Some people associate democracy with the Western world. However, the truth is that Western countries which are under capitalism are not as democratic as they want the rest of the world to believe. We are fully aware that Europe was once ruled by Kings and Princes (Dikgosi le Dikgosana) like Africa.
The stages of mode of production evolved from communalism via feudalism to capitalism and evolved via socialism to communism. This is the law of nature and that is how dialectical materialism works. Capitalism is not the first and the last stage of mode of production.
The questions that need to be answered are what capitalism is and what democracy is and whether they work hand in hand or not. Capitalism by definition is an economic system whereby means of production are owned by private organizations or corporations.
The decision, prices, production of goods and services are determined mainly by manipulative competition in a free market. In other words goods and services are not necessarily produced because people need them, but are produced because some people want to make money, so they have to create the market for their goods and services more especially at the expense of the peasants and the proletarians.
In order for the environment to be conducive for free market, which in reality is free exploitation, the capitalists make sure that they control those in political power.
In other words the political parties in the U.S.A. and other Western countries are sponsored by multinational corporations. These multinational corporations are operating freely in Africa and support pro-neocolonialist political parties or regimes.
Those anti-neocolonialist political parties or regimes are labeled undemocratic. The so called pro-democracy and human rights organizations are nothing but created mainly to make sure that capitalism survive longer than its natural life span. I was shocked to the marrow when I heard the USA secretary of state John Kerry on CNN saying that the Egyptian army had removed President Morsi in order to restore democracy in Egypt.
President Morsi was the first civilian democratically elected President of Egypt in many years. What the CIA did was buy airtime for thousand Egyptians and told them to go to the street of Cairo and demonstrate against President Morsi, which was enough for the army to stage a coup so that the generals can come back to power. And John Kerry shamelessly called the exercise democracy!
Then there is the case of Burundi. After a bloody civil war, the people of Burundi came to peaceful settlement and agreed that there will be a new constitution. The new Burundi constitution states, clearly that there will be a transitional government for five years and all winning political parties will share power.
After five years when the country will be stabilized, there shall be elections and the elected president will serve for two terms. After the transitional period all the political parties stood for elections, Nkurunziza and his party won the elections. Remember they had two Vice Presidents from other parties. This year when he wanted to stand for elections for the second time as stated in the constitution, it was said that he was violating the constitution.
Two terms in office is not a guarantee for democracy. What did Botswana gain after the introduction of the two terms, Botswana performed better than before the two term system! Both Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire served this country better that the two term Presidents.
What we want in Africa is free and fair elections not terms. Why can`t they have two terms in Britain and France and many other countries in Europe? Two terms or not, as long as multinational corporations control our leaders we cannot have democracy and be free in Africa.
Obama went on record saying Africa doesn`t need strong men but strong institutions, and when he made this statement, some African leaders applauded him, without asking him a simple question: “who controls these institutions Mr. Obama?” Mr. Obama is fully aware that those institutions will be controlled by the U.S.A. through its secret agent- the CIA.
Institutions like UN, SADC and others are funded by Americans and CIA, controlling the minds of those running the institutions, just like how the minds of some African leaders are taken over the moment they win elections! The decisions to run countries are made in Washington DC, London and Paris! This is the African tragedy.
There is no democracy even in America as Sharon Delgodo explains: Abraham Lincoln defines democracy as “government of the people by the people for the people! But because corporations in the United States now have money power to influence American government than the people do, it could be said that in America they have a government of, by and for corporations. That is the American system of corporate rule.
The American corporations manufacture weapons, for example and these weapons need to be sold, American government will create conflict in the world in order to sell American arms of war. Nobody will bother telling you where ISIS, Boko HARAM and many others get their weapons from.
Surely not from Russia and China! If it was so, we could have long been told that Russia and China are arming terrorists. We are fully aware that the colour revolutions in East Europe is nothing but coups masterminded by CIA in order to sell American arms to Europe.
The war in Syria, Yemen and Iraq are there so that American corporations make profit from cheap oil, cheap gas, and expensive weapons. Due to the fact that economic-political education in Africa is a taboo most of our leaders including neo-colonists trained intellectuals are not well informed about economic geopolitics of the world.
