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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION; WHITHER BOTSWANA PART 1

KABO MOTSWAGOLE

It is now common and also in the public domain that, there are certain entitlements and privileges which accrue to us by virtue of us being human; these entitlements have been commonly called universal, fundamental or human rights. Among the myriad of human rights that we have is the ever illustrious ‘freedom of expression’. This right is not by any means complex; even the most immature of minds can lightly or readily comprehend its constituents and possibly the aftermath of its violation.

Freedom of expression means or includes the right to have ones thoughts known, to disseminate them, also the right to receive and be given information of whatever sort. Information has been hailed in most parts of the world as the lifeblood and the oxygen for any mature and responsible democracy. In the western world and other mature democracies of the world there has risen talk and endorsement of freedom of information and laws and their implications.

Customarily governments conduct their business in utmost and dire secrecy. It did not come as a shock to discover that among a legion of epithets in different languages used to describe government, there is in Swahili a word referring to government that means deep/fierce secrecy.

The ordinary person seldom knows what is deliberated upon in those dreadful corridors and high offices. The little that he knows is the bread crumbs that the pressman divulges to him after trying with extra-human effort to solicit and extract information from those who are at the helms of power, its supposed custodians.

Should it occur that a certain soul charged with the mandate of keeping ‘confidential’ government information decides to whisper its contents into the ears of his neighbor, his fate would have by then been long decided upon, judgment upon him will be swift, he shall be a castaway, an abomination to those who once entrusted their lives to him. How pitiable!

This culture, like a warm and humid environment for germs, is a perfect breeding place for a specie of a pathogen; which is reputed for sucking the life out of even the once glorious mighty democracies and models of good governance, it does not stop at the command of the faithful few zealots, who profess knowledge in good governance, the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism, it is a trailblazer in its path, only full disclosure will rid government and its various permutations of this horrid and dangerously cancerous creature commonly known as corruption. Corruption, not only breeds and grows in secrecy, it thrives and forges against all odds in secrecy.

These remarks do not stand in isolation and have been raised in international fora. The UN Standards recognise the need for both measures to inform the public about their right to information and to “to address the problem of a culture of secrecy within Government”. Commonwealth Principle 2 recognises this as a positive need, namely to “promote a culture of openness”.

The Joint Declaration of the special mandates calls on the government to “take active steps to address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries within the public sector”. It also calls for steps to be taken “to promote broad public awareness of the access to information law” and generally for “the allocation of necessary resources and attention” to ensure proper implementation of the right to information laws.

Progressive democracies have therefore in light of the discontent arising from the governed attributed to the continued secrecy of government affairs, ventured out to enact Freedom of Information laws (FOI). The move by these select forerunning countries is intended to sensitize governments and citizens alike that information from every sector of the government; be it from the Judiciary, Executive and or the Legislature should be decentralized and disclosed to any concerned or interested member of the public at their request.

The purpose of such initiative being also to state further that governmental information of whatever nature does not belong to those who govern alone as they are but mere custodians, but that it also belongs to the governed, that the former also have an inherent right to know and have access to such information recognizing that if such access is granted to them they will have a meaningful participation in national issues and projects of national concern.

Also reminding those who hold the reins that age old Jefferson mantra that, government is by the people for the people and none should ever think of himself as having some sort of ownership over any of it sectors. This has in its spirit the enduring and inescapable need for public oversight of public institutions.

It is from these premises that Freedom of Information laws gained their prominence. In our hearing these propositions sound almost preposterous and one may hasten to dismiss us as overly imaginative and ambitious. It is after this discourse that we hope that the ordinary man eating tripe and fat cakes at the main mall will know of his right to governmental information, it is hoped that analogies will help whosoever may read of the need for us as the Republic of Botswana to have our own FOI law.

Entitlements (Executive and Public Bodies)

Today when government officials, say the Executive conduct their meetings and there pass or adopt resolutions on certain upcoming national projects, the ordinary Motswana cannot and will not under any circumstances know why those projects were approved. This is so because those deliberations are more often than not, classified and shrouded in deep secrecy. It is often a possibility that in those deliberations there were some dissenting voices and reasons for whatsoever resolution.

Under an FOI law, one is entitled to write a request to the appropriate officer to be granted access to the deliberations of Cabinet and know why that particular decision was adopted by Cabinet. In this way there can be a control on dangers such as insider trading by ministers, particularly those who have business interests as most of them in Botswana do.

