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Wish-List for the Youth Constituency


This time of the year is well-known for wish-lists, individuals and collectives are busy updating and circulating their desired whish-lists for the festive season and/or the year(s) ahead. A 'Wish-list' is simply a record of desired items or occurrences (Oxford Dictionaries; 2014). The list's author(s) will then distribute copies of their wish-list to stakeholder(s) who are capable of transforming the wish-list for the would-be recipient(s). The fundamental goal of any wish-list is to facilitate communication between the author(s) and respective stakeholder(s). Wish-lists normally contain realistic expectations that stakeholder(s) can fulfill directly and/or indirectly.

Therefore, it is fitting for me and like minded youth advocates to circulate our desired wish-list, on behalf of our constituents, with hope that relevant authorities find it worthy to grant Youth some, if not all their desires in this list. That is, if they find Youth deserving of such wishes, we are mindful of the fact that, wishes can only be granted those considered deserving.

This wish-list is more than a gradient of desired expectations; it also serves as a ‘needs based’ template for youth advocates, legislatures and policy makers alike. Youth development is a stubborn and escalating problem in Botswana. This reality persists despite frequent establishment of numerous youth development initiatives/projects plus pleasing financial and political will. Youth in Botswana are faced with divers and equally pressing socio-economic challenges, these inform and guide this ‘Youth Constituency’ wish-list.  

We wish for equitable distribution of wealth and resources, we want the enormous and growing gap between the ‘Rich’ and the ‘Poor’ to be completely obliterated. Our country should translate its remarkable Economic Growth to remarkable Economic Development. Our Gini Index is in excess of 0.64, one of the highest in the whole world. Best practice approaches to equitable economic development are obvious and well known, these include; decentralization, genuine citizen participation, needs based programing and transparency.

Equitable economic development hurdles are obvious and well known, these include; corruption, centralization, top-down apprach and, nepotism. We refuse to accept that countries such as; Mauritius and Denmark are mere fairytales; we should emulate, and surpass such countries. We want Decentralization over Recentralization; services should go to the people not vice versa.  Botswana is characterized by disturbing levels of rapid Rural-Urban migration; this is because all economic development opportunities and basic public services are centralized in one area.

The socio-economic impacts of Rural-Urban migration on both urban & rural communities are well known and at play in our motherland. The recent land pandemonium in Odi and overwhelming poverty in rural settlements are classic signs of rapid Rural-Urban migration.  This decentralization should incorporate youth socio-economic integration through; Cooperatives, Localization, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and, the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD).

We yearn for permanent decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods: Unemployment in our country has been around 20 percent since 2007. Not only have we failed to create new jobs since 2007, we have correspondingly failed to protect the few jobs in our economy. About 70% of our total unemployment is youth unemployment, furthermore youth fall within the intermediate sector with low paying jobs. Youth face a new phenomenon of skilled and unskilled labor exploitation/servitude termed ‘underemployment’.

This reality restricts ‘majority’ of youth from living sustainable livelihoods, resulting in undesirable socio-economic tribulations, like the recent Thamaga ‘Merubisi’ invasion. Furthermore, we yearn for earnest sustainable 'socioeconomic safety nets' that bring youth to mainstream economic membership, instead of keeping them in the sidelines. We wish for improved Education and Skills Development; we want BIUST to be fully and eternally operational by January. We hope troubled Botswana Accountancy College (BAC) survives or recovers from its apparent P3 million debt legal battle. We yearn for appropriate management and leadership at Good-Hope Senior School, Tonota College of Education and other troubled institutions, for proper teaching and learning to prevail. We wish universal public Early Childhood Education provision will take-off soon.

Though we should, we will not dwell much on ‘Curriculum Review’, in this regard, we fittingly refer you to recommendations of the Kedikilwe Education Commission (1993) and the Education with Production principle by renowned educationalist, Patrick van Rensburg. We wish for better and efficient Monitoring and Evaluation of Tertiary Institutions, to ensure their services gratify market demands and our citizens get value for money. We yearn for expansion and diversification of our education system; it ought to vigorously incorporate ‘Non-Formal’ and ‘Out of School Education’. These should focus on life and entrepreneurial skills instead of basic literacy and numeracy skills.
 
We genuinely yearn for land; the revised Tribal Land Act (1993) and the Constitution of Botswana (section 14 and 15) assurance us land ownership anywhere in the country is our constitutional right. Though decent shelter and accommodation is our right, today we do not plead on constitutional/legal grounds. We simply plead for land as a socio-economic and human development basic need as demonstrated by renewed psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in his distinguished ‘Hierarchy of Needs’  theory. We desire effective and equitable distribution of land; we know there is plenty to go around for everyone.

We want to be allocated tribal land from 18yrs or earlier, why should we wait for 21yrs? We also know the waiting list stands at, 140 000 in Mogoditshane, 16 348 in Palapye and, 5 146 in Mochudi, but we refuse to believe this is the best our country can do. We know about the six year old Land Administration, Procedures and Systems (LAPCAS), but we have our reservations. We refuse to believe the land situation in countries like France is a fairy-tale and luck; it is a result of deliberate policy interventions and unquestionable political will. We should emulate, and surpass such countries.

We yearn for genuine Youth participation; to be precise we yearn for ratification of the African Youth Charter (AYC). AYC is a legal framework to guide and support policies, programs and actions for youth development and empowerment across Africa (Mac-Ikemenjima; 2009). We also plead for ‘needs based’ programing through a ‘bottom-up approach’ opposed to the current ‘top-down and one size fits all approach’. We yearn for bottom-up policy approach because it is the only approach best placed to address the diverse youth development challenges across our country.

This approach is cognizant of the fact that; youth are not a ‘homogenous group’ they confront diverse realities. Their differences in age, gender, experience, marital status, interests and preferences, family background, income, and religion, amongst others, creates a wide gap between the needs, aspirations and expectations of youth in our country. The options and constraints they face vary widely; so does their description of opportunities. Therefore, there can never be a universal initiative that addresses all youth challenges at once. In this regard, we also yearn for the overdue Youth Parliament. 

Empowerment of young women is also our wish; traditional and contemporary hardships facing young women are well and widely documented. We cannot pretend these social, cultural, political and economic hardships do not exist. Hence, we yearn for ratification and compliance to among others; SADC Gender Protocol and Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDA. Our disturbing youth development situation affects females more than their male counterparts. Therefore if any significant strides are to be actualized, sustainable empowerment and development of young women should be a deliberate action item.

Unfortunately we have exceeded the word-count; hence we shall stop here. There is a lot more we wish to include in our ‘youth constituency’ wish-list. We will certainly find a way of advancing all wishes left out in this list.   

* Taziba is Youth Advocate & Researcher with keen interest in Youth Policy, Civic Engagement, Social Inclusion and Capacity Building
(7189 0354/gtaziba@yahoo.co.uk)

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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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Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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