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AP will probably rival the UDC in 2019

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

In the past two weeks I deliberated on a series the object of which was to discuss the pitfalls that the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP), as a political party and not as an alliance of political parties, is likely to face.

These pitfalls included failure to adhere to one of the basic tenets of democracy, consultation; propagation of personality cultism within the party; control of the party’s affairs by such third parties as trade unions; and a constitution that disempowers the party president. The other pitfall I identified is the possibility that the AP would contest the 2019 general elections outside the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

This would be a pitfall because many Batswana have bought into the concept of Opposition coalition politics so much that any opposition political party that contests the elections alone would be regarded as betraying the struggle to oust the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power like the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) did in 2014. As the BCP learnt in 2014, this would most certainly result in a backlash by the voters, the result of which may be an abysmal performance at the polls. In my view, the AP would not be immune from such if it contests the elections outside the UDC.

Not even the fact that the AP appears to have the support of a significant section of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) is enough. Initially, I regarded the eventuality of the AP contesting the elections outside the UDC as a mere possibility. Today, considering the statements made by the AP itself and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), I no longer regard the eventuality as a possibility, but as a probability. It is in this regard that, in this article, I consider whether or not the AP will rival the UDC in 2019. Put differently, I consider the prospect of the AP contesting the 2019 general elections outside the Opposition coalition, the UDC.

Firstly, I consider the AP’s name, ‘Alliance for Progressives’. Usually, a political party, unlike a coalition, uses such words as ‘party’ and ‘front.’ On the contrary, a coalition uses such words as ‘coalition’, ‘umbrella’, and ‘alliance.’ It, therefore, deserves consideration why the AP chose to use the word ‘alliance’. You will recall that one entity that has used such a name is Lepetu Setshwaelo’s Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) which has since been subsumed under the BCP.

Though BAM never really functioned as an alliance, it is clear that its founder, Lepetu Setshwaelo, had a dream to see opposition political parties united under an alliance party. When that failed he pushed for BAM to enter into an alliance with the BCP. Later, Themba Joina’s Marx, Angeles, Lenin and Stalin (MELS) movement and the Socialist Party joined the BCP. Then came the era of electoral pacts which ultimately gave way to the formation of the UDC.

When asked about the use of the word ‘alliance’, AP’s leader, Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe, has ascribed it simply to signify that the party will bring together progressives from various spheres, for instance, individuals, Academics,  Civil Society Organisations, etc. In my view, the choice of the word ‘alliance’ was meant for a far greater political purpose. That purpose, in my view, is for it to be a coalition of political parties which, if circumstances permit, will rival the UDC in 2019. Secondly, I consider the AP’s statements. In a recent interview with the Voice newspaper, Honourable Gaolathe stated that it will take about a year for the AP to commence negotiations with the UDC.

Of course, he gave the reason for such a delay as the fact that they are yet to launch the AP after which they have to establish the party’s structures, convene Congresses and get the mandate from the members on the kind of relationship the party should have with the UDC. A year from now will be October 2018, a mere one year before the 2019 general elections. Honourable Gaolathe knows better that one year cannot be enough to enter into meaningful coalition talks, especially at the eve of what is likely to go down in history as Botswana’s most contested general election.

In my view, this may just be a tactic to make Batswana believe that the AP is interested in a coalition with the UDC when the AP, in fact, knows that it has no such intention, but intends to function as a coalition itself. In any event, it is not a secret that the AP’s leadership has lost confidence in the UDC’s leadership, especially its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, because of the way the UDC handled the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) conflicts.
 

Such confidence was further eroded when the UDC decided on a power sharing model as the way to reconcile the two BMD factions following the election of two National Executive Committees (NECs) at the infamous Bobonong Congresses. Thirdly, I consider the BPP’s recent Leadership Forum resolution in terms of which it is reported to have resolved to continue under the UDC provided it remains the ‘Old UDC’ without the BCP. The BPP knows full well that there is no way the UDC can expel the BCP simply because of its demands. It is demanding the impossible knowing full well that the UDC cannot deliver on that so that when it leaves the UDC people will ascribe its departure to the UDC’s failure to deliver on its demand.

Needless to state that just like the AP leadership, the BPP leadership has lost confidence in the UDC leadership not only because of its reticence in handling the BMD conflict, but also because of the way the BCP was admitted into the fold and what it considered as favoritism for the BCP in the allocation of constituencies. Before the AP’s formation rumour had it that the BPP was involved in the formation of a new party. Absurd as it was, some even opined that the BPP would disband and be part of the new political party. But, today it appears more likely that the BPP will leave the UDC and join the AP.

In view of the aforegoing, therefore, one can safely conclude that, undesirable as it may be, the AP will probably rival the UDC in 2019. I am aware that some have pondered over the possibility of the AP entering into a coalition with the BDP. While in politics everything is possible, I believe that it is improbable for the AP to enter into a coalition with the BDP, at least for the 2019 general elections. If not for anything else the AP leadership is likely to be deterred by the fact that such action may lead them to be regarded as sellouts of the worst order.   

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

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.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

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

and

  • 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’!

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