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Perhaps Masisi is a fruitful tree!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

The unexpected rise of His Honour Mokgweetsi Masisi to the vice presidency has elicited debate on his suitability to hold such a high office, especially because in terms of our Constitution when the Office of President falls vacant Masisi shall automatically become President. Some, as will be shown below, have argued that Masisi is not suited for the presidency while others contend that President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama cannot have made a better choice.

Since Masisi’s appointment, stones have been thrown at him. The question that arises is: does Masisi really deserve to have stones thrown at him? There is an adage that says “a fruitless tree cannot have stones thrown at it.”  This is true because people can only throw stones at a fruitful tree in order to have the fruits fall from it for their consumption. Therefore, perhaps the reason Masisi has had so many stones thrown at him is that he is a fruitful tree. That is, he is a strategic target. Or is he?

Masisi’s most ferocious stone attacks have come from trade unions, especially Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU). Masisi lost favour with BOFEPUSU when he was at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration (MOPAPA), especially during the 2011 public sector strike because BOFEPUSU believed that he was responsible for government’s failure to compromise during the salary negotiations. The relationship became worse when hundreds of essential service public employees, especially nurses, lost their jobs for participating in the strike in contravention of the law.

The question is: in leading government’s defence against the trade union onslaught, did Masisi act as a government minister bound by collective responsibility should or he went overboard in pursuit of his own interests and beliefs? Put differently, did he act outside government’s mandate? Considering the fact that he was never demoted thereafter and has in fact been rewarded with the vice presidency one can conclude that he acted within government’s mandate.

If Masisi acted within government’s mandate is it not what is required of a government minister? Would you not say he is fruitful at least from the government’s point of view? An objective person would in all probability regard such a person as fruitful.

In the same vain a trade unionist who defends the workers’ cause at all costs should be regarded as fruitful at least from the trade union or workers’ perspective. If a trade unionist, for example, does not stand by the workers’ mandate he or she is regarded as a sell-out. Similarly, if Masisi had failed to defend government’s position he would have been a sell-out.

But, should Masisi have remained loyal to the government even when the workers’ welfare and by extension Batswana’s livelihood were in jeopardy? Before we answer this question we should ask the same question with respect to a trade unionist.

Should a trade unionist remain loyal to the workers’ cause even when the peoples’ welfare is in jeopardy? In my view, both Masisi and the trade unionist should, in such a case, sway their loyalty for what Jeremy Bentham calls the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’.

But, what, during the 2011 public sector strike, was the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’? While Masisi would say it was declining the trade unions’ high salary increment demand in order to save the economy from failing to emerge from the recession, trade unions would say it was increasing the salaries for public servants as demanded since that would stimulate economic growth.

But, was the trade unions’ demand for a 16% salary increase really affordable at the time? If the trade unions genuinely believed it were affordable then (only two years after the world economic recession) why have they never relentlessly pursued such a percentage even this year when the country has long emerged from the recession?

But, was he as fruitful when he played a leading role, in cohorts with the former Minister of Labour & Home Affairs, Peter Siele, in government’s decision to declare certain professions, including Teaching, as essential services and, therefore, ineligible to strike, a move which was obviously made to reduce public servants’ power during strike action? He was not and our courts have confirmed that by declaring such a move unconstitutional. Perhaps he was defending a principle. But, which principle?

When under his watch the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) attempted to terminate the secondment of trade union Secretary Generals for alleged political involvement was he being fruitful? Was it fruitfulness for him to allow DPSM to attempt to terminate such trade union benefits as offices, transport and salary deductions for loans? Substantively he may have been, but procedurally he was not because the action was tainted by lack of consultation.

This man, Masisi, who can, despite the risk of losing public support, stand for principle and defend the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ is he not the fruitful tree that would inevitably have stones thrown at it? If he were indeed a fruitless tree would his constituents, including public service employees, returned him to Parliament despite having been in mighty BOFEPUSU’s 2014 general elections’ hit list? He probably would not. Perhaps his constituents saw the fruits that President Khama saw in Masisi.

Masisi has also been labelled a fruitless tree because of his intolerance of the private media. During the run-up to the 2014 general elections a recording was circulated in social media in which he expressed delight that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) misled Gabz FM into believing that its parliamentary candidates will participate in Gabz FM’s Parliamentary Debates when it knew all along that they would not. Recently, Masisi was accused of being the architect of government’s decision not to place advertisements on certain anti-BDP private media outlets.

Before we judge Masisi for this seeming fruitlessness we need to ask some questions. With respect to the Gabz FM issue, can any politician whose political survival is at stake want to participate in an activity that he or she believes would be prejudicial to his or her survival? Has some Opposition candidates not declined participating in Radio Botswana candidates debates because they believed that it would be prejudicial to them because of its bias to the ruling BDP?

The truth is that the BDP knew that Gabz FM’s interviews would, because of their in depth and insightful nature, likely expose inadequacies in some of their candidates. It also knew that the BOFEPUSU factor and the death of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) would not put it in good stead during such debates.

Do you still think Masisi acted imprudently, at least as a politician, in influencing the BDP to take such a position if he did? Though such action undermined media freedom, there may be credence to the view that to the extent he acted in the best interests of the party which was facing possible defeat at the elections he acted fruitfully.

But, can the same be said about the advertisement ban issue? It cannot because this involves tax payers’ money. If the advertising ban were in relation to a BDP owned media outlet it would be different. A question still begs to be asked though. In this dirty game that politics is can any governing political party allow the government to place advertisements in media outlets that it believes are opposed to it?

What about the allegations that BOFEPUSU has waged a campaign to undermine Masisi’s race for the BDP’s chairmanship because he is the architect of government’s takeover of the public servants’ motor vehicle loan scheme (GEMVAS) from UNIGEM (PTY) LTD, a company co-owned by some BOFEPUSU affiliates? If Masisi is indeed the architect of such an undertaking is he a fruitful tree? The answer to this question depends on the reasons for the takeover.

If the take- over is motivated by such irrelevant considerations as the desire to weaken trade unions in their normal mandate of fighting for workers’ rights then Masisi is indeed a fruitless tree. But if it is motivated by the fact that it is financially prudent for the scheme to be administered by government Masisi is a fruitful tree. If the takeover is motivated by his suspicion that trade unions use UNIGEM (PTY) LTD’s proceeds to finance partisan politics then Masisi is a fruitful tree because no political party, including from the Opposition or government can want to indirectly finance its adversary.        

Over and above the aforegoing, it is perhaps his vigor, which he exhibited in selling President Khama’s poverty eradication projects while at MOPAPA, coupled with eloquence of speech, which endeared him to President Khama and made him the fruitful tree that he probably is, at least for President Khama, the BDP and his constituents. If only he improved his trade union and media tolerance and tempered President Khama’s iniquities and indiscretions with virtue he would inarguably be a fruitful tree for all Batswana.

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

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.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

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

and

  • 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’!

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