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SONA 2017: what Batswana expect?

When, on 5th December 2016, His Excellency the President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama presented the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to the third session of the Eleventh Parliament many Batswana’s hopes for a better life for all were raised.

This year, 2017, as President Khama delivers the SONA many Batswana’s expectations will be that the promises made in 2016 have, in the main, been met, especially because we recently celebrated fifty years of independence. Not only that. During SONA 2016, President Khama emphasized on delivery for the year 2017, perhaps because it marked the first year for the new vision, Vision 2036. He said “In achieving our vision of a better future … it is not enough that we have sound plans and a practical as well as positive long term Vision…”

In his words, “to succeed, we must become much more urgent in our delivery. This is a daily challenge for all of us, both inside and outside Government. Overreliance on the State is not a sustainable, much less optimal path to 2036.” Of course, some will accept that such occurrences as the closure of the BCL mine have adversely affected the plans for 2017 as enunciated in the 2016 SONA. Yet, some will not accept that, arguing that these were self-inflicted wounds which cannot be an excuse for non-fulfilment of Agenda 2017.

Right at the beginning of SONA 2016, President Khama warned Batswana that the era of comfortable budgetary surpluses, driven by relatively steady mineral revenues, is behind us. This much Batswana must expect to hear this year, especially in view of the BCL closure.
Though it is still early days in relation to Vision 2036, Batswana expect to hear progress, especially with respect to the four pillars government set out to be the yard stick for measuring our progress in reaching destination 2036.

These pillars are: Sustainable Economic Development; Human and Social Development; Sustainable Environment; and Good Governance, Peace and Security. Our people, therefore, expect to hear about the strides we have made towards the realization of these ideals. In relation to the Sustainable Economic Development pillar Batswana expect to hear how their country is transforming into a high-income country, where continued growth is underpinned by a more inclusive, diversified and export led economy.

Of course, Batswana were informed that for this to happen they need to become more innovative, flexible and productive. But they also know that, in the President’s own words, for this to happen government has to provide an environment in which private sector expansion is not hampered by onerous regulation and an over reliance on the state. Batswana, therefore, expect that the President will update them on what the government has done to improve the ease of doing business in Botswana. Not only that. Batswana expect to hear what government has done to stimulate private sector growth in Botswana.

Granted, many will expect to hear how the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), for example, has contributed to the diversification of the economy and, therefore, reduced the levels of unemployment, especially among the youth. With respect to the Human and Social Development pillar many Batswana expect that the President will update them on how we, as a nation, are building upon our legacy as a moral and tolerant society that is inclusive of all Batswana.

In this regard, the rights of the so-called minor tribes; the rights of gays, lesbians and the transgendered; treatment of those who hold dissenting political views; e.t.c will come to the fore. Yet, as we expect to hear such from the President, the question we should all ask ourselves is whether we are consistent with our longstanding traditions of mutual support for our fellow brothers and sisters. We should also ask ourselves whether we are all in a journey of seeking a harmonious future that ensures dignity for all our people by contributing to the wellness and social upliftment of the whole community, not just the privileged few.

Our people will expect the President to give them an update on how such programmes as the Poverty Eradication Programme and Constituency Funding have improved Batswana’s lives and lifted them out of the evil of poverty and squalor. As regards the Building of a Sustainable Environment pillar, which as the President said, is predicated on the optimal use of our natural resources, Batswana will expect to hear how government, for example, has assisted communities to maximize sustainable yields from our renewable resources.

In 2016, President Khama assured Batswana that by 2036 we shall have ensured that our Republic remains a bastion of freedom, security and the rule of law. This is what would be required to ensure that we achieve the pillar of Good Governance, Peace and Security.
In President Khama’s own words for us to achieve this we require both continuity and evolutionary transformation in our legal and institutional frameworks in response to changing popular expectations for a more disciplined society.

Here, government’s treatment of the private media; government’s relations with workers and trade unions; government’s use of its security forces on the citizenry; government’s respect for court judgments, e.t.c will come to the fore. Hitherto SONA 2016 President Khama renamed, rationalized and increased government ministries. President Khama said this was motivated by a need to focus more on key developmental issues as part of NDP 11, while underscoring our intention to align ourselves with a changing world.

Batswana will, therefore, be justified in their expectation that President Khama will give them a report which demonstrates that the new ministries’ performance, productivity and delivery improved, thereby justifying the expenditure that was incurred as a result of the renaming, rationalization and increase of the ministries. During SONA 2016, President Khama promised that such programmes as the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Poverty Eradication Programmes shall remain as priorities.

Not only that. He promised that job creation through EDD and ESP will be increasingly linked to private sector growth, with government playing an enabling role in facilitating economic growth. It will, no doubt, be Batswana’s expectation for President Khama to report on job creation percentages which are testament to this. While such programmes as Ipelegeng and Tirelo Sechaba, no doubt, provide relief for a section of our society, Batswana do not expect the numbers of people involved in these programmes to be included in job creation statistics for these are not jobs per se, but mere drought relief engagements.

During SONA 2016 President Khama promised that 2017 will see the rolling out of yet another Programme which will embrace every constituency in the country in the form of community projects. He promised that the programme, which will be overseen by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, will increase the delivery of infrastructure at local level, while providing further income generating activities and employment opportunities.

Assuming that he was referring to the Constituency Fund Programme, Batswana expect to hear about the number of long term jobs created under the programme; the sustainable income generating activities resulting from the programme as well as the infrastructure, e.g. roads built through the programme.

President Khama also informed Batswana that additional key priorities in realizing our renewed Vision are the eradication of abject poverty and citizen empowerment through expanded educational and training opportunities for the youth and marginalized, including those living in remote rural areas, as well as targeted investment.

Granted, government, led by Office of the President (OP) itself, has embarked on the Poverty Eradication Programme, but Batswana expect to hear, in real terms, the number of Batswana or households which graduated from poverty as a result of the programme. On the back of the anticipated overall domestic growth rate of 3.5% for the year 2016, President Khama informed Batswana that the BCL closure notwithstanding, government projected a 4.1% overall domestic growth rate in 2017.  

He also informed Batswana that the inflation rate is forecast to remain within the Bank of Botswana’s 3-6 % objective range. Batswana will, no doubt, expect to hear how BCL closure affected these forecasts. In particular, Batswana will want to know whether our economy is still driven by the non-mining sectors, more especially in Trade, Hotels and Restaurants, Transport and Communication and Finance and Business Services which, in 2016, contributed to domestic growth at rates of 6.8%, 6.1% and 4.0% respectively.

Batswana will also expect to hear whether or not the Agricultural sector’s contribution to the overall domestic growth rate is improving in light of the several agricultural funding programmes introduced by government. At the end of the day, though many Batswana will, no doubt, have heeded the President’s advice that the achievement of the milestones set out in SONA 2016 is not government’s task alone, many will still expect government to have taken a significant lead in the milestones’ realization.    

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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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