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Parliament: An Institution that needs all Powers Necessary, As We Need Oxygen

Do we really understand the powers that parliamentarians have in our lives? A re a thaloganya gore thopho ga se thopho hela, at time it is a life and death issue?

A re a thaloganya gore mopalamente yo o mo thophang ke ene a tsayang ditshwetso le go dira melao ya gore a Motswana o hiwa melemo, o ya sekolong, o bona tiro, o okeletswa madi, o bula kgwebo, le gore o e bula jang ko kae? A re a thaloganya gore thopho ga se thopho hela ya go tsenya party ya sepolotiki mo pusong?

If we get it, but keep forgetting then let me remind us of the importance of voting our members of Parliament, and how important an institution this body is. This is building on the last article on the Parliament with Power, Without Powers. When we vote MPs we are voting our law makers, but we are also voting, ideally, for people who will hold the Executive accountable. Hence it is important to put in place oversight mechanisms to ensure that oversight. One would ask, but who makes the laws that could ensure oversight? Well, the MPs themselves make the laws. The MP you vote, determines the quality of laws and oversight you get. Basically, who you put in Parliament really determines how you live your life.

Oversight or lack thereof affects the functioning of a political regime. So, next time you engage with your MP please ask what their take is on oversight. Ask gore how accountable to do they want the Executive and other Politically Exposed Persons to be, to the public, for the public good, not Political Party good, not individual good, but the public good. Ask how willing they are to learn more about playing an oversight role and ensuring it is legislated for.

Some will always argue that there is oversight in Botswana Parliament- referring to Public Accounts Committee, however, apart from PAC, what are the oversight tools available to our Parliament? Ask your MP, our legislatures, if they actually oversee actions and activities of government and if this role and how this role has an impact on the political system and the behaviour of government. Kana re mono hela, le mapalamente a rona?

Let us keep this in mind, democracy does not depend exclusively on the government’s ability to perform but also on the fact that the government action is subject to scrutiny and control, the probability that a country is democratic is, in my view, affected by the legislature’s potential to oversee the government.

Actually before I continue, maybe we have different expectations from our democracy, what kind of democracy you want? The kind that puts in power governments- produced by elections-that are inefficient, corrupt, short-sighted, irresponsible, dominated by special interests, and incapable of adopting policies demanded by the public good or should democracy bring and give you much more on the positive side? For Huntington (1991: 9-10) “elections, open, free and fair are the essence of democracy, the inescapable sine qua non. However, for me, for me, the fact that a government is corrupt, irresponsible, unable or unwilling to address citizens’ demands certainly makes the political system less democratic.

Strengthening oversight does try to fight irresponsiveness, unaccountable leaders’ inefficiencies and short-sightedness, when the tools are availed and structures given powers to act. Some scholars submit that oversight consists in the legislative supervision of the policies and the programs enacted by the government (Schick, 1976). So if we cannot supervise policies and programs enacted by government and our MPs also cannot to do so, then re ba ga mang tota? Ke raya gore ha mopalamente wa gago a sa kgone gore nnyaa, tandabala e rile ka gore gongwe ga a itse gore o ka dira jalo le ha a tswa party e mo pusong, tota batho re mo mathateng.

Our MPs should be capable to supervise, scrutinise policies and programs by government, on behalf of the people to ensure we all benefit from these. If your MP does not ask questions in the National Assembly and they have been there for decades, please ask gore a buse madi a lekgetho. Other scholars have noted instead that oversight is not just a supervision of what the Executive branch of government has done but is also supervision of the Executive’s legislative proposals (Maffio, 2002).

In a parliamentary system, where the Executive branch has the power to introduce a Bill, the process through which a Bill becomes a law (the referral of Bill to specific committees, the discussion within such committees, the debates of a Bill in the plenary and the fact that the parliament has ultimately the power to amend, approve or reject a government’s legislative proposal) gives the legislative branch of government the power to oversee the government plans before enactment.

Jaanong, ha e le gore re na le mapalamente a le 63, e be e le gore 34 ba mo Executive branch, re thoka le a le 42 go hitisa molao motheo, go ka kgonagala jang gore go nne le yone tebelelo eo e e tseneletseng go thokomela gore ba ba 34 ba dira eng, e bile ba tswa Party e nngwe hela? Can we really say and argue for quality laws, policies and programs to benefit Batswana, when the voices that could bring reason in cases of unreasonableness are nominal in the National Assembly?