With such a law the public can be rest assured that no minister can use information on tenders to his own enrichment (as some stand accused), to the detriment of the ordinary Motswana and later turn to state that they also as Batswana is also entitled to tender and share in the wealth of the country like us all. That being a clear case of conflict of interest and duty which arises from the fact they are not ordinary Batswana, but custodians of certain pieces of information which come into his possession by virtue of his high office.

Further on, with the advent of an FOI law other public bodies will be rendered duty bound to disclose and or to publish the contents of their deliberations, this requisition comes up in FOI laws of other countries and International standards. The UN Standards, for example, state that Freedom of information implies that public bodies publish and disseminate widely documents of significant public interest, for example, operational information about how the public body functions and the content of any decision or policy affecting the public. Briefly put an FOI law in Botswana would entitle us to information from our various public bodies.

If ones seek to know why a certain company in which a minister is a Director continues for a disturbing number of years to win tenders, they as a citizen or even a non citizen like in other countries; will be entitled access to the contents of the PPADB minutes which awarded those tenders, to get the rationale, and the decision to award. Today when the pressman darkens the Board Secretary’s door he’ll be fed useless and shallow bread crumbs when he seeks to know what informed the decision of the Board to continuously award tenders to a single company.

It is now a matter of public knowledge that administrative governmental procedures were brutally violated to procure funds set for disasters in establishing the now notorious spy agency DIS. Who really abused the said procedures? What did they do that they ought to have not? Members of the public are only left to wonder why the agency was against all odds hurriedly established.

Were there no other effective agencies before the arrival of DIS? What of Special Branch? Was it ineffective to combat other forms of advanced crime? Who recommended its eradication to give way to DIS? Was a consultant involved to compile a report on the state of our national security? Was the report one to debate in Parliament? Is it worthwhile that the public be left in the dark? Can’t a disclosure to them be more beneficial than any risk that may ensure from not knowing what is in the said report?

These matters which present themselves for determination are not mere yappery but are deep seated questions which need be addressed lest government continues even further to act in reckless abandon and in the end unleashing upon the citizenry. This concern must be even seriously considered in dealing with such a powerful and loaded institution like the Executive. No wonder in the US FOI law focuses more on disclosure of information by the Executive.

Legislature, Judiciary etal

Parliament sessions are generally open to the public, but the common man should not forget while sited in that air-conditioned pristine environment, that while on those grounds he is deem a stranger by the very law enacted, by persons he voted into power who is there at the mercy of the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly.

She may, by powers vested in her clear the public attendage and bar the doors. Behind those doors the law making body may then deliberate and those deliberations will ever remain secret until they are rendered useless by lapse of time then disclosed.

The contents of those debates of will forever be shut from public perusal, we ordinary men will be left wondering what the people we voted to power were deliberating upon in our absence. An FOI law if it be adopted shall entitle the citizen to petition the relevant officer to be granted access into those records of Parliament that she is desirous to peruse.

In terms of FOI law principles which will be dealt with in another installment of this article; only limited exceptions to access to information are allowed, that is to say in some instances even national security considerations will not pass unless they are brought under serious scrutiny to see if the need for the public to know overshadows to a great extent the risks that may ensue from the disclosure.

In the Judiciary where the business of judging and interpretation of laws is carried out, the public is normally allowed to sit in and observe justice in administration; this is in accordance with the principle of fair and open justice also with the undying need for public oversight of government.

The pressman enjoys coverage of all matters that he is allowed to attend as a member of the public; he may also with the permission of the Registrar and or the Court bring his cameras into the court room and capture those sacred moments. However if the proceedings be in camera like those deemed to be so sensitive as to not qualify for public consumption, the citizen can only fantasize about what was deliberated upon.

In other matters such as the appointment of judges of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal the ordinary man only learns from his neighbour that His Excellency the President is the one who appoints judges of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. He is left clueless and is sent to sea as to what those mysterious characters on the Commission may have said or opined to warrant the endorsement or appointment of a particular person to the Bench.

To him these matters are a ‘holy cow’ he even fears to imagine what the members of the Commission may have said to motivate their case before His Excellency. Why shouldn’t the ordinary Motswana be informed on matters that affect him personally? Shouldn’t he know what was said of the man who will later adjudicate upon his case?

