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The great hope of our people…. Time for consolidation


‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ If we arm ourselves with knowledge you will know the truth. Without knowledge the truth will most likely elude us. With knowledge we shall know whether we are being misinformed or we are being informed appropriately.

Being informed appropriately means being given knowledge that empowers us to understand issues around us in order for us to make informed choices. With this knowledge, as an individual, you are able to discern the truth and take appropriate actions. 

I have posted a number of articles on this publication and have received overwhelming encouragement to share more. I will continue to do so as a way of giving back to my beloved fellow citizens, some will criticize and some will learn something. It is all well as we all learn something as we begin to engage each other positively.


I tumbled upon a book by some writer, Allen White entitled “The Great Hope’’. I immediately thought of the great hope that I have for our country. The great hope that one day this country will be able to reach its full potential in terms of development. The great hope that one day all our people will be engaged meaningfully in the transformation of their country.

The great hope that one day the rich resources that God has richly bestowed upon this country with will be enjoyed fully by all our people. The great hope that one day the leadership of this country will understand that they are servants and not masters of the people. The great hope that one day our leaders will understand that each person has a specific role to play in the development of the country…no one is a mistake!


 As I went through the pages of this book, my attention was caught by a chapter entitled “Why there is suffering?” What suffering; I thought to myself! Yes, there is suffering in my country.  The gross unemployment and under-employment that should have long been eliminated is painful. The pain has made some of the unemployed accept that it is impossible for them to be employed – they have now accepted this as their fate. Some have even been removed from the list of the unemployed to perhaps make the statistics look better? We have graduates who are roaming the streets with nothing meaningful to do.

We have interns who are filing and making tea in offices with no prospects for permanent jobs.  We have created abject poverty amongst our people which we say we will eliminate but without putting in place any plausible framework for sustainability. 

We have suffering in many dark corners of this republic, the elderly, the disabled, the sick in hospitals with inadequate care systems, the children who walk long distances to school and being taught under trees in bad weather with inadequate clothing, the children whose education condemns them to a life without any prospects for advancement – yes we have suffering, teachers and officers with inadequate accommodation, the starving wages imposed on the majority of our employees, yes the list is long…there is suffering.

The people subjected to unfair treatment by authorities because ‘ke bo ise mang’. Corruption, nepotism, favouritism in high places, yes there is suffering.  The people who are subjected to this suffering eventually give up hope of ever getting out of the suffering and some resort to some undesirable means to survive or to withstand the suffering. This is unnecessary suffering that must be ended by us!


I would like to paraphrase a portion I read from this chapter- ‘why there is suffering’. This article is really meant for deep introspection within our opposition parties. God’s plan of hope and prosperity for this country will be done through the opposition parties of this country. So it is imperative for the opposition parties to introspect and build a formidable force for change.


‘Before the entrance of sin there was peace and joy throughout the universe. Love for God was supreme; love for one another was impartial. The law of love was the foundation of God’s government, the happiness of all the created beings depended on their acceptance of the principles of justice and righteousness. God took no pleasure in forced allegiance and therefore granted all free will, so that they may render Him voluntary service. However, some highly placed individual chose to pervert this freedom and sin entered the world.


Leaving his place in the presence of God, this individual went forth to spread discontent amongst the angels. Mysteriously concealing his real purpose he endevoured to excite dissatisfaction concerning laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they imposed unnecessary restraints.

He urged them to obey only the dictates of their own will. He claimed he was not aiming for self exaltation but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants of heaven so that they may attain higher level of existence. He was not degraded from his privileged position in heaven, even when he began presenting false claims before the angels.

Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. At first he did not understand the real selfish nature of his feeling, but as his dissatisfaction was proved to be unfounded, he was convinced that the divine claims were true and just and that he ought to acknowledge that before all heavens. However, pride forbade him from submission. He instead, resolved that he had no need for repentance and thus fully committed himself to continued confrontation with his maker.


He intensified his deception to secure the sympathy of the angels. All those who did not agree with him; he accused of indifference to the interests of the heavenly beings. It became his policy to manipulate the angels with defiant and subtle arguments concerning the purpose of the maker.

By artful perversion he cast doubt upon every statement made by his maker. His position gave him power and influence and many were induced to unite with him. He remained stubborn, defiant and blasphemously claiming to be an innocent victim. He was eventually banished from heaven for ever – he is now a lost soul in the wilderness.’


I would like to challenge our political parties especially the opposition to look at the above story closely and ask themselves this question. Who are these men who have allowed and continue to allow the perpetuation of this suffering in this land of plenty and what should be done to get our people out of this suffering? I want the leadership and the general members of society to look in the mirror and examine themselves and see if there are not partly or entirely responsible for this suffering. Have we not like the one in the text above deviated from the cause to liberate our people.

Instead we have misled our people and turned them against each other by cunningly undermining others and claiming supremacy! Have we been honest? Are we pursuing our own interests at the expense of our people? How long has this been going on? Why did we ever allow ourselves to have more than one opposition political party in this country with such a small population? Where there any irreconcilable differences within the opposition ranks or where there just immaterial personal differences and preferences that took centre stage? We need to reconcile our differences and become one big force for change. No one should be ‘banished for ever’.


We need to get our people to understand the issues so that they are not easily deceived by those self seeking individuals who want power at any cost for the sole purpose of advancing their own interests and prestige like the one in the text? Hitler once said if you tell people lies all the time eventually they will accept these lies as the truth.  RB, BTV and Botswana daily news paper are used as government propaganda machines meant to prevent the real suffering in the country from being reported and only giving a glowing picture of what the government is doing.

The president goes around the country at our expense giving out blankets, radios and houses to deliberately present a false picture to our people and the world that he cares. The unsuspecting public out there and the international community believe this propaganda while the truth and the reality on the ground is severely compromised.


 It is therefore important that all those who can see through this musk, must work together as one to fight the injustices imposed on our people. Working together will have the desired effect of getting more with less! The combined resources in terms of financial, manpower and intellectual capacity will multiply. The reach to our people will be much wider. The support from local and international interests will multiply. The ability to remove the musk for the truth and the reality in our country to be reflected correctly will be magnified.  


The elections are gone and the people have spoken and spoken very clearly. True leaders have heard the people and will honour the voice of the people in good time. Those who still want to justify a ‘multiparty’ democracy as opposed to a ‘two’ party democracy are still missing the point. Batswana have spoken; they want a ‘two’ party democracy.

They want one voice against the ruling party. This one voice is the voice of the government in waiting. Those 800,000 people who did not vote will vote during the next election to support a ‘two’ party democracy. These people are saying, ‘we are too small a population to be fantacising about multiparty democracy’. They are saying, ‘we need only two parties, so swallow your pride, work together and we will support you.’


Have it ever occurred to you that the multiplicity of parties was encouraged and promoted because it meant that the ruling party will be kept in power for ever? These 800,000 people who did not vote are aware of it. They know that their vote will not make any difference in the outcome of the election if we have multiple parties selling the same election package. One can only logically assume that only those leaders, blinded by their own desire for top leadership positions will continue to advocate for divisions within the opposition ranks, despite the loud voice coming from the just ended election.  


So it is time for the opposition to come together as one, to fight as one, to speak with one voice, for one purpose only, that of truly liberating our people from the shackles of the current misguided  and mischievous government.

Email: bernard.busani@ gmail.com Cell: 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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