But what are the tools that Parliaments and legislatures can employ to oversee the government and its activities? Studies suggest the usual to oversee the actions of the Executive such as hearing in committees, hearings in plenary assembly, the creation of inquiry committees, parliamentary questions, question time, the interpellations and the Ombudsman (Maffio, 2002; Pennings 2000). Ombudsman o bothokwa bathong, a re mo diriseng. The presence of the oversight tool is necessary but can be an insufficient condition for effective oversight. Effective oversight may depend on the specific oversight powers given to the parliament:

On whether the parliament has the ability to modify legislation (Loewenberg and Patterson, 1979). So if you have MPs who do not know much about law making, who do not read laws, who do not research to improve on the law, it means gore, should a law be unjust, unreasonable and possibly taking away our rights, we are screwed, because the courts do not change laws, only the legislature has that prerogative. Jaanong a bas a itse gore melao e ba e dirang e ama batho jang, ba itibile gore ba ja jang, re mo mathateng.

On whether parliaments and parliamentarians are given proper information to perform their oversight tasks adequately (Frantzich, 1979). Indeed MPs in other countries have advisors or researchers to inform them and help them make sound decisions and deliberations on behalf of the people. This could be one way we transform our systems, by according our MPs researchers to feed them with information to do better for the people.

On the role of individual MPs, on the role of committee chairs, on the saliency of issues and on how aggressively the opposition performs its role (Rockman, 1984). Bathong ba Modimo, in a democracy, a strong Opposition in Parliament is essential. Kagore, ba go ngakalala ba bala, ba lebelela melao le melawana, ba botsa dipotso on our behalf, we have seen how opposition has asked pertinent questions in the National Assembly, tse di thusiteng go senola go sa tsamaiseng sente puso le tshenyetso sechaba ke batho b aba neng re ba tshephile ka go ba ha marapo mo pusong.

Let me leave you with these questions, with the little that you now know about legislative oversight, is it really important, can it really transform and better our political system, do you want a better liberal democracy or just a formal democracy ya dithopho? If you are still not sure about where you stand on oversight, ask yourself this, knowing what you know about your own undisciplined impulses and tendencies, can you really trust that your leaders do not need to be scrutinised, particularly with the powers we have entrusted them? Wouldn’t you rather give powers and instruments to an institution of representatives to oversee governments’ activities on your behalf, enshrined in the constitution? In a liberal democracy, I believe, we ought to have tools and mechanisms in place to guard those who guard us.

Consulted Works:

Parliamentary Oversight for Government Accountability Edited by Riccardo Pelizzo, Rick Stapenhurst and David Olson 2006. 59 pages. Stock No. 37262
Diamond, L. (1999) Developing Democracy, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.
Fish, S.M. (2006) “Stronger legislatures, Stronger Democracies”, in Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, n. 1, pp.5-20.
Frantzich, S.E. (1979) “Computerized Information Technology in the US House of Representatives”, Legislative Studies Quarterly, vol. 4, n. 2, pp. 255-280.
Huntington, S. (1991) The Third Wave of Democratization, London, University of Oklahoma Press.
Loewenberg, G. and Patterson, S.C. (1979) Comparing Legislatures, Boston, Little, Brown and Co.
Maffio, R. (2002) “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Il controllo parlamentare dell’attivita’ di governo in prospettiva comparata”, Quaderni di Scienza Politica, vol. 9, n. 2, pp. 333-383.
Pennings, Paul. 2000. “Parliamentary Control of the Executive in 47 Democracies”, Paper prepared for the workshop on “Parliamentary Control of the Executive”, ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Copenhagen, April 14-19.
Schick, A. “Congress and the details of administration”, Public Administration Review, 36: 516-528. 22
Stapenhurst, R. and R. Pelizzo (2002) “A Bigger Role for Legislatures”, in Finance and Development, vol. 39, n. 3, pp. 46-48.
Stapenhurst, R., Sahgal, V., Woodley, W. and R. Pelizzo (2005) “Scrutinizing Public Expenditures. Assessing the Performance of Public Accounts Committees”, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3613, The World Bank, Washington DC.

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IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.


The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.


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Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.


Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.


Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.



Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.



So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

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