The BDP regime is running scarred and making suicidal blunders in the process. The best example is how President Khama recently de-campaigned his own part in Maun by engaging in character assassination of Kgosi Tawana and in the process insulting the very Batwana whose votes he craves. We say, let the BDP tremble because it is time they are told in clear categorical terms that; Mene Mene Tekel Uphrasin – ‘the writing is on the wall.
Their days are numbered. And no one should in any way temper with the verdict of the people on October 24 because as they put it Latin; vox populi, vox Dei i.e. the ‘voice of the people is the voice of God’. For many years the opposition has endured and accepted the results of the elections, including dubious ones, and now it is the turn of the BDP to endure and accept the unpalatable verdict of the people.
As the election day draws closer, the single most important question each and every voter must ask him/herself is whether this is just another routine general election or whether this election must be turned a referendum on Ian Khama’s dictatorship. This is the opportune moment for Batswana to speak in one powerful voice and say ; enough is enough of Khama dictatorial regime? They must vote the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to save their country from Khama’s dictatorship.
When he assumed office Khama promised to deliver on five Ds, – ‘democracy’, ‘ development’, ‘discipline’, ‘dignity’ and ‘delivery’. It has been a period of spectacularly broken promises and yet he still thinks he can get away with making even more promises. As the English expression goes; jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today! Batswana are sick and tired of empty promises and want their development ‘jam’ today, not tomorrow.
Once upon a time Botswana was a nation internationally renowned for being at peace with itself. Indeed when Botswana was surrounded by white minority ruled regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa Sir Seretse Khama’s description of this country as ‘an island of sanity, peace and tranquility in a sea of turbulence’ was spot on and quite apposite. Then Batswana lived in fear of Ian Smith’s ‘hot pursuit’ of so-called ‘terrorists’ who allegedly mounted attacks on Rhodesia and fled to Botswana for hiding.
We also lived in fear of military incursions by the South African apartheid regime in pursuit of what they claimed were ANC military command and control centres in Botswana. That was the apartheid regime’s excuse for killing South African refugees in Botswana.
Ironically, since 1994 when South Africans regained their independence and Southern Africa ceased to be theatre of revolutions instead of Batswana enjoying the peace dividends the country now lives in fear once again. This time Batswana live in fear of Khama’s abominable monstrosity called the Directorate on Intelligence (DIS) secret gendarmerie.
We are now witnessing a vicious assault on the institutions and traditions of democracy that were developed, nurtured and agreed upon by past leaders of the country, ruling and opposition, as well as the general populace of Botswana for 42 years. In a short space of time Khama has transformed this country in the wrong direction almost beyond recognition. Never before have this country’s civil liberties and freedoms been so severely threatened.
Khama’s DIS ostensibly set up to protect Batswana from foreign enemies is ironically presiding over state terrorism in the country – the magnitude of which has never been seen in this country before. Today Batswana live in fear, not of the imagined foreign enemies, but in fear of the all-powerful DIS which was supposed to protect them from foreign enemies.
The real tragedy is that this state of affairs does not seem to bother Ian Khama one little bit. One cannot identify a single Khama initiative designed to enhance, strengthen and consummate the country’s democracy which his father correctly described as a plant that must be carefully nurtured. Instead of strengthening the institutions of democracy Khama is preoccupied with intimidating and silencing the nation while attempting to build a personality cult.
Extreme intolerance, heavy-handedness and unbridled white-collar theft are assuming alarming proportions. The President is not amenable to advice from any quarter – all he wants is to be surrounded by a bunch of head-nodding puppets and stooges who tell him what he wants to hear.
Political activists, journalists, human rights lawyers, trade unionists, authors, the clergy and even musicians are intimidated, harassed and sometimes tortured and beaten up by the notorious DIS, which has, to all intents and purposes, become a law unto itself. Hit-lilts of politicians and journalists are being bandied about.
BMD leader Gomolemo Motswaledi died under mysterious circumstances and the Khama regime did not care. Even former Presidents Masire and Mogae are feeling the pinch and have already sounded a warning to Ian Khama. Sadly, with every day that passes the prophetic words uttered by former BDP Assistant Minister, Oliphant Mfa that under Ian Khama democracy will be enjoyed only by those in prisons and in their graves ring true.
There is a growing number of extra-judicial killings of criminal suspects without recourse to courts of law or due process, because as former President Mogae observes, this ‘’regime’ does not respect the rule of law. Where is the ‘dignity’’ of the people who are cold-bloodedly murdered by state agents without recourse to the courts of law? For the first time in the history of this country the UNHCR reports that there are 229 Batswana refugees who fled to other countries. They have since been joined by Kgosi Kgafela of Mochudi and Edgar Tsimane of the Sunday Standard.
The DIS taps our telephone messages and jams private radio stations. According to former President Mogae, Khama has expelled over 2, 000 people from this country – more than all the foreigners expelled by former presidents of this country combined. A country which once enjoyed the reputation of welcoming refugees under Khama’s tyranny is beginning to produce refugees.
Certainly, this is not the Botswana we need and we must speak out against this unfolding dictatorship through the ballot. If this opportunity is not seized the next five years will be the longest five years in the history of our five year electoral cycle because as the saying goes, he who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount i.e. this dictatorship can only worsen if, God forbid, it is given another term in office.
Regarding discipline and delivery, if Khama was serious he should have come up with a Ministerial Code of Conduct to reign in his corrupt ministers . What we seeing instead is that ministers facing criminal allegations are arrogantly allowed to stay in office and continue with their court battles.
This is an affront to social justice and insult to Batswana who were promised ‘discipline’ and ‘delivery’. By now laws on the Declaration of Assets and Freedom of Information Bill to enable Batswana to fight the cancer of unbridled kleptocracy should have been passed by parliament.
That international organizations report that the ruling class has stashed a whopping P50 billion in foreign banks while nearly half Batswana are languishing in needless poverty does not bother Khama one little bit. Many of the poverty-stricken Batswana are regularly paraded on Btv surrounding Father Christmas Ian Khama as he doles out soup, diphaphatha, blankets and other cheap election bribes in gross violation of their personal ‘dignity’ – the very principle he promised to uphold in 2008.
For me the major highlights of this year’s election campaign was to share the political platform with Johnson MOtswharakgole representatives of BOFEPUSO who took the correct and historic decision to abandon petty bourgeois trade union neutrality and forge a strategic partnership with UDC. The UDC’s human rights approach to development and commitment to the second generation of rights as encapsulated in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is the single most important reason why the 100 000 strong BOFEPUSO has rallied behind the UDC.
For many years this is what we have been calling for – as the first step towards the emancipation of the working class 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.
The labour movement came to this historic decision after being subjected to sustained harassment by the Khama regime to a point where they were told that even if they went on strike for five years he would never succumb to their demands. October 24th is pay-back time. Workers must jettison the BDP regime from power for the next five years.
My lowest point in this general election is the BCP’s decision to renege on its commitment to work with other opposition political parties in a broad anti-Khama United Front even when there is enough evidence that his tyranny will not spare anyone, not even the BCP.
Recently their activists have been roughed-up apparently by members of the DIS. Our only saving grace is the statement Dumelang Saleshando made before his organization abandoned the Umbrella project – that any party that withdraws from the project must be punished by the electorate.
To all those who understood the imperative necessity of forging a broad anti-Khama, and this includes BCP members themselves, October 24th is pay-back time. Let us punish the BCP leadership by voting the UDC to save our country from Khama’s terror tactics. On October 24th the poverty-stricken masses of this country will have real power in their hands to changes all this and usher in a new democratic dispensation under the leadership of the UDC.
“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.