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SONA 2017: Did Khama deliver on democracy?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

When His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama presented this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), his last SONA since he is retiring on 31st March 2017, many Batswana had high expectations.

Some Batswana expected that since President Khama, right at the beginning of his tenure, identified ‘Democracy’ as one his Five “Ds” he would give an account of his achievements with respect to entrenching the democratic fundamentals. But, President Khama did not give a detailed account of his achievements in the area of democracy. Rather, he put emphasis on such areas as the economy, education and health. Before we discuss Botswana’s performance with respect to democracy, it is apposite that we give its performance with respect to these areas.

The basis for this account is the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index, an index conducted by the Legatum Institute on such areas as Economic Quality, Business Environment, Education, Health, Natural Environment, Governance, Safety and Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.      

In relation to Economic Quality, Botswana ranked position 99 out of 149 countries. This sub-index touches on such aspects as openness of a country, macroeconomic indicators, foundations for growth, economic opportunity and financial sector efficiency. This performance is poor. It is even worse considering that comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -14.37. This cannot be good news for a country whose unemployment rate is 17.60.

With respect to Business Environment, Botswana ranked position 70 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures a country’s entrepreneurial environment, its business infrastructure, barriers to innovation and labour market flexibility. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -4.69. This is underperformance for a country whose Foreign Exchange Reserves stood at about 7578 USD Million in August 2017.
 

As regards Education, Botswana ranked position 78 out of 149 countries. This sub-index included such indicators as access to education, quality of education and human capital. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -15.50. This is underperformance for a country whose 2016 average inflation rate amounted to about 2.81 percent compared to the previous year.


Health is another sub-index under which Botswana did not perform well. It was ranked at position 84 out of 140 countries. This sub-index touched on such aspects as basic physical and mental health, health infrastructure and preventative care. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -4.52. This is underperformance for a country whose GDP per capita for 2016 was USD 6,788.04.

Botswana did relatively well in relation to the Natural Environment sub-index. It attained position 51 out of 140 countries when measured in consideration of such aspects as quality of the natural environment, environmental pressures and preservation efforts. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -5.27. This is underperformance for a country whose youth unemployment rate stands at about 29.4.
 

According to the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index, in the Governance sub-index, Botswana ranked position 30 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures such aspects as effective governance, democracy, political participation and the rule of law. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -16.44. This is underperformance for a country whose women unemployment rate stands at about 21.4.

In relation to the Safety and Security sub-index Botswana ranked position 110 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures such aspects as national security and personal security. For a country that has not suffered a civil war this is indeed a very poor performance. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 5.78. This matches our Foreign Exchange Reserves which stood at about 7578 USD Million in August 2017.

There is no doubt that the allegations of the brutality of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), including the extra-judicial killing of the late John Kalafatis, and the alleged assassination of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi played a role in the lowering of Botswana’s rating in this sub-index.

The same applies to the general state of fear that was induced upon some people, especially opposition political activists in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, who believed that the security services, especially the DISS, were being used to intimidate them from contesting the general elections.
 

As regards Personal freedom, the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index ranked Botswana at position 51 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures a country’s progress towards basic legal rights, individual freedoms and social tolerance. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 8.47. This matches our GDP per capita which stood at USD 6,788.04 in 2016.

Though there is still room for improvement, this is a good performance indeed. It confirms that the high rankings that Botswana has always attained as a peaceful and secure country have been earned. It is, however, my suspicion that Botswana lost marks in this area because of the immigrants that President Khama declared as Prohibited Immigrants as well as those non-citizens (for instance, Julius Malema of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF)) who were put under the list of those required to apply for a Visa when visiting Botswana.   

With respect to Social Capital, Botswana was ranked at position 41 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures the strengths of personal relationