The question of gender is one that raises emotions when discussed, but it is a subject that we should engage in with honestly, without fear or favour and with carefully moderated emotions. In many cases I see that a lot of us try desperately to be political correct when addressing this issue because of fear of backlash from activists who can be very aggressive and emotional.
Gender equity should not be about women; it should not be about men; it should be about empowering all our women and men, all our girls and boys so that they can all play their full part in society not inhibited by any discriminatory laws and societal norms.
Only biological or physical differences should limit us; a man for obvious reasons cannot bear a child but he can fully take care of a child; a crippled man cannot climb stairs but he can be assisted to get to the very top. Any human-made discriminatory tendencies should be eliminated to allow full use of all our human capital, male and female, to meet the needs of the individual as well as the interests of humanity.
It is no accident that we have both women and men. God created both man and woman; he created them equal in his own image. However, he created them at different times and differently in order for them to perform certain Godly assigned complementary functions. God said after creating man, ‘It is not good for a man to be alone; I will therefore make a helper suitable for him’.
Therefore, although women and men were not created biologically, physically and emotionally the same, the differences where a deliberate act of creation meant to empower us for the different roles and functions we were created to play in filling the earth and building it to serve humanity. We need to understand this in order for us to appreciate and to help each other to reach full potential. We must understand that no one is better than the other because of the accident of gender. We do not choose to be female or male, do we?
Since creation we have distorted and manipulated God’s plan. Over the years we have created structures, systems, customs, laws, dogmas etc that discriminated and disadvantaged God’s people based on gender. It looks like women suffered the most, but there are many areas where men are also discriminated against, but gender activists turn a blind eye. One can also say men are largely responsible for the creation of these inequalities and therefore to a large extent men must be urged to champion and lead the reversal of these bad practices.
In Botswana although there are still many discriminatory practices, practices and laws that unjustly prevented women from doing certain jobs and women being paid less than men for the same jobs have long been scrapped. I am not aware of any law in Botswana that discriminates against women, but if they are any they ought to be repelled immediately by parliament. I am however, aware of many entrenched practices that are discriminatory. Gender activists who happen to be largely women do not talk about discriminatory practices against men.
For instance, the adoption law or practice where permission for adoption is only sought from the mother and not the father of the child; customary marriage where men must pay a bride price (lobola) for them to marry; customary practices where men must pay for ‘damages’ when a child is born out of wedlock.
These examples clearly demonstrate discriminatory tendencies against men. Both men and women must take equal responsibility in such cases. If a girl gets pregnant before marriage, unless the girl was raped, all the parties concerned must bear the consequences; the boy, the girl and parents of the two must take equal responsibility because they have all failed the society.
Maybe I should explain why! As society we must firmly place responsibility on the family to bring up their children in a manner that promotes social harmony, integrity, cohesion and moral uprightness. Society must demand that both the girl and the boy child cannot have sex until they are married. It used to be like this in our society, even before Christianity was entrenched in Botswana.
It was uncommon, even a taboo in the 40s, 50s and 60s to have children born out of wedlock. It was just not cool. This is also what the Bible preaches. Nowadays, besides pregnancy and the fact that it is ungodly, we have all sorts of diseases to contend with.
Therefore if a girl gets pregnant before marriage both the parents of the girl and of the boy must be made to account by the society for failing their children. The consequences for pregnancy before marriage must be severe including forcing them to get married. I think it used to be like that in the past, even king David in the Bible had to marry Bathsheba, the mother of king Solomon after the indiscretion he committed that led him to impregnate her (2 Samuel, chapter 11).
Assuming that most Batswana are Christians, we should perhaps use the Bible to attempt to understand the vexing question of gender equity. After God had created the world and everything in it and saw that it was good, He created man and gave him have dominion over everything he created.
God then said, ‘it is not good for a man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” So God created a woman (Eve) and gave her to the man (Adam). The Bible then says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’.
The Bible also says, ‘He created both male and female in His own image’ as equals and gave them dominion over everything he created. Why should we then want to redo what God has done for us by denying people God given privileges based on gender? How can we expect God to be happy with us when we do this?