It is capitalism which creates institutions. Institutions are created to enhance life, but an institution can take on life of its own, so that its primary purpose becomes mainly its own survival, growth, and extension of power. When this happens people are dehumanized.
They become like cogs in a machine serving the needs of the institution, rather than institutions serving the needs of living beings. With transnational corporations this problem is compounded. Though corporate charters are supposedly granted for public goods, in practice the primary purpose for which cooperation exists is to generate profit for their shareholders.
Their survival and extension of power depend on their generation of wealth. This is generally and legally more important to a corporation than well-being of its workers, consumers, the communities in which it operates, the general public or the earth itself. Democracy is about serving the people while capitalism is about making profit, and you cannot serve the people and make profit at the same time, so capitalism serves to dilute or kill democracy in order to survive.
According to Merriam Webster; Collegiate Dictionary, democracy is defined as, “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free election.”
You cannot say the supreme power in America is vested in the people. In 2000 for example the general election results were decided by the Supreme Court which was controlled by the Republican Party. The majority of the Americans voted for Al Gore but those with more judges won the case. In Botswana you cannot say the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by the people.
The supreme power is vested in the supreme leader who is given those powers by the national constitution. In my view from party level to council and parliament, people must have a sense of exercising their rights not only to vote but to make sure that they contribute to decision making. No one person can make decisions on behalf of others either at party or national level.
The power of the people can only be seen if they are involved in the decision making process under true democracy, the task of leadership is to implement the decision of the majority not to make decisions for the majority and the majority implement the decision of the supreme leader. However a capable leader has to inspire the people he or she leads so that together they own the decision. Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom or intelligence.
We are gifted or talented differently. The difference is how these talents have been developed. This is so because intelligence depends on two major factors namely heredity and environment, where you went to school and who taught you also plays a very important part in your life, but the bottom line is that we are all talented.
Someone might be good in art, one science, the other in mathematics. And the musician cannot say to the lawyer because you cannot sing you are stupid or vice-versa. My point is that democracy involves collective decision making. A true leader inspires the people he or she leads but she or he is also inspired by the people he or she leads.
It is the people who energize the leader. For this to happen, the people must be empowered. Proper education will enable people to make proper decisions. A leader who is a product of the people will be confident to carry out decisions without any fear or prejudices.
We as Africans ought to be fully aware of the economic system we choose to follow as it will surely determine how democratic our societies will be. Most Africans don’t have capital as Nyerere has pointed out. This means the capitalists will come from outside and influence of our governments, our political parties, in the end how we live and behave as Africans.
In order to avoid this, African governments must make political party funding a requirement. This is so because those who fund our political parties will have influence on how political parties formulate their national polices, secondly African governments must encourage and support local investments.
The so called foreign investment is nothing else but enslavement dressed in a different coat. The sole motive for investors, capitalists is to make profit as much as they can. In Botswana we need participatory democracy, where by people from grass route decide what they want in their village or district. Government (mananeo a puso) has failed because they are formulated by people who do not know the Batswana way of life.
You cannot introduce something you have seen working in Singapore and think it will work in Botswana. In my view our leaders and people live in different worlds. Until when our people produce their own leaders, not those imposed on them we shall remain poor in a country full of everything.
It is a tragedy that in a country where some are seen driving big cars many have no water to drink. But that does not surprise some of us because that is how capitalism works. The regime in Gaborone has achieved one big thing, to create a class society in Botswana.
And we should not be surprised when they are given awards or honors because they have done extremely well for their masters in London, Washington DC and Beijing. But one day they will be answerable for selling Botswana for a cup of tea!
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.
This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.
The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.
Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.
Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.
Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?
This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.
The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.
So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?
This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.
Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.
I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’ I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’
Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message. Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?
The answer is – as always: now.
This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.
We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.
It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.
Let us start today.
*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana
Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.
So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair. When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees. They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.
It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government. To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.
It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.
If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer. It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.
An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.
On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.
Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country. Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.
Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country. The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?
Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.
When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised. If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?
Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land. Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.
His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.
The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.
The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.
Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.
Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?
The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.
The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly. So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?
COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.
Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.
Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.
Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.
Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.
Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.
Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!
This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety. Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.
Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.