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Stuart White

The World in Black-N-Whit

You may have noticed that several of the city’s post offices have had wall-mounted, flat-screen televisions installed recently.  We’ve seen the same thing in most of the bank branches, even the odd doctor’s waiting room and it’s always a worrying sign.

You see, they are clearly put there to keep waiting customers amused and if you need to be kept occupied it’s pretty obvious they expect you to be hanging around for quite some time.  The provision of seating in Post Offices sends out much the same message – once upon a time there was no need to rest your weary bones while waiting to purchase a stamp or indulge in other sundry postal business; you didn’t expect to say there too long so it was fine to stand and there was no need for in-house entertainment to keep your mind off the interminable wait and waste of your valuable time.

That in-house entertainment varies from business to business.  Some of the banks subscribe to the premium DSTV bouquet so you can catch up with breaking news stories or major sporting fixtures, all from the discomfort of standing in a long queue.  Other less profitable places limit themselves to a filched Philibao offering or an entry-level DSTV subscription; thus you might find yourself watching any one f the innumerable reality TV shows which pass for mass entertainment these days; fat people trying to get thin, ugly people trying to be beautiful or  people with more money than sense airing their dirty laundry in public;  television evangelists from Nigeria,  with the gift of the gab and a mean slight of hand, pulling live snakes out of the mouths of their accursed or afflicted followers; or just a bunch of wannabee nobodies sitting in a house and caught on camera 24-7.

But none of this is for Botswana Post.  So far they have limited their output to public service advertising, most notably a short safety film courtesy of Botswana Power Corporation, depicting a few hapless members of the public chancing upon damaged cables and downed power lines or just setting up illegal electricity connections, all of whom end up fried.  I guess they mean well and I daresay there are plenty of people out there who need reminding but here’s where we come to my thought for the week: it’s depressing and is it really enough for the queue waiting customer? Where is the thought about the customer experience?

There has been a good deal of research done on the psychology of waiting. There was a paper by David Maister, titled “The Psychology of Waiting Lines.”   You know the expression “a watched pot never boils”?  Well one of the things he mentions is that when you are sitting or standing  and doing nothing while waiting, it seems like the time takes forever to pass.  Maister quotes William James, a noted philosopher, in his paper, highlighting his observance that “boredom results from being attentive to the passage of time itself.” So if you need to keep customers waiting for a while, make it more fun and entertaining for them so that they are occupied while waiting and so that time seems to pass more quickly.  

Many businesses understand this concept and some try to do things to change the perception of the passage of time.  For example, theme parks such as Disney keep guests entertained while waiting in lines by providing entertainment through music, TV or live performances.  Most medical practices understand this concept to a point and provide patients with loads of paperwork to work on while waiting so that patients are occupied for at least a portion of the wait time.


If you are in a doctors waiting room, notorious for waiting and hence the name,  you might keep magazines fresh and make sure topics are in line with those your patients might find interesting -Dr Bhagat always has interesting info on blood pressure, heart disease etc. in print and on screen – but if you really want to be leading edge how about providing iPad minis (note to interested company to tether them to furniture so they don’t “disappear”) to give customers something to do while they wait?

The customer experience whether it is waiting in a queue or simply engaging in whatever way is important to get right and this need to be at the forefront of imaginative thinking from the marketing department and not, surely, an infomercial from a co-parastatal ? We can look at a company like BP for inspiration.

BP has started testing a so-called “personality pump” at select gas stations in New York City and Chicago that will talk with customers. Created in partnership with Pandora and The Onion, these interactive gas pumps can chat with customers, play music for them, and tell jokes to keep customers entertained as it fills up their tanks.


Customers can also play music trivia games and record shareable video “e-cards” while they wait. Once they are done, they can opt to text themselves a message with a “special return offer.” This innovative take on conversational interfaces broadens the scope in which brands typically think of engaging customers via conversations. By incorporating the chat function into gas pumps, BP is able to transform a physical utility product into a digitally enhanced touch point to capture audience attention and leverage that into possible future engagements.


The rise of conversational commerce points to changing consumer behavior on mobile and a shift in brand-customer interaction. Now while talking pay points, mini I pads and a cabaret show may be a step too far as Botswana Post’s gift to their loyal customers standing in line, all I ask is that you switch to another channel.

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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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