Will the knowledge not give him a sense of ownership in his government? Can this practice of deep concealment guarantee these structures insulation against nepotism, politicization personalization and manipulation? Is it not disclosure of their affairs that would insulate them from these evils or worse? Without such antecedents the contribution of the citizen to the good governance of his Republic can never be meaningful.

In a not so distant past a number of High Court judges left the bench. The powers that be were shockingly tight lipped as to what necessitated the departure of those judges. It is said that judges enjoy the most awesome treatment in most matters which we ordinary men cannot attain.

From this background one is left but to wonder as to what may cause one to leave such gracious and plump place like the bench. No report was published by the Registrar to the public as to why they left; any publication by the pressman speculating on their reasons of departure was hastingly dismissed by him as untrue, ill-founded and not worthy of publication. That was how far he could go. With all fairness to the man, how could he possibly go any farther? He is not obliged, only FOI law will place upon him this heavy burden to disclose.

In the wake of major cases such as Kalafatis’ case, CMS case, Nchindo’s case and Kgafela’s case two major public figures were appointed to the High Court bench namely Regional Magistrate Lot Moroka who as he then was presided over the case and Director of Public Prosecutions Leatile Dambe who in that capacity prosecuted the case.

That the duo is competent and qualifies and are worthy of the appointment they now enjoy admits of no argument. But one is left to wonder, didn’t this appointment affect matters which already handled by these officers? Had they have sufficiently completed the said matters when their time to ascend to the bench came? Was it not appropriate to appoint them after such matters were truly and clearly acted upon by them?

These questions are only natural to the common man; his rescue from wonder and misery lies with a Freedom of Information Act, which law will grant him the right and entitlement to governmental information and would have the opportunity to read even further why some decisions are taken. We only hope that such an Act will not as is proposed in South Africa limit access but allow access to information.

Leonard Sechele became the DPP, he succeeding Leatile Dambe, (who established herself then as a Prosecutor of renown) it is said that the former was legal counsel of the spy agency. The Law Society of Botswana pleaded no knowledge to these set of facts.

Shocking it was! Why Sechele? Did he pass as the most able person in matters of prosecution? Would his prior involvement with the embattled and much resented DIS not compromise his objectivity when he is called upon to inherit the files of Mma Dambe who had already initiated prosecution against some of DIS officers or when he is seized with new matters involving his former colleagues at DIS? What informed the highest office in coming to such a decision? It is in the minds of many to know why the most immediate officer at DPP was not appointed to the seat of the national prosecutor.

Truly a myriad of questions would not find their answers; it is in these circumstances that the author is bold enough to state that Botswana needs an FOI law which is in his opinion long overdue. Procrastination, sitting and only wishing that certain things could not happen in our beautiful Botswana is only suicide. There is need for Parliament to act now and avert even worse dangers. Time has never been so opportune for Botswana to adopt such a law.

Other entities in information

Professional bodies such as Botswana Health Professional, Council of Nurses and Midwives, Botswana institute of Accounts, Association of Engineers and all the related shall all come under scrutiny or are they not some sort of a bodies entrusted to see to some interests of the public? The rumors that when a member of the public reports one of their colleagues for dishonorable and unethical conduct, the report is hurriedly brushed aside and not thoroughly considered would all come into the open with advent of a Freedom of Information law because it and only it will not countenance damaging secrecy.

Access

In other Jurisdictions, persons; both natural and juristic, are allowed to have access to government records and archives which contain information about them, they can correct and edit information about themselves; the law obliges them to state matters which are confirmed truth. This is for the simple reason that this way crime can be combated easily as the State will know who to look for and where. Further this gives the citizen a sense of security, belongingness and ownership. He would feel that the government is surely looking to his interests not its own interests or the interests of another to his detriment.

If there are private companies which have courted government on national projects such as the construction of roads, buildings, or any joint partnership that government has any company; the public will as a rule and a principle of FOI law be entitled to access the particulars of such agreements and memorandums. This way you can know the terms under which the public school that your child will go to was built.

The culture of serial prohibitionism, gagging and reckless intimidation by the present government, through certain objectionable Forms to be signed under the clout of national security that now prevails in government enclave needs to cease, but it is only by virtue of an FOI law that these utterly disturbing matters can be tackled. Should we as a nation fail in this regard then we might as well forget about the having a public with unremitting vigilance and oversight of government action, then we should relegate our victory against corruption to fairy tales having no place in real and modern society.

KABO MOTSWAGOLE
Attorney at law

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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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