Since time immemorial the values of good conduct, courtesy and respect have been the corner stone of human teachings in all of the cultures and traditions worldwide, this includes Setswana culture. Regrettably in our haste to embrace modern culture and values, we tend to ape the worst of them forgetting those perennial ones that we grew up with through our cultural and traditional upbringing.
Conduct, courtesy and respect are linked to and play a major role in our behaviour and morals. In Islam it goes much further because it embraces the whole of one’s personal, public, social, economic and spiritual life as well as all those that pertain to the body, mind and soul. Courtesy and respect translate into good conduct and behaviour and this into good character, this then leads to good actions and good deeds.
Islam prescribes a code of conduct for its followers through the Qur’an and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). ‘Serve Allah and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbours unto you and neighbours far, the fellow traveller and the wayfarer………’(Qur’an 4: 16). The showing of kindness, courtesy and respect are the basic elements that are described in this verse. Further the Qur’an states; ‘Allah commands you justice, the doing of good, the giving to kinsfolk, and forbids all shameful deeds and injustice and rebellion…’ (16: 90). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said; ‘He who is devoid of kindness is devoid of good’.
The cornerstone of Islamic behaviour is based on rights and obligations; the rights of others and our obligation towards them and vice versa. Our conduct both in private and public life are a mirror to our morals and behaviour. The manner in which we act will determine the manner in which people will treat you.
The world today is filled with the lack of courtesy and with disrespect, we just have to look around and observe. I suppose I am classified as an ‘elder’ (age wise) in society maybe that is why these things worry me greatly and I am sure I am not alone in this. Just as a simple example, walk anywhere, in the street or at any mall and if you see a group of young people walking abreast towards you, more often than not it will be you, the elder, that gives them way to pass, very seldom will they give way to you except, if they see you are standing your ground not going to give way.
In the past, courtesy and respect were essential teachings in any home, even the schools emphasised and taught these basics. But now these are slowly being whittled away simply because some parents are very poor role models for their children because of their own behavioural patterns. As oft repeated children may not listen to what you tell them to do, but they will most likely follow what you do.
In some homes there are parents do not teach their children the basics of respect and behaviour; the fallout result of this can be that when the teacher tries to instil these values in the children at school, some parents come running to ‘scold’ the teacher.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. (Proverbs 22:6).
Up to recently all elders, not only family members, were treated with great deference and respect, very seldom did one hear children scream and shout at elders. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘He who does not respect the elders amongst us and is not merciful upon the young is not one of us.’
Islam has made it a duty and an obligation for children to show respect for their parents. ‘And we have enjoined on man kindness to parents’. (Qur’an 46:15) and ‘your Lord has decreed that …… you show kindness to your parents….. say not a word of contempt…but address them in terms of honour (Qur’an 17:23).
The Bible echoes the same: “For God commanded saying; honour thy father and mother (Mat 15:4)”
Showing respect is not only limited to our parents but it has to be to society at large. Being courteous and respectful is shown in the manner we treat our fellow humans. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught mankind the golden rules for maintaining peace and goodness within communities when he said: “Do not envy one another, do not harbour malice against one another and do not enter into a commercial transaction when another person has already entered into that (transaction) (i.e. Do not under-cut his deal); but be you brothers to each other.”
Similar guidance is also given in the Bible: “Let your speech be always be with grace” (Col. 4:6). Also: “Put therefore…… lots of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do you. And above all these things put on charity, which is a bond of perfectness.” (Col 3: 12-14)
A quote from a writer captures and describes the essence and importance of respect in a person. ‘An orphan is not only the one who has no parents; but it is also he who is deprived of respect, etiquette and knowledge.’
Showing a sense of concern for and trying to help those in any difficulty or need is regarded as a form Ibadah (worship) because one is fulfilling the requirement of The Almighty to show compassion and concern for fellow humans. This selfless service to mankind is part of worship of The Creator. One will gain great reward in this world as well as in the next. Only a true believer of The Almighty will be able to serve others in a selfless manner.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have explained that one who fulfils the need and removes the difficulty of another, will get the help of The Almighty in time of his own need or difficulty.
Allah Almighty has also declared, “And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw (yourselves) into destruction (by refraining from spending in the cause of Allah). And do good; indeed Allah loves the doers of good.”(Qur’an 2: 195).
This spending is not only referring to material wealth but indeed any and all resources that The Almighty bestows upon a person – wealth, energy, skill, time, etc.
Our conduct, courtesy and respect for others are what makes us or breaks us, when we put these into practice in our daily lives without realising it we will have touched the hearts of others.
I recently read a beautiful piece that I want to share with readers: “In life if you are intelligent, you may be admired. If you are wealthy you may be envied. If you are powerful you may be feared. But if you are blessed with a good heart, you will always be remembered. It is not about wealth, power or intellect, but the legacy you leave behind for those people whose hearts you have touched.”
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’!