology is glaringly available to make the process easier and friendlier. It is not rocket science anymore; it only requires political will and the word from the president for it to happen. Many countries including developing countries like ours have better systems to encourage registration and voting. In some countries it is even illegal not to vote because they know that it is through voting that true democracy can be entrenched.


How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’ when 47 % of the popular vote yields a majority of 65 % of seats in parliament?  This looks like government by the minority. Therefore, there is a definite need for improvement. The current system denies the electorate fair representation in parliament as it can and has yielded a government that is not reflective of the will of the majority.  This therefore cannot be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’. It is a minority government. Many progressive democracies have adopted a form of proportional representation which enhances representation across not only political party lines but also different interest and minority groups. The president ought to do something to improve the current undemocratic practice that has produced a minority government in our country for the first time in our history.


How do you achieve ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when the ruling party is allowed to use public funds for electioneering and the opposition parties have to use their own personal resources for the same?  This obviously makes it extremely difficult for the opposition to reach the electorate, giving the ruling party an unfair and unjustified advantage. Political funding is a common phenomenon in most democracies including our neigbours.  The president as part of his desire to enhance democracy should have introduced political party funding. Democracy is a commodity that should be publicly funded and nurtured as it is the only viable vehicle that will allow all citizens to participate in the development of their country through their representatives. The president has an obligation and opportunity to make a significant mark in enhancing our democracy by allowing political party funding. He still has a chance to do this before the end of his term.


How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when the president is not elected by the people directly?  Why should we not allow the people to choose their president like they do in other developed and developing democracies? When democracy is a key component of his roadmap, election of the president by the people would have been an obvious and glaring area that should have stood up for improvement.


The president does not attend parliament to listen to debates and concerns from the people’s representatives. In a democratic dispensation he is duty bound to attend and listen and answer questions. He needs to hear the concerns of all the people regardless of party affiliation in order to formulate and design appropriate polices and programs for the entire country.  Parliament is where development policies and laws are made. How does he influence that if he does not attend the very institution that he should head and guide, the institution not only charged with making laws but development of the country?  If the president respects the voice of the people, he should attend parliament, others he will be assumed to be an autocratic leader who rules alone.  


It is very clear that our democracy is sick and weak as correctly identified by the president during his inauguration. This is true despite the international accolades that we are a shining example of democracy in Africa.  These accolades are seemingly politically motivated and those responsible for these accolades must own up and tell us the real truth.  The president still has up to 2018 to make some improvements. Maybe he is waiting for the right time to make some far reaching amendments that will shake and humble his opponents. The president however, owes Batswana an update on this roadmap before Batswana make their own uninformed conclusions.

Bernard Busani
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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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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


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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