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Bucking Hell

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE


‘The buck stops here’.  We’ve all heard that phrase and some of you may even know its origin which was from a wooden sign that stood on the desk of former American President Harry S. Truman.  He had had it specially made by prisoners in the Federal Reformatory in Oklahoma, after visiting the institution, seeing something similar and asking if one could be made for him.  It could, it was and it was delivered to him in 1945 where it took pride of place on his Oval Office desk.

It derives from the related expression, ‘to pass the buck’, meaning passing responsibility on to someone else. This, in turn, is said to have originated with the game of poker, in which a marker or counter, frequently in frontier days a knife with a buckhorn handle, was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the "buck," as the counter came to be called, to the next player.

But does that mean that any problem with a state element means that the national leader is ultimately responsible?  For example there is a triple parastatal meltdown in South Africa at the moment.  Let’s start with Eskom as that is the one that directly affects us. 

The power corporation’s profit forecast is down to 500 million from 7 BILLION in 2013 and this shortfall is severely hampering growth.  Eskom has failed to properly sort-out its 2008 meltdown and all its failing power station chickens are now coming home to roost.

Despite assurances from CEO Tsholofelo Matona that there will be no repetition of those crippling, rolling blackouts which saw RSA and Botswana plunged into darkness day after miserable day, Eskom is clearly unable to meet demand or repair its failing stations. And in another ominous move, staff are already being encouraged to take up voluntary redundancy packages in an effort to trim costs, at a time when common sense says it should be all hands on deck.  

Then there’s the South African Post Office.  Last month the entire board of the SAPO was forced to resign, following months of crippling strikes which brought the national mail server to its financial knees.  The resignations included that of the somewhat appropriately named Andrew Nongogo who earlier the same month admitted that the backlog of mail from August 2014 would “require the incorporation of additional personal and moreover extra work hours and weekends to resolve this dilemma”.  But it was hard to see how evening normal service could be applied with all postal worker union members still resolutely determined to strike on for their demanded 15 percent pay increase. 

The interim control of the organisation was taken over jointly by Post Minister Siyabonga Cwele and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene who joined forces to work on the clean-up operations at the SAPO.   “This intervention forms part of a suite of targeted activities government is implementing to help troubled state-owned companies to deliver the services they are mandated to,” Cwele said in the statement. 

They appointed former Rand Water CEO Simo Lushaba to lead a team to restore order which has three months to turn things around and ensure workers reported for duty.  During the past 7 years the SAPO has amassed losses of a staggering $30 million, or more than 300 million Rands.

And finally we look at the plight of South African Airways.  Plagued by continuing losses and a revolving door of incoming and exiting CEOs over the past few years the latest sticking plaster intervention is a 90-day action plan which smacks of complete desperation and realistically will have little chance of hitting its stated 24th March 2015 deadline, particularly since the Treasury has made it clear that there will be no further injections of capital into the failing airline. 

Acting SAA Chief Executive Officer Nico Bezuidenhout, who announced the Plan – a rapid implementation plan intent in steering SAA back to full implementation of its Long Term Turnaround Strategy (LTTS) – will have his work cut out and then some but I suppose you can’t help but admire his chutzpah.  “Nobody can turn a business around in 90 days, but part of the recovery plan is that we are being held accountable for a clear path showing what steps will be taken to get back on track,” he conceded.

When pressed for clarity on whether he would see the 90-day process through as acting CEO, Bezuidenhout said “the task at hand was bigger than what one person can assume… “The newly assembled War Cabinet, which will be meeting twice monthly for an hour to discuss operational developments over and above administrative measurements, needs to get back on track for the long term turnaround Strategy and take solutions forward to SAA’s shareholders.”  Well, good luck with that.

‏Which brings us back to the buck and where it stops. The opposition Democratic Alliance has made no secret of the fact that the blame lies fairly and squarely with the ANC.  And the ANC, of course, is led by its party leader and President of the country, Jacob Zuma.  Yet something tells me he is not the type to have ‘mea culpa’ type mottos and signs on his office desk, unlike the aforementioned Harry Truman. And at any rate, should all of the unseated and clearly incompetent CEOs be partially exonerated or did, in fact, the buck stop with them, preventing them from handing it on up the political chain?

‏I am making no judgemental pronouncement here, you understand.  I am merely opening up an intellectual debate for you to argue amongst yourselves but this I will say.  If Truman’s national institutions were crumbling under his feet, it’s a fair bet that he would have assumed responsibility, offered his people a humble and heartfelt apology then rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work sorting out the mess.  Because if the buck doesn’t stop there, there’s only one person left to blame and that’s the Almighty which seems a little harsh since what’s going on down south is definitely one unholy mess!

‏STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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