The basic moral teachings of every religion, culture and traditional values are based on a system of morality. In religion, these teachings touch on various aspects of a Believer’s life and cover the broad spectrum of personal moral conduct as well as his social responsibilities. Where there is a lack of morality the community suffers many different types of ills.
This topic may sound ‘stale’ to some people because over the past few weeks the slant of this column has been to focus in on this area of human behaviour. The behaviour of those kids who posted their deviant escapades on social media especially has brought into sharp focus what can and happens as a result of a lack of morality.
“Evil and good are not equal, even though the abundance of evil may be pleasing to you. Have fear of Allah, you who are endowed with understanding, so that you may triumph”. (Quran 5: 100).
An integral part of morality is the control of our vices, passions and desires. There is a noticeable decline in the standard moral behaviour and conduct the world over. As a barometer read any newspaper of the daily on goings on in our society; frighteningly the increase in the number of rape and other crimes related to sexual offences, spouse abuse, family and domestic violence. What has happened to our moral fibre, are we no longer God-fearing?
Islam and indeed most faiths have laid down some basic universal moral standards for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed and respected under all circumstances. Thus whatever leads to the welfare of the individual or the society is morally good in Islam and whatever is injurious is morally bad. In other words the rights of society take precedence over the rights of an individual.
One of the many verses of the Quran that deals with our daily conduct in our affairs is a stepping stone to building our moral values: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces (in prayer) to the East or the West, but righteous is the one who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets; and gives his wealth for love of Him (God) to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set free those in bondage; and observes proper worship (daily prayer) and pays the charity due; And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress; such are those who are sincere. Such are the God fearing.” (Qur’an 2: 177)
The combination of these moral, together with social responsibilities are based on compassion and consideration of others. The emphasis lays on specific acts of kindness and defines the responsibilities and rights of various relationships. After we have established our relationship with our Creator, in the ever widening circle of relationships, our first obligation thereafter is to our immediate family – parents, husband or wife and children, then to other relatives, neighbours friends and acquaintances, orphans and widows, the needy of the community, our fellow Believers, all our fellow human beings and animals.
Islam attaches much importance to the love of God and to the love of fellow humans and this verse sets some of the standards for the righteous and God-fearing believer. These standards should help us build the foundation around which our moral conduct should revolve. However we should not forget the highest quality of a Believer: God-consciousness. The Quran declares “Indeed, the most honourable among you in the sight of God Almighty, is the one who is most God-conscious.” (Quran 49: 13)
However, these standards by themselves are not sufficient without being accompanied by among other things, by the following: Our faith should be true and sincere; but in addition the other important moral characteristics of humility, modesty, control of passions and desires, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, patience, steadfastness, and fulfilling one’s promises, are all moral values which are emphasised over and over again in the Quran.
Thus, by setting God’s pleasure as the objective of man’s life, Islam has furnished the believer with the tools to achieve the highest possible standards of morality and character. Through this belief in God and the Day of Judgement it enables a person to adopt moral conduct with sincerity of the heart and soul.
The key to virtue and good conduct is a strong relationship with the Almighty, who sees all, who sees and knows all our doings at all times. The Almighty knows the secrets of our hearts and the intentions behind all our actions. Therefore, a Believer must be moral in all circumstances; we can deceive everyone, we cannot deceive Him.
We can flee from anyone, but not from Him. The continuous awareness of Allah and the Day of Judgement enables man to be moral in conduct and sincere in intentions: “Indeed, the most honourable among you in the sight of God is the most God-conscious.” (Quran 49: 13).’ Does he not know that Allah sees all that he does?’ (Quran 96: 14).
In the matter of morality Islam addresses every aspect of life, from greetings to our social obligations and relations; it is broad based in application. Morality helps reign in our selfish desires, vanity, bad habits and vices. Believers must not only be virtuous, but they must also enjoin virtue. They must not only refrain from evil and vice, but they must also forbid them. In other words, they must not only be morally healthy, but they must also contribute to the moral health of society as a whole.
‘If anyone does a righteous deed, it is to the benefit of his own soul; if he does evil, it works against his own soul. In the end you will all be brought back to your Lord’ (Quran 45: 15)
Sometimes our love for the ‘temporary’ material pleasures of this world makes us forget our morality as we become attached to worldly gains instead of our yearn for a better world in the Hereafter. Instead of being attached to the car, the job, the diploma and the bank account, all these things should become tools to make us better people. The Holy Qur’an reminds us that: “The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail, but only he (will prosper) that brings to God a sound heart (firm in faith).” (Quran 26: 88-89)
Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.
This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.
The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members. The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.
The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed. The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.
If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.
So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.
The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption. Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.
The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus. So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS. They demand a start from a clean slate.
The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.
Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.
Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.
In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.
Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.
The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.
There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.
But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.
There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.
He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.
The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.
For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way.
I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However, the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’. Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.
No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.
I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century. Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?
The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.
In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”
The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.
Nothing happens until something moves
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
Act or be acted upon
All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD! This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.
To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts: *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide. What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.
As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.
JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated. Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”
2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.
.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.
Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!