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Queer as folk

Stuart White

In medieval times (around the 15th to 17th centuries), a weird psychiatric disorder swept through Europe. Many people believed that they were made of glass and were likely to shatter into pieces with even the slightest brush of contact with another person – I am not joking!  This order was later named the “Glass delusions” and if you don’t believe me check out the research journal “History of Psychiatry”, where it is recorded.

Because of this belief people went to great lengths to protect themselves, changing lifestyle habits, patterns, thinking – believing that coming into contact with another human being would be catastrophic. A medical account reported in 1561 described a patient “who had to relieve himself standing up, fearing that if he sat down his buttocks would shatter.

This man constantly applied a small cushion to his buttocks, even when standing.” On a grander scale and as if to add credence to the condition, King Charles VI of France refused to let anyone touch him, and even wore reinforced clothing to protect himself from “shattering”!  

People thinking like this may sound utterly ridiculous today, much like the world being considered flat, yet it was a real belief for some people at that time.  And compare it to the twentieth century concept of the glass ceiling – the political term used to describe "the unseen, yet unreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements. 

Of course it’s not meant to be taken literally – a physical barrier which can only be broken through by smashing the glass, but could it not just be as delusional as the mediaeval folk who thought they were potentially breakable and fashioned out of glass?

I’ve been giving this some thought recently because my latest passion is coaching. Well when I say ‘latest’ I don’t want to sound like a butterfly flitting from fad to passing fad.  I am really referring to my interest being peaked and developed in the past few years as I increasingly appreciate the impact that coaching has on people development. My interest is also heightened the more I have worked with coaching as a coach and being the recipient of coaching.

There have been quite a few managers who have lain on my proverbial couch to ponder over where they might be going wrong or how they might get better results and be more effective. Someone asked me the other day what was the most common “issue” brought to the coaching table and I found this very difficult to answer because people are so considerably different and unique. As coaching is founded on the principal of unconditional positive regard which basically means your client or the coachee is respected for their individual worth and uniqueness of people and this includes not categorising them.

Unconditional positive regard is a term used in counselling but it has been brought into the coaching space (coaching has in fact developed from many of the principles of therapeutic counselling). It requires that coach suspends any form of personal judgment, and accepts the client, regardless of the content of any disclosure they may have made. Typically in everyday life judgment is made in a very short amount of time, and overcoming this instant reaction can be difficult for many people. A coach however, should have undergone specific coaching skills training to be able to provide this unconditional form of support.

Now I can’t claim to have ever been presented with a person with “glass delusion” (not that I would judge anyway) but I do encounter many people with limiting beliefs. Just to get the definition out of the way a limiting belief is something we believe about ourselves which isn’t true and it gets in the way of our progress, happiness, effectiveness…whatever, one of which is that proverbial glass ceiling.

Common limiting beliefs can include thoughts such as:
I can’t tell the truth because I may get judged.
I don’t want to ask for what I want because, what if I get rejected?
I can’t trust people because I’ve been betrayed before.

In the workplace these might look a little different:
I can’t progress because I am a woman.
I can’t pursue my dreams because I don’t know what I’d do if I fail.
I can’t do X because of Y…
I can’t do A because of B…

The coaching challenge is often to explore if people are carrying beliefs about themselves which are actually self-limiting. And just as we know with absolute certainty that the glass belief is false today, we can find out what beliefs we are carrying which are preventing you from living a great life, being a better manager/parent etc.

I can’t help think about Bruce Jenner, the Kardashian celebrity husband and former Olympic decathlon who lived his life believing he could never be the woman he thought he was and in effect living a lie, albeit a very successful one in many ways. His becoming a her and making the cover of Vanity Fair this month, as quite a beautiful Caitlyn, has made many stop to think that the greatest barrier of all is the one we put up in our heads.

Sometimes we think there is a glass ceiling of sorts and lets face it being trapped in a woman’s body might represent the ultimate one. Caitlyn Jenner has shown that even at 65 years of age, it may exist only in our minds, albeit helped by some hormones, a tracheal shave and boob job.

And somehow I don’t think the reborn Ms. Jenner will be letting any glass ceiling stand in the way of her and her successful new life.   And for sheer personal motivation and inspiration, it puts a whole new take on the phrase ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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