God created man first and appointed him head of the family, but he commanded him to love and cling to his wife, and the wife to submit to and respect his husband. Submission does not imply making the wife a servant. She is one with you, the same flesh. The man’s role as head of family is to protect his wife and family and not to abuse and enslave them.
Women and men have complementary roles in building the family and consequently the nation. If you love your wife, if you love your daughter, if you love your sister, if you love your mother, if you love your neighbour as the Bible commands, how then can you discriminate against anyone at all? The society including myself and all of us must change and go back to what God demands from us for our families and people.
The Bible does not say, therefore a man shall pay lobola and then leave his father and mother to cling to his wife. It says, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ Where then did paying of the lobola come from? I believe it is a practice created by men to enforce male dominance over women.
No wonder some men interpret this to mean buying and owning a wife. This practice has become a source of conflict in marriages; in many cases resulting in increased rate of divorce when women start demanding equality and men denying them that equality because they ‘bought” them with a price.
The lobola practice also denies many men from marrying because they cannot afford to pay lobola (bogadi) and the expensive ceremonies that go with our contemporary marriages. This results in social ills such as cohabitation; children born out of wedlock; single parenting of children etc, leading to the creation of an unfulfilled society that despises the institution of marriage. I have never heard gender activists complain about these malpractices. This is a serious discriminatory practice that has been created and accepted by society, but does it promote gender equity?
To make it worse, when a child is born out of wedlock, the man who also cannot marry because he cannot afford the expensive marriage system that the society demands is punished by the parents of the girl who demands payment of ‘damages’. The society is treating women like property to be ‘bought’ and ‘damaged’ like pieces of furniture. This cannot be right. We definitely need to change this.
Normalising our marriage processes in order to promote gender equity, healthy and fulfilled families is a must do now. We must simplify our marriage processes and promote the marriage institution. Why should marriages be so expensive for men anyway? Why should men pay lobola and all the expenses pertaining to contemporary marriages? Why do our women accept this practice? Many of our societal ills (single parentage, divorces, passion killings, unfaithfulness, wayward behaviour of children etc) are a result of us having strayed away from God’s principles of marriage and His ways of justice for all.
There has been a lot of talk about the SADC gender protocol that Botswana has refused to sign. The protocol in my view is just another ‘feel good’ document that is meant to pacify gender activists and nothing else. Botswana government has been steadfast in stating that it does not support some clauses in the proposed protocol and therefore it shall not sign.
Why do we want to pressurize Botswana to sign, when it is not ready? Botswana has also said that she supports gender equity and is doing everything in its power to promote gender equity and added that 43 % of public institutions are headed by women. The problem is with political representation where women continue to fail to make a significant mark.
However, women cannot and should not be imposed on the electorate. The call for changing our electoral system to enhance democracy is valid and must be adopted for a number of reasons including leveling of the political playing field, but should not specifically be done to get women to parliament. This would be against the guiding principle of gender equity which should be to empower all to reach their full potential. Everyone should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender.
In a democratic dispensation, we cannot and should not force people to elect women to positions of power simply because they are women; they must be elected based on merit and their ability to represent their people. The people must have a choice provided by an unbiased democratic set up, not an affirmative action as some gender activists demand.
Appointments to positions of any kind should not be based on gender but the superior ability by the individual to carryout the functions of that office; otherwise we will be promoting unacceptable mediocrity in our country. We have very capable women in this country; we must just support them and encourage them to reach their full potential, but without disadvantaging anyone. Any self respecting and honourable woman would not want to be given a position simply because she is a woman.
In conclusion we must as a country work towards gender equity; by empowering all our people through education; by eliminating all discriminatory practices and adopting and enforcing best practices that will also inspire women aspiring for political office. But let us not be in a hurry to sign some of these regional and international protocols that binds us. If we adopt some of these protocols we must do so because they serve our purposes as a nation and are aligned to our national aspirations; fits in with our own realities, our own priorities, our time frames and our fiscal constraints.
Bernard Busani Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 71751440
“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.