Having been in power for an uninterrupted period of about fifty years now, it is continuously becoming clear that it will be in Batswana’s best interests for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s reign to come to an end during the 2019 general elections.
If a ruling party can fail to properly plan for a country’s long term Vision, it surely cannot be trusted with continued stay in power. During the 2015 Budget Speech the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Honourable Kenneth Matambo, said “a Presidential Task Team is expected to be appointed in March 2015 to lead the development of the next National Vision, and is anticipated to conclude its work by December 2015”.
It is now common knowledge that the Presidential Task Team on the Development of the New Long Term Vision for Botswana, Vision 2036, was only launched on 19th October 2015, about seven months late. It is also common knowledge that the Presidential Task Team is expected to conclude the draft vision document by May 2016, about five months later than expected.
Consequently, Botswana has cumulatively lost about one year in its Vision planning process. This, under the watch of a political party that has about fifty years experience in governance. Not only that. This, under the watch of President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, a leader who, on assuming the presidency, slated ‘Delivery’ as one of his so-called 5Ds.
Which ruling political party lags one year behind schedule in developing a national Vision? Which ruling party makes such a lapse in leading the nation in the development of a plan which will determine the nation’s future for the next twenty years? Who can believe that President Khama really believes in ‘Delivery’ when he failed to deliver on such a crucial milestone?
What about our youths? Will they win the relay race they are in when we hand them the button about one year late? How can they catch up with their competitors from other countries who get their button on time? What about our future generations? Won’t they forever suffer this one year deficit? Will we bequeath unto them an inheritance or a curse?
It is because of this lackadaisical handling of Batswana’s lives by the ruling BDP that Batswana are today suffering from the hardships faced by citizens of such failed states as Zimbabwe. Water shortages have become so severe that villages can go for more than two weeks without water. In an unprecedented development, the capital city, Gaborone, recently went without water for about four days.
Especially in villages, power outages are a daily routine. Nobody ever thought that a commercial area such as Gaborone International Commerce Park can go without electricity for more than a week. Yet it has happened and the problem continues unabated. If this is not a crisis then nothing is.
How can we talk about job creation when the very companies that are supposed to create those jobs lose hundreds of thousands of Pula because of water and power outages? How can such companies contribute to economic growth? How can foreign companies invest in Botswana when the cost of doing business is so high because companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, now have to spend hundreds of thousands of Pula in buying electrical generators and water?
When visionaries like the late Dr. Kenneth Koma, then leader of the Botswana National Front (BNF), spoke about the need for government to build dams, establish the infrastructure for irrigation and invest in enhancing our power generation capacity by investing in power stations and renewable energy, many in the BDP dismissed him as a dangerous Communist who could overthrow the government. He was put under the constant surveillance of the Special Branch arm of the then Botswana Police Force.
When Dr. Koma and such luminaries as Dr. Patrick Van Ransburg spoke about the need to promote Education with Production and Vocational Education and Training they were labelled as Communists. For years, government neglected Brigades Training Centers simply because they ‘were an initiative by Communists’. It is only recently that it took them over.
If government had taken heed of the call to introduce Education with Production from elementary levels of schooling such government initiatives as back yard gardening, LIMID and ISPAAD would not be failing because many Batswana would be having the requisite skills to implement them productively.
If Batswana had been trained in Education with Production, government would not be spending so much money in poverty eradication and social welfare programmes because many Batswana would have the skills to produce what they require for a decent livelihood at both subsistence and commercial levels.
Today, perhaps just to attract votes, the BDP includes such ‘Communist’ plans in its manifestos, but has, for many years, failed to implement them. Not even President Khama, who was brought into the BDP from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), to improve the BDP’s chances of staying in power through delivery, has made a difference. On the contrary, President Khama has led to the BDP’s down fall.
Despite the ‘Khama magic’ and President Khama’s initiatives, many Batswana did not vote for the BDP in the 2014 general elections. While its seats in the National Assembly fell from 45 in 2009 to 37 in 2014, its popular vote declined from 53.26% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2014. BDP’s rule must indeed end in 2019.
It is in this regard that Batswana have to secure their future by not returning the BDP to power in the 2019 general elections. The earlier the BDP is removed from power through the ballot the better. The longer the BDP stays in power the more our beloved Botswana will be pushed to the verge of collapse. Unfortunately, that may be a point of no return as has happened to many countries.
Many countries have become failed states because their citizens stood by and allowed one political party and/or one person in the form of the state President to destroy their future. Often, they were blinded by the desire to retain the ruling party simply because it gained them independence. In some instances, the ruling party succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of the voters by making them believe that voting for an Opposition party will bring instability to the country due to the Opposition party’s lack of experience in governance.
The BDP has relished from both. Needless to say such is mere propaganda because the BDP itself had no governance experience when it attained state power. This was worsened by the fact that, at the time, Botswana had very few educated people, yet it managed to establish institutions of government and governed the country reasonably well until the mid-90s when it lost direction.
Today, our institutions of government are well established; we have many educated people capable of running a government; we have many oversight institutions for the protection of our democracy and Botswana is a member of many international organizations. The claim by the BDP that if the Opposition attains state power there will be chaos and instability is, therefore, unfounded.
What Batswana need to do as early as now is to start scrutinizing the Opposition and demanding accountability from it in order to prepare it for governance. Batswana also need to participate in the leadership elections of Opposition party leaders to ensure that only people capable of running the country should the Opposition win elections are elected party leaders.
The BDP’s time is indeed up! One does not need to be a member of an Opposition party to realize this. On the contrary, even members of the BDP, including members of the Central Committee, Members of Parliament (MPs) and cabinet ministers, admit this off the record. No wonder today the BDP is suffering recurrent defections, a plague which in the past mainly tormented the Opposition.
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’!