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I Think Therefore I Fail

Stuart White

Last year I delivered a presentation at a conference which felt like a disaster.  Even before I finished I knew I was getting it all wrong and at the end I ran away. Literally.  I couldn’t even bring myself to stay for the tea break because I was so busy criticising and judging myself. ‘You should have done this’, ‘you should have said that’, ‘why didn’t you do that or the other’, creating anguish and despair because I didn’t live up to my expectations and I couldn’t go back and do it all over.

This brutal self-lacerating despair lasted for a good few hours and I made a mental note to myself never to speak in public again. I was guilty of entertaining one of the most common thinking errors, that of catastrophising – when a person focuses unhealthily on a mistake to such an extent that a relatively small error begins to feel like a major disaster. 

In such cases people tend to move quickly to worst scenario. It’s an irrational thought process a lot of us go through in believing that something is far worse than it actually is, blowing something up out of all proportion

But you know the saying ‘never say never’ so there I was again last week, same conference and determined to redeem myself.  With rational analysis I realised that last year I had made the mistake of taking a relatively difficult concept and trying to get it over in a 20 minute speech. It was all wrong from the get-go. This year I decided to turn my failure on its head by examining how I was far from alone and how the biggest battle that we do on a daily basis is often all in our minds.

Tim Gallwey was a tennis coach who became interested in the relationship between what happened in the mind of the player and what happened physically on the court, Gallwey proposed that in every match there was an inner game and outer game. The inner games take place within the mind of the player against the obstacles of lapse in concentration, nervousness and self-condemnation.

In short it is played to overcome all habits of the mind which inhibit excellence in performance. In a concept that quickly outgrew the tennis context Gallwey argued that in order for people to maximise their potential they must win both the inner game and the outer game and in that sequence.

We all experience this regularly when we engage in self-doubt, often when we are taking on a new challenge. Let’s take an interview as an example…this may include such thought as ‘I am not good at interviews’, ‘I haven’t enough experience compared to the other candidates’, ‘Why did I even think I could get this job?’ In this case performance at the interview is the outer game and there is another game going on which is the one inside your head, one which started much earlier.

We all have that critical inner voice which is a well-integrated pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.

The nagging “voices,” or thoughts, that make up this internalized dialogue are at the root of much of our self-destructive and maladaptive behaviour. Despite the recent surge of interest and research into Neuroscience, we are still at the early stages of understanding what happens within the human mind and yet it is a syndrome which has been noted since ancient times.

In the first century AD the Greek Philosopher Epictetus is reported by one of his disciples to have said “Men are disturbed, not only by things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.” This suggests two different factors: things that happen (the outer game) and a person’s opinion of those things ‘inner game’.

Shakespeare said ‘nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so’. Philosopher Immanuel Kant hypothesised that we can understand the relationship between thoughts behaviour by the following statements. “I see a tiger, I think I am in danger, I feel afraid, I run away”  

‘I see a tiger’ could be termed the activating event – this is something we see or hear. It triggers a thought ‘I am in danger’ which leads to a feeling, in this case fear and the feeling causes us to behave in a certain way, in this instance to run away. This is important because if we want to change behaviour the answer lies in changing and challenging how we think about things.

Years ago we believed that the world was flat until Pythagoras proved otherwise. Then we believed that the earth was the unmoving centre of the universe. Aristotle eloquently argued how the Earth must be stationary and thus the centre of the universe because you could not feel the Earth move, there was no wind due to a moving Earth, hence it must be stationary and that the birds and the clouds would be left behind if the Earth were moving.  

Now we know different because man’s knowledge of physical laws has expanded.  We know the earth is round – men have viewed it from space.  We know the earth rotates and we understand what governs night and day and winter and summer.  And we know that our earth is just a miniscule part of one galaxy which in turn is a miniscule part of the entire universe.   And as it with physical facts, so it can be with the false concepts in our minds.  We can win the inner game.

I am not a useless speaker, I am not a failure, I am not a fraud…. the voices of course tried to tell me otherwise but I realise that it was only a problem when I listened to them. So I spoke, the audience listened and, I believe, understood and I made it through the tea interval. I redeemed myself, I think (there is that Doubting Thomas voice again!)  Be gone! I redeemed myself, I know!
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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