Everywhere I go people say to me, ‘Thank you. We are really thankful for a job well done’ . Such is their excitement that many of them go the extent of shaking my hand and giving me a hug. The people hail the leaders of the UDC for a spectacular electoral performance, but I always reply by saying; ‘give yourself a pat on the back because, in the final analysis, it is your victory, you made it happen’.
In Gabane I was among the mainly youthful voters who braved the scotching heat and stood in the queue for over 8 hours in order to cast their ballot. That is how determined people were to embrace change. Newly elected Molepolole legislator Mohamed Khan put it more succinctly by saying, ‘it was our collective effort’.
Strictly speaking, history is made by the ordinary people, and not individual leaders – for no individual, however intelligent and strong-will, can alter the main course of historical events. If history was made by individual leaders this country would have long undergone a revolutionary transformation under the leadership of people like Dr Kenneth Koma of the BNF or Phillip Matante of the BPP.
But the subjective conditions for change did not exist at that time. Leaders who appear to shape the main course of events are those who come as the last link in the concatenation of supra-individual circumstances and correlation of social forces that drive the change process. Such leaders are like the straw that breaks the camel’s back or the drop that overflows the cup.
Those who believe that individual leaders are the locomotives of history claimed that the defection of former BNF and BMD leaders like Isaac Mabiletsa, Akanyang Magama, Mephato Reatile, Samson Moyo, Botsalo Ntuane to the BCP and BDP sounded the death knell of the UDC.
The masses have just proved them wrong. Many of these political turncoats were rejected by the masses during the elections. Of course, people do not make history at will, but rather under definite objective conditions and a historically determined mode of production. We owe the voters of Gaborone Central a special debt of gratitude for paying their best tribute to one of our fallen and illustrious heroes of the UDC, Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi, by voting for the UDC – a movement about which he was very passionate. He paid the ultimate and supreme prize i.e. he paid with his very precious life for the victory we are celebrating today.
Of the masses that supported us in our formidable electoral xbattle with the BDP regime I wish to single out the working class – the five workers unions organized under the banner of BOFEPUSU for special commendation. BOFEPUSU is a trade union federation of five unions namely, BLLAHWU, Manual Workers Union, BTU, BOSETU and BOPEU.
To the historical partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU, we say bravo! Hats-off to BOFEPUSU! My most abiding memory from the 2014 general election was to share the political platform with Comrade Johnson Motshwarakgole representing BOFEPUSU. Not even the wavering and vacillating tendencies of the traditionally conservative BOPEU bureaucratic leadership can alter this historic fact.
It remains to be seen if the BOPEU trade bureaucracy represents their own interests or those of their membership. The BOFEPUSU trade union federation must be applauded for having plucked-up courage to forge a historic partnership with the UDC in the .just ended general election.
Of course, in the run-up to the 1994 general elections there was an unwritten alliance between the BNF and Emang Basadi which contributed in no small measure to the good electoral showing of the BNF evidenced by the capturing of an unprecedented 13 seats in parliament. The was BNF poised to capture state power in the 1999 general elections but this was largely tacit endorsement of the BNF by the women’s movement.
This time the working class movement took up the cudgels and stood side by side with the UDC activists in the battle trenches against the BDP regime and put their very lives on the line. Not even the mysterious death of BMD honcho Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi intimidated them. This time around not only did the unions play a pivotal role in the formation of UDC but they also actively campaigned for it.
This all dates back to the 2011 public sector strike or ‘school of war’ when their demands for a 16% salary hike were dismissed with bluster and reckless abandon by the Khama regime. In the famous words of Frederick Engels, strikes are ‘the military school of the workingmen in which they prepare themselves for the great struggles which cannot be avoided… and as schools of war, the unions are unexcelled’.
Perhaps the single most important outcome of the public sector strike is that it taught workers, not through theories delivered by some revolutionary politicians, but through their own battles with the arrogant but shortsighted Khama regime that salvation can only come about if unions took a clear principled stand on politics.
Salvation will only come when all the trade unions get together and write a Workers Charter of Botswana beginning with, ‘We the workers of Botswana demand that…’ Salivation will only come when all the workers, irrespective of their different employers, come to the realization that they are all oppressed by the same ruling class. And indeed salvation will only come when workers and poor peasants come to the realization that they are all oppressed and exploited by the same bourgeoisie both in towns and the rural hinterland and forge a worker-peasant alliance.
