If service was the only determinant for success in political party politics Botsalo Ntuane would no doubt be highly ranked in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). But, it is obvious that in party politics it is not only service which determines your destiny. The BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, is a living example of this.
Before we attempt to answer the question: ‘What sin has Ntuane committed in the BDP?’, it is apposite that we give a cursory view of Ntuane’s service to the BDP. Ntuane, or ‘Bots’ as he is affectionately called by his supporters, literally grew up in the BDP and spent his formative years serving the BDP. While at the University of Botswana (UB) he was a sizzling leader of the BDP student wing movement, GS 26.
Immediately after graduating from UB he, during former president Sir Ketumile Masire’s tenure, became BDP Executive Secretary, making history by becoming the youngest ever Executive Secretary in the history of the party. He also made history by becoming the longest serving BDP Executive Secretary.
Ntuane has also served as Specially Elected Member of Parliament, and during that period he brought the Executive to account by asking revealing questions and moving motions on pertinent issues. Because of his popularity, especially among the youth and across the political party divide, Ntuane wrestled a Botswana National Front (BNF) stronghold, Gaborone West constituency, from a then BNF strongman, Robert Molefhabangwe.
It was around that time that Ntuane, perhaps because of his opposition to such of President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s policies as the alcohol levy and closing hours for alcohol outlets, fell out of favour with President Khama.
Frustrated, Ntuane defected from the BDP and became one of the founders of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which he served as Vice President. He also served as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
As it is common cause, Ntuane later left the BMD and rejoined his political home, the BDP. At the time, many thought that Ntuane, like some of his colleagues who retraced their steps to the BDP after defecting to the BMD, would be pardoned and rewarded.
Honourable Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele and Patrick Masimolole, for example, were appointed Assistant Ministers after returning to the BDP. Honourable Guma Moyo became party Chairman, albeit for the shortest time in the history of the BDP. Though the three are cadres in their own right, it is incontrovertible that Ntuane’s curriculum vitae in the BDP far exceeds theirs.
It is almost unbelievable that Ntuane, despite his service and loyalty to the BDP, has never been appointed as Assistant Minister. Political novices, some of whom have never held any position in the party, even at ward level, and are in fact Ntuane’s protégés, have been appointed cabinet ministers.
In July 2015 Ntuane was elected BDP Secretary General, but his position has been undermined by the party leadership. The party Chairman, His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, runs most party activities, including the recruitment drive, not with the Secretary General as it should be the case, but with the Communications Chairperson, Thapelo Pabalinga.
This is unprecedented in the history of the BDP. The Secretary General, as the political head of the Secretariat who supervises the Executive Secretary, has always been at the heart of the party’s operations.
In the run up to the party’s elective congress, Ntuane campaigned on the basis of a reform agenda which included establishment of a strong Central Committee (CC) which would reclaim authority from the government; and increasing the CC from 18 members to 30 members through inclusion of all 12 Regional Chairpersons to ensure better oversight and supervision of structures.
The reform agenda also included strengthening the Policy Forum to vet and report to the CC all government Bills ahead of tabling them before Parliament; and a minimal presence of one administrative office in each of the BDP’s 12 Regions plus a vehicle.
These proposed reforms no doubt endeared Ntuane to the democrats. No wonder he attained the highest votes for all positions contested for during the elective congress. Many thought that after the congress Ntuane will indeed run the party as his predecessors, especially his mentor, Daniel Kwelagobe, did.
That was not to be. On the contrary, he has been sidelined and humiliated. In the few instances he sat next to his Chairman, HH Masisi, during press conferences it was clear, even from his facial expressions, that he did not belong.
Recently, Ntuane was snubbed once again when President Khama did not nominate him for one of the two Specially Elected Member of Parliament positions which became available after the BDP-dominated Parliament amended the Constitution to that effect.
It has been painful listening to Ntuane giving excuses for the lack of respect visited upon his office. This he obviously does for the sake of party unity or perhaps for fear of suffering the tribulations suffered by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi when he tried to fight for the respect of the Office of the Secretary General after his election in 2009.
The questions are: What sin has Ntuane committed in the BDP for which he cannot be forgiven? Who has he offended? Is Ntuane a victim of his own success? It is my view that Ntuane’s main ‘sin’ was publicly challenging President Khama’s policies, especially the alcohol levy policy.
His other ‘sin’ is his allegiance to his mentor, Daniel Kwelagobe, who, towards the end of his dominance in the BDP, was also relegated to obscurity by President Khama. There are those who have stated that allowing Ntuane to be dominant in the BDP will effectively be allowing Kwelagobe to rule from the grave.
There are also those in the BDP who argue that Ntuane had his time under Masire and Mogae. It is their claim that Ntuane did not deserve some of the appointments he got and he got them because he was favored by Masire. Consequently, they argue, talent was ignored for political expediency.
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’!