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UDC: is it on the path to governance?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

It is inarguable that having obtained seventeen out of the fifty-seven elective parliamentary seats, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) emerged from the 2014 general elections as the greatest victor. Yet, if not properly managed this success can turn out to be the party’s greatest undoing. In this article, I consider whether the UDC is on the path to winning the 2019 general elections.

One essential step to winning the 2019 general elections is for the UDC to commit to the coalition agreements it made with respect to the recognition and respect for its coalition partners-the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).

These agreements, which relate to such aspects as allocation of party leadership positions, dispute resolution procedures, relations with each other in the media, resource sharing, e.t.c are as important now as they were before the 2014 general elections. There is no doubt that the UDC continues to respect the agreements as evidenced by the lack of dissatisfaction by the member parties.

Also, the UDC should, in the true spirit of a coalition or co-operation model, not attempt to blur the ideological differences between its member parties. In other words, though it should speak with one voice, especially in Parliament and in public, it should not behave like one political party. If it does, the followers of the member parties will lack a sense of belonging and be prone to being lured into joining either the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

The UDC has done well in this regard since no member party has complained of censorship with respect to ideological expression. Even new comers have easily joined the political party with an ideology closer to the party they defect from. For example, those who defect from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) have largely joined the BMD.

The only threat to this ideal is the fact that of late there are claims by some UDC leaders that a person can legally join the UDC directly. This has the potential of causing conflict within the coalition since some view it as a plan to leave the member parties with no membership, resulting in their disintegration.   

Unfortunately, if this obtains, it will provide arsenal to those opposed to the UDC project, thereby denting the UDC’s chances of attaining State power. It will be remembered that when the UDC project started the then members of BNF’s Temporary Platform and such of BNF leader, Duma Boko,’s adversaries as Gabriel Kanjabanga and Lemogang Ntime argued that the UDC project will inevitably lead to the collapse of its member parties.

Another essential step in the UDC’s path to governance is the early conclusion of the coalition or cooperation talks with the BCP. A clear time frame should be set for the negotiations so that a decision is made latest by mid-2017. This will avoid a situation where the issues emanating from failed cooperation talks spill into the election year, a thing which the BDP will relish.
Having already announced the imminent commencement of talks and the leaders of the UDC, Honourable Duma Boko, and BCP, Dumelang Saleshando, having reportedly done a lot to improve their relationships as leaders, there is hope that the UDC can still conclude the talks by mid-2017. This will give it about two years to campaign for the 2019 general elections as a collective.   
 
Also, though the BCP has been bruised following its dismal performance in the 2014 general elections, during the coalition or cooperation talks, whose imminent commencement has been announced by both the UDC and the BCP, the UDC should not take advantage of BCP’s weak position. There is no doubt that the UDC and the BCP will need each other if they are to oust the BDP from power.

Also, should the BCP ultimately enter into a coalition or cooperation with the UDC, the BNF, as the ‘Big Brother’, should not make the mistake of abandoning or beginning to undermine its smaller coalition partners- the BMD and the BPP. Small as they may be, they assisted the BNF when it mattered the most and as ‘cautious sons’ who remained in the family when the ‘prodigal son’ left, they should not be forsaken when the ‘prodigal son’ returns home.

Similarly, the ‘cautious sons’ should not react with animosity and vengeance when the ‘prodigal son’ returns for in the dirty game of numbers that politics is, it unfortunately matters not whether one is prodigal or cautious.

If the UDC wants to attain State power in 2019 it should not bask in the glory of its success for too long for the BDP and the BCP (if the cooperation talks collapse) may take advantage of that and make political strides which the UDC, after its recline, may find too far to catch up with.

This is the dark cloud that befell the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama in the United States of America(USA) who, after the 2008 ‘ Yes, we can’ victory, fell into a slumber only for the Republican Party to humiliate him during the 2014 elections by gaining a majority in both the Congress and the Senate.

Though it is not the governing party and cannot implement the policies and programmes espoused in its manifesto, the UDC should use Parliamentary debates and Parliament’s Question Time to give the voters a feel of how it will perform when in government.

Thankfully, since the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and Budget Speech, the UDC has debated like a true government in waiting. The UDC has also acted like an alternative government with respect to its constructive criticism of the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP).

Needless to say that, the UDC needs to, as early as now, renew itself. That is what the USA’s Republican Party did after the 2008 elections. Though its growth was largely assisted by its militant Tea Party Movement, it renewed itself by reconsidering its position on such issues as immigration.

It is only renewal which will ensure that the UDC not only retains those who voted for it in 2014, but also attracts new members from those who did not vote as well as those who voted for the BDP and the BCP. If the BDP, which won the elections albeit with a reduced majority, is already in such an offensive recruitment and renewal drive, the UDC should, no doubt, also be working twice as hard for its re-positioning.

If the UDC fails to plan a timeous rebirth, as I am afraid it is, the BDP’s new tag line, which is rumored to be “Thulaganyo”, may take ground and force the UDC to be on the defensive, something which is never good, especially in politics. Also, if Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi’s charm offensive though such ‘initiatives’ as the ESP goes unabated it may hurt the UDC in 2019.

For the UDC to attain power in 2019 it needs to inculcate a culture of stewardship, especially among its Councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs). It is only stewardship and not such material things as wealth and educational qualifications that will ensure their re-election in the 2019 general elections. Unfortunately, I am not yet convinced that stewardship has become a way of life for UDC’s Councilors and MPs.

The UDC should encourage its Councilors, MPs and party leaders to respect the Setswana idiom “Ere go bona bodiba bo jeleng ngwana wa ga mmaago obo kakologe”, meaning that one should avoid following the perilous route that cost his or her fellow human being’s life.

UDC Councilors, MPs and party leaders should avoid the crimes, corruption, maladministration and such personal indiscretions as alcohol and drug abuse and infidelity that cost several of their colleagues Council and Parliamentary seats. Simply put, the UDC should practice what it preaches. Behavior should not only be condemned as a malady or indiscretion when it relates to the BDP and be condoned when it relates to the UDC.

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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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