Writing on the historic public sector strike of 2011 I observed that ‘. If any one has a sense of triumphalism because the 16% wage hike has not been granted then they are only celebrating a pyrrhic victory. There are no winners and losers in this battle.
The impact on the country’s rapidly deteriorating democratic credentials has been massive and the damage will only become clear when the country goes to the polls. If this government is unwilling to pay the money prize, it must be made to pay the political prize. After all, workers constitute a huge voting constituency. On that single day when elections are held workers will have the power in their hands to punish these dictators once and for all’.
And ‘punish’ them they did! For the first time in the history of this country the opposition has scooped an unprecedented total of 20 seats in parliament (17 for UDC and 3 for the BCP) with several marginal constituencies.. And as the results of the elections eloquently illustrate, it was pay-back time for the workers. Today the BDP regime is a minority regime elected by 320, 657 people, while the combined national vote of the UDC (207, 113) and the BCP (140, 998) is 348, 111 i.e. 27, 446 more than the national vote cast for the BDP.
Since 1999 the BDP is sustained in power by the split vote of the BCP. The BCP leadership has a mammoth decision to make; either to find ways of jumping onto the UDC bandwagon or face possible relegation to the great dustbin of history. The mass exodus from the BCP to the UDC has already started. Our call at the beginning of this year for a UDC-BCP electoral pact in an open letter to Dumelang Saleshando was ignored with disastrous consequences.
In the Global Post of November 11, 2014 it is regrettable that BCP activist Lotty Manyapetsa is reported as having said, ‘leaders of the BOFEPUSU should abstain from politics because that is bound to break the union as evidenced by the contradicting statements issued by the leaders of the same union’.. Such reactionary drivel is enough reason why the workers must shun the BCP. The BCP is the one which nearly divided BOFEPUSU by pulling out of the umbrella.
The first step to freedom in the labour movement is to abandon false political neutrality and consciously build strategic alliances with revolutionary parties while safeguarding their relative autonomy as trade unions. BOFEPUSU has just taken that giant step to emancipate themselves and the rest of the oppressed masses of Botswana. As far back as 1921 the third Congress of the Communist International addressed the question of trade unions and politics. They made the following observations;
The bourgeoisie keeps the working class enslaved not only by means of naked force, but also by subtle deception. In the hands of the bourgeoisie, the school, the church, parliament, art, literature, the daily press – all become powerful means of duping the working masses and spreading the ideas of the bourgeoisie into the proletarian milieu. One of the ideas which the ruling classes have succeeded in inculcating into the working masses is trade-union neutrality – the idea that trade unions are non-political organizations and should have no party affiliations.
The Communist International argued that the bourgeoisie cannot openly call on the workers’ trade unions to support the bourgeois parties, so it urges the unions not to support any party. The sole aim of the bourgeoisie, however, is to prevent the trade unions from supporting progressive parties or political formations like the UDC. Trade union neutrality amounts to tacit support for the capitalist status quo and denies workers the opportunity to forge strategic partnerships with like-minded revolutionary political parties and movements.
Since 1966 the BDP has been propped up employers, including De Beers while it lulled the workers into a false of political neutrality. The irony of it all is that the millions that De Beers, Dada and Derrick Brink contribute to the BDP political campaign is the sum total of the workers’ unpaid surplus value which accumulates in the hands of the capitalist employers by virtue of the fact that they privately own and control the means of subsistence – land, cattle, diamonds, automobile industries etc.
The fruits of the workers’ sweat are effectively used against them by financing a political party which is ideologically hostile to the interests of the workers. Even the blankets and radios used to buy votes are made by workers of other countries but are now used to oppress the workers of Botswana. So it is only proper and fitting that workers identify with a party or political movement such the UDC that addresses some of their concerns.
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
Corruption is a heavy price to pay. The clean ones pay and suffer at the mercy of people who cannot have enough. They always want to eat and eat so selfishly like a bunch of ugly masked shrews. I hope God forgives me for ridiculing his creatures, but that mammal is so greedy. But corruption is not the new kid on the block, because it has always been everywhere.
This of course begs the question, why that is so? The common answer was and still is – abuse and misuse of power by those in power and weak institutions, disempowered to control the leaders. In 1996, the then President of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn named the ‘C-Word’ for the first time during an annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions. A global fight against corruption started. Transparency International began its work. Internal and external audits mushroomed; commissions of inquiry followed and ever convoluted public tender procedures have become a bureaucratic nightmare to the private sector, trying to fight red tape.
The result is sobering corruption today is worse than it was 25 years ago. There is no denying that strong institutions help, but how does it come that in the annual Transparency International Ranking the same group of countries tend to be on the top while another group of countries, many African among them, tend to be on the bottom? Before one jumps to simple and seductive conclusions let us step back a moment.
Wolfensohn called corruption a cancer that destroys economies like a cancer destroys a body. A cancer is, simplified, good cells in a body gone bad, taking control of more and more good cells until the entire body is contaminated and eventually dies. So, let us look at the good cells of society first: they are family ties, clan and tribe affiliation, group cohesion, loyalty, empathy, reciprocity.
Most ordinary people like the reader of these lines or myself would claim to share such values. Once we ordinary people must make decisions, these good cells kick in: why should I hire a Mrs. Unknown, if I can hire my niece whose strengths and weaknesses I know? If I hire the niece, she will owe me and support my objectives.
Why should I purchase office furniture from that unknown company if I know that my friend’s business has good quality stuff? If I buy from him, he will make an extra effort to deliver his best and provide quality after sales service? So, why go through a convoluted tender process with uncertain outcome? In the unlikely case my friend does not perform as expected, I have many informal means to make him deliver, rather than going through a lengthy legal proceeding?
This sounds like common sense and natural and our private lives do work mostly that way and mostly quite well.
The problem is scale. Scale of power, scale of potential gains, scale of temptations, scale of risk. And who among us could throw the first stone were we in positions of power and claim not to succumb to the temptations of scale? Like in a body, cancer cells start growing out of proportion.
So, before we call out for new leaders – experience shows they are rarely better than the old ones – we need to look at ourselves first. But how easy is that? If I were the niece who gets the job through nepotism, why should I be overly critical? If I got a big furniture contract from a friend, why should I spill the beans? What right do I have to assume that, if I were a president or a minister or a corporate chief procurement officer I would not be tempted?
This is where we need to learn. What is useful, quick, efficient, and effective within a family or within a clan or a small community can become counterproductive and costly and destructive at larger corporate or national scale. Our empathy with small scale reciprocity easily permeates into complacency and complicity with large scale corruption and into an acquiescence with weak institutions to control it.
Our institutions can only be as strong as we wish them to be.
I was probably around ten years old and have always been that keen enthusiastic child that also liked to sing the favourite line of, ‘the world will become a better place.’ I would literally stand in front of a mirror and use my mom’s torch as a mic and sing along Michael Jackson’s hit song, ‘We are the world.’
Despite my horrible voice, I still believed in the message. Few years later, my annoyance towards the world’s corrupt system wonders whether I was just too naïve. Few years later and I am still in doubt so as to whether I should go on blabbing that same old boring line. ‘The world is going to be a better place.’ The question is, when?
The answer is – as always: now.
This is pessimistic if not fatalistic – I challenge Sagan’s outlook with a paraphrased adage of unknown origin: Some people can be bamboozled all of the time, all people can be bamboozled some of the time, but never will all people be bamboozled all of the time.
We, the people are the only ones who can heal society from the cancer of corruption. We need to understand the temptation of scale and address it. We need to stop seeing ourselves just a victim of a disease that sleeps in all of us. We need to give power to the institutions that we have put in place to control corruption: parliaments, separation of power, the press, the ballot box. And sometimes we need to say as a niece – no, I do not want that job as a favour, I want it because I have proven to be better than other contenders.
It is going to be a struggle, because it will mean sacrifices, but sacrifices that we have chosen, not those imposed on us.
Let us start today.
*Bokani Lisa Motsu is a student at University of Botswana
Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.
So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair. When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees. They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.
It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government. To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.
It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.
If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer. It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.
An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.
On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.
Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country. Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.
Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country. The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?
Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.
When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised. If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?
Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land. Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.
His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.
The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.
The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.
Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.
Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?
The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.
The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly. So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?
COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.
Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.
Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.
Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.
Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.
Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.
Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!
This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety. Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.
Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.