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False Lashes

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

This week I was in Kenya conducting a workshop for a client which involved putting some identified high-talent employees through a series of exercises to determine their managerial strengths and weaknesses, the end-purpose of which is to allow participants to gain insight into what they can and cannot do, what their development needs are and receive constructive e feedback on all of this.

Sitting on my side of the table as an assessor I view it as a non-threatening, non-combative exercise but then again I have been doing this for many years and perhaps have become quite blasé about the exercises and numbed to how traumatic it can be for participants. Viewing it through their lens, instead of it feeling like a journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to test your mettle, it may feel more like an excruciating nightmare where you dream of being buried alive; and just like the thought of being trapped in a coffin is enough to trigger a panic attack, the fear of the unknown assessment centre can have a similar effect.


Anxious and eager participants may Google ‘assessment centres’ the night before, hoping to learn what they can expect from the experience and enable them to prepare for it, but the fact is that it doesn’t really ready you for the real thing and besides, they are all different. Some may involve a number of tests: aptitude or psychological exercises, role play, verbal or written communication simulations, presentations, activities to test prioritisation and organisational skills, or group tasks with the other participants and if you've never experienced these methods of evaluation before it can make you feel anxious and less confident.

The competitive nature of the centre can also be problematic. In an assessment Centre not only do you meet other participants but you may be asked to participate in a group exercise where you are competing directly with them. And while you may not be being directly compared to others intentionally it’s inevitable that comparisons will be made  and not necessarily by the assessors. 


In such situations you may find yourself making huge assumptions about others’ capability compared to yours which can erode your confidence further.  And let’s not forget the feeling one gets of being watched and observed, like a rat in a lab cage. Unless you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy the thrill and attention of streaking at a televised sports event, evaluation can make you fear being exposed so ‘they’ will find out what you are really like.

Another stress can be that the assessors are with you most of the time and this often makes you feel there is nowhere to hide and  that you have to ‘perform’ at all times, even at breaks and mealtimes. This can be quite stressful, and depending on your personality type you may become withdrawn and quiet or overcompensate by talking too much or attempting to project yourself in a way you are not.

So, with the scene set and the curtain about to go up, stage fright can set in.

During a wrap-up session at the end of this Centre, there was one particular candidate who had performed very well but who looked upset and troubled; his previous upbeat and positive demeanor which I had observed had been replaced with lethargy and a palpable look of disappointment. 


I asked him how he was feeling and enquired ‘is everything ok’?  Seemingly not – this high achieving participant had reached the conclusion that he had failed badly during one of the aptitude tests (a challenging exercise for most people and common to think that they have performed badly). This belief had ruined the entire experience and his perceived under-performance in one exercise (he had not yet even received the test results) was overshadowing all the other exercises where he had performed very well. He felt devastated.

I tried to challenge some of his thinking , specifically  why he perceived this as such a catastrophe and attempted to help him see how flawed his thought process was as he was giving proportionally greater weight to this one test whilst ignoring his other successes and to use a popular idiom, ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’.


Now I myself can be prone to over exaggerating mistakes and failures (I’m that person who loses a business deal and will over-think it to such an extent that I can illogically view it as an omen that my business will fail which will eventually lead to desperation, homelessness and loneliness.  All a bit dramatic of course but such is catastrophe thinking – a cognitive distortion often at the root of much of our anxiety and depression).

Slowly as I worked with him through his flawed thinking which included i) you can’t definitively know how you have performed as psychometric tests are very difficult to predict due to the complexity of psychometric properties, norms etc. ii) your mood and demeanor have been altered because you have accepted your own false premise of  ‘I have failed’, even though you have no idea what ‘fail’ looks or feels like in this context. iii) Jumping to conclusions – when we are no longer in the present moment but in the future dealing with a completely imaginary doomsday scenario.

You may think something and believe it to be true. The thought ‘I have failed’ is a biased false judgement and self-criticism akin perhaps to 30 metaphoric lashes with a whip made of mental self-admonishments. It a different viewpoint from ‘that was tough, I could have done better’ or ‘wow, I wonder what that means?’.  Call it skewed thinking if you want but he had gone straight to that place of low self-esteem in the mind where insecurities and doubts fester and breed, quickly subduing and killing off any remaining self-belief you might once have had.  

The purpose of the test should be to enquire and learn, not to beat yourself up and lower self-confidence and self-esteem.  In his case enlightenment finally came with  the realization that danger lies not in his actions and decision-making per se but rather in how he views and skews them in his mind’s eye.   He left with a brand new pair of rose-tinted specs and his confidence restored.

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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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