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Stuart White

Last week’s article was all about a visit to my bank, a less than happy experience but far from an isolated case.  If you follow local consumer postings on social media, the banks come in for a good deal of criticism which goes right across the board in terms of poor service delivery and customer care. 

The complaints range from long queues, insufficient ATMs and machines that run out of cash at critical junctures, indifferent staff, invisible managers, excessive and unnecessary administrative requirements and many more too numerous to mention.  What’s more they seem common to all banks, with no one branch or brand standing out as a shining example to the rest.  And on the rare occasions when there is praise for a single helpful staff member at a single branch it serves only to stand as the exception that proves the rule.

All of which makes you wonder how this public perception affects the reputation of the brands in their wider context.  With the obvious exception of one local banking institution, all of the other banks in Botswana have their headquarters overseas.  They are global organisations with representation in countries worldwide and when they appear to be offering us here a second-rate, third-world service, does anyone in the food chain ever stop to question how this affects the bigger brand?  Presumably not!  And judging by financial reports and share prices, nor does it seem to affect their bottom line; it’s a rare thing for a bank to go belly up in normal trading conditions.  They are in the money business and in the business of making money and whilst it’s true to a certain extent that every customer’s account plays a part in overall profitability, to misquote George Orwell, all accounts are equal but some are more equal than others!  Banks make big money from big corporate clients and those sort of clients never set foot inside a normal banking hall.

The real problem here is that we all need the services of a bank but the bank doesn’t need us nearly so much;  and even worse, we need the services but we don’t receive ‘service’:  And though studies have shown that most people exhibit an apparent loyalty to their bank and an extreme reluctance to change, this is more because of the sheer inconvenience and effort  of changing  than an endorsement of the brand.  It is a loyalty born or necessity, not love.

It might seem a little over the top to use the word ‘love’ in reference to a corporate brand and yet according to his 2004 book Lovemarks, that’s exactly how we view our favourite products, according to author Kevin Roberts, CEO of the global advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi.  In the book Roberts described how some companies and some products become so essential to our lives that our loyalty to them can be defined as love and how their logos become the Lovemarks of the book’s title.   And of course, key to building that love is branding and marketing. The concept took the advertising agency in a very focussed direction which is the core company belief to this day.  Consider this statement on the company’s website: “Saatchi & Saatchi is The Lovemarks Company. “

Lovemarks thinking is the unique way we look at the relationships people have with products, services and entities. Lovemarks are the future beyond brands because they inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason.

Lovemarks transcend brands. They deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. They reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without.

Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go. They are about Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy”.

Now in case you think that’s just more advertising hyperbole, consider for a moment what your own personal Lovemarks might be.   It could be a particular car marque, for example  so whilst you might change your vehicle model but you are always loyal to the manufacturer.  It could be your choice of smartphone or running shoe,  your soft drink  or chocolate bar.  It’s those brands that as the Saatchi & Saatchi site says, you embrace passionately and protest when they are not available, those brands whose loss you mourn and really feel you can’t live without.  Those brands whose corporate lovemarks, or logos, you recognise instantly and imbue you a warm glow.

Of course it’s no coincidence that this branding concept and effect was identified by an advertising agency because that’s where the love and loyalty starts and ends.  You may be a committed Coke or Pepsi,  Nando’s or Kentucky, Apple or Samsung fan but it was most likely smart advertising that drew you to make your first purchase and even smarter advertising that keeps you coming back, whether you know it or not.  And some advertising campaigns are deliberately designed to tug at your heart strings . 

Coca Cola, for example, spends billions of advertising dollars promoting their core product as a precious part of your childhood, as wholesome as apple pie and the American flag, yet still trendy, sharing and sociable.  The ads change year by year but by and large the message never does.  Toilet paper is sold with cute puppies – who wouldn’t love little fluffy Labrador babies tugging at the toilet roll as well as your heartstrings?  And if those coffee pods are good enough for George Clooney, surely they’re good enough for you?  You can’t afford his lifestyle but you can share a cup of Joe with him.

But there are also clever bank ads too, the ones that tell you they’re there for you when you need them, how they help you achieve great things in life and how they’ll still  find ways to  comfort you and keep you in comfort in your old age.  They are ads that take cold institutions and personalise them so that you might feel towards them just as warm as you do towards a bottle of your favourite cool drink  but that’s where the comparison ends; because where the latter promises consistency of quality and satisfaction and is able to deliver, the former comes down to customer service and real-life experiences in the average banking hall and you know what?  You just can’t bank on it.

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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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