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Can BDP redeem itself?


During the elections last year BDP promised to ‘move Botswana forward’ and itemised five key areas which the President put in a red card on which he appended his signature for unequivocal ownership. This is the yardstick that Batswana will use to measure success during the next five years.  Let me remind you of what the Presidential Promise Red Card contained;

Making job creation priority number 1
Taking Batswana out of poverty
Increase education funding
Eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV
Fight corruption in all its manifestations

It is clear that Batswana who voted for BDP and are directly or indirectly affected by the above list will measure success; when they see change in their own lives, when they see change in the lives of their loved ones, when they see change in the lives of the people they know; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours getting employed meaningfully; when they see themselves, their loved ones, their neighbours graduating  out of poverty and becoming ‘bo se mang mang’ in society; when they see the schools where their children, where the children of their loved one’s and where the children of their fellow citizens go have enough classrooms,  have decent desks and chairs in the classrooms, have no broken widows, falling ceilings and dangling cladding, when all their schools have happy and motivated teachers and above all their children performing just as well as those in private schools; when no more children are born with HIV and  when most of us understand and gallantly fight to eliminate new HIV infection; when journalists are free to report anything that looks like corruption (proven or not proven); when most if not all of us truly abhor corruption and all its manifestations and when we can talk without fear or favour about real or perceived corrupt practices anyway in our public or private institutions; when the tendering and recruitment processes in public and private institutions are corruption free;  when all tenders and jobs are awarded on merit and merit only, not on who knows who or who can financially corrupt who.

Success will therefore be declared in an unsophisticated way when people observe positive change in their lives.  However, my advice for the President is for him to have another card that he shares with the public, a score card with targets against each area on which HE can measure progress objectively.  Without targets, some people might even think this was just electioneering noise (gimmick) never intended to be achieved. This would be veritable travesty and dishonesty that cannot be expected to come from our President. I wish the President well and trust that he will work hard together with his team to put targets and get positive results on these chosen five areas.

My observations and free advice on the five areas for consideration by the President and his party;

JOB CREATION AS A NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

The president is right and need to be commended for identifying job creation as a number one priority.   However, seven months after the election there are no apparent positive signs to indicate that job creation is indeed a number one priority.  The economy has lost close to a 1000 jobs since the elections and there are indications that more job losses are on the cards in both private and public domain.  I am not aware of any new jobs that have been created since the elections. The youth policies that the government has recently introduced will not create employment but will severely eat into government coffers with no worthy returns. The leather park has potential to create over 5000 jobs but I am not convinced that government has invested enough resources in planning and finding what is required to sustain the leather park.

Where is the government going to get the requisite engineers, chemists, marketing gurus to sustain this park? Where will we get the artisans, technicians and operators to run these leather plants?  Have we identified the markets and marketing challenges that we will face? If we are going to rely on expatriates do we have the schools, the medical facilities, accommodation, entertainment and the pay packets that will attract the right caliber of expatriates in Lobatse?  I ask the same questions about the pula steel and the planned SPEDU agro industries in Phikwe. Diamond beneficiation has potential to create much more than the 3000 jobs offered by De Beers and sadly even these jobs are being lost as factories close and retrench.  Government needs to look closely at their agreements with De Beers and get their thinking and independent hats on and make diamond beneficiation a reality that we can be proud of. Beneficiation is doable; viable with potential to create more jobs than we can supply; it only needs government willingness to engage.

We desperately need job creation for both young and old for us to graduate out of government imposed poverty. We must not remove older productive people to replace them with the younger ones for the sake of creating youth employment. This will be ’robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and is disingenuous and will rob Botswana of much needed experience. The youth need to be employed on their own merit, trained and skilled without necessarily displacing others. We need growth in our economy so that all employable Batswana can be meaningfully employed.

TAKING BATSWANA OUT OF POVERTY

Batswana are poor because they have not been given the opportunities they deserve in their own country.  We seem to be glorifying and celebrating poverty by the schemes that we have employed which in my humble view are totally ill advised and burying Batswana deeper into poverty. We need to empower Batswana by providing rewarding jobs and creating business opportunities for business minded Batswana to thrive. We should not be seen to be spoon feeding the nation. Like the Chinese I say, ‘do not give me fish but teach me how to fish and go away’.  The government scheme of building houses for the poor is populist, ill informed and demeaning as well as unsustainable and creating a poverty mentality that says ‘sit back government will provide’. How many of these so called poor people do we have countrywide?  How many houses are we going to build? Are we going to feed and clothes these people and for how long?  The poverty eradication schemes are wasting government finances and should be suspended and the money redirected towards education, training, skilling and job creation.  Creation of decent jobs is the key and a number one priority that will pull our people out of poverty.

INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING

For me this should also be a number one priority together with job creation. The two are connected together like siamese twins.  It is through education that we will fill positions created by employment opportunities.  It is through education that we will create employment opportunities, hence the irrefutable twinning of the two areas.  Our education is in a mess. Considering the appalling conditions under which most of our students and teachers have to contend with, we must consider ourselves lucky to be still producing graduates. Sample a few primary schools, junior secondary schools, senior secondary schools and see the conditions under which our children and teachers face daily; the broken chairs, broken tables, broken windows, falling ceilings etc; the winter winds and the hot summer days when both the teacher have to be in these classrooms teaching passionately and student listening intently and absorbing what’s being taught; those teachers teaching and students being taught under trees?  How many of us would like to be teachers and can we really get the best from our children? What kind of feedstock are we giving to our institutions of higher learning and subsequently industry? Finally how are these teachers remunerated considering what they are charged to deliver and the conditions under which they operate?

The presidential housing appeal and the monthly presidential and ministerial walk abouts and public servant community services days should be countrywide and redirected towards our schools. They should help with the maintenance and upkeep of the local schools. The housing appeal money must build more classrooms and put air conditioning in our schools for conducive learning environment.

ELIMINATE MOTHER TO CHILD HIV TRANSMISSION

When it comes to HIV, they are two people in this country who will go into our history books as having been real champions in the fight against HIV and aids. These are Rre Louis Nchindo (May he find peace and may his spirit live on) who was very futuristic  in his outlook and realised that HIV and aids had the potential to wipe out our people if nothing was done and done fast. He introduced free HIV monitoring and treatment for all Debswana employees. This was a first in Africa if not the world. President Festus Mogae then followed suit for the country. These are the two men who saved this country from what would have been a national disaster of unimaginable proportions.  This one is an area where all Batswana must champion to honour the efforts of Louis Nchindo and Festus Mogae.

FIGHT CORRUPTION AND ALL ITS MANIFESTAION

I do not real want to talk about this one, but corruption is bleeding this country regardless of what the transparency international says about us being ‘the least corrupt country in Africa’. I really do not know how they gather their data.  Their intelligence gathering systems must be flawed.  For me it seems they just use information supplied by government agencies and embassies.  One of the major reasons why projects fail dismally and why productivity levels are low is because of corrupt practices that we covertly and sometimes overtly condone. How on earth do you get anything to be done properly when some key people in the economy are employed corruptly with no requisite aptitude for the job they do and when many tenders are awarded corruptly to companies that do not qualify? Throttling merit and competency in our procurement and recruitment processes has a devastating effect on productivity and in advancing our economic progression.

In conclusion, can BDP redeem itself? I want to believe so.  The President must redouble his efforts on job creation, education and corruption to regain some ground.  He does not need money as money is being wasted daily in useless endevours and corrupt practices through out government departments. Surely DIS must know where the rot is if it is not corrupt itself and together with the ministry of finance must clean the rot and rechannel the resources. The government needs to change its mind set and begin to engage well meaning and competent Batswana and experts to help in job creation, improving education and curbing corruption.  The rest will then fall in place. The president must demand measurable targets and annual progress report in these three areas and heads must roll if the targets are not met.  He need now more than ever competent people on his side; people with integrity; people who will tell him nothing but the truth to redeem himself and the legacy of his father.

My final advice to the President and BDP is that to survive beyond 2019, BDP needs Ndelu Seretse as chairman and Botsalo Ntuane as secretary general. These are the two men seeking leadership of the party with the requisite intellectual capacity and political savvy to help BDP survive beyond 2019.  This country will need a strong opposition to keep the new government in 2019 in check. Posterity will judge BDP and the President harshly if they fail to see the winds of change that are sweeping the country and if they fail to refocus BDP by getting new capable leadership who will engage and collaborate meaningfully with the up coming astute and transformational leadership of the country!

E mail; 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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Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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