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A Load of Old Rubbish, ER Sanitation Recycling

Stuart White

I remember an HR presentation where, in the middle of a discussion on company drivers, one delegate informed the group that her organisation had re-designated them as transport officers as it was considered more respectful. As though holding down a job as a driver was somehow so demeaning it needed a fancier title to ‘big it up’. 

And it’s not an isolated case. In the UK a chimney sweep now likes to be referred to as a Flueologist, if you please,  the humble dustman is a Sanitation and Recycling Engineer, whilst a Dispatch Services Facilitator is the euphemism for a post office worker. Serious! If you can be serious, that is, when they’re pulling your plonker.

In this new, politically correct workplace everyone’s job title has to be talked up, it seems, though I am not always sure what the rationale is for assigning fancy names for functions. Strange as it may seem, I am given to understand that some people would rather have a grander job title than a pay rise and while this may seem astonishing, upgrading job titles is becoming more and more popular as employers simultaneously try to keep their costs down and their staff happy. 

Embarrassingly, HR is normally behind such initiatives and as a result there is a perceived fine line between effective HR advice and HR baloney. No wonder we are not always taken seriously.  We have only ourselves to blame.  Come to think of it, we probably started it when we decided that ‘Personnel’ was too down-home and we upped it to Human Resources.

In another discussion it was mentioned that HR Business Partners (what transport officers are to drivers, so Business Partners are to HR Managers) should be conversant with financial matters and other line functions in order to sit respectfully at the boardroom table. Nonsense – let’s get one thing straight; HR people should not and do not NEED to become experts in the ‘other areas’ of the business to gain credibility from management.

Their own specific function has gravitas enough of its own to justify their presence in the Boardroom and often this perceived need to be a generalist and talk other people’s talk dilutes the HR function. By becoming generalist they lose their specialist knowledge. They also run the risk of being tripped up with a tricky question.

 ‘Business partners’ – generalists who sit at the big table next to business leaders and help them implement general HR solutions need to be specialists in at least one of the HR “silos” – compensation, benefits, industrial relations, performance management etc.

Generalists should have a specialty… and specialists should also be generalists. No matter how long they’ve worked in their speciality they should NOT fail to review all other aspects and propose in generalist HR terms.  They are there to hold up the umbrella that’s keeping the whole Board dry.

Yet the notion that HR managers should be competent in other areas of the business is nonsense. Why did we elect to study social sciences instead of a B. Com in the first place? Presumably because it interested us and we felt we had a talent for and affinity to the subject, whereas general business studies didn’t appeal. And doesn’t the same thinking apply throughout? 

The marketers don’t want to step over to get experience in HR. Similarly the finance guys don’t want to get any experience in marketing and certainly not in HR because, after all, finance is the ultimate key to the business and so on across the management food chain.  Deep down every specialist manager needs to feel that their department is crucial and that they alone know how it best works.  Except, it seems, for some HR people.

When I hear HR stressing the need to appreciate and understand all aspects of the business it concerns me for two reasons. Firstly for the self-deprecating implication that all other functions are somehow more important and secondly because it implies that there is a need to spend time in the territories of others when no-one ever feels the need to reciprocate – no one is ever seconded to the HR department to understudy us or learn the intricacies of our role.

I believe the main problem with HR function today is that it has lost its way. HR’s role is to co-ordinate and utilise the company’s human resources to improve corporate performance. You are not the social convener, company clown, or therapist, nor are you the travelling departmental trouble-shooter and adviser.  

HR within the corporation should be valued for contributing effective people and people management skills, not for being able to grasp the generalities of other departmental functions.  HR managers, Business Partners or whatever title you want to allocate need to be allowed to carry on measuring and presenting performance and input and that in turn needs to be accepted and respected at the senior levels.

HR is about people – the most important, often unpredictable and dynamic asset the company has. As such it is in many ways harder to understand and affect than money in finance and products in manufacturing and requires a highly sensitive approach. In consideration of that HR needs to be left alone to put into place the positive techniques and tools that have been proven to enhance the workforce.

Performance management ranks high on how the HR experts can determine how much each employee is worth, who to fire, who to promote and even – after tracking trends in employee types – who to consider for recruitment. The use of metrics, evaluations and rigorous employee review interviews helps to create an accurate snapshot of the workforce which is then used to optimise productivity and efficiency within the employee base.

These are the issues we should be grappling with – not silly issues like euphemistic name changes and trying to prove to the finance people they’re not the only ones who can read a balance sheet. Can they read the sub-text in a personal profile or employee assessment? Well, we can.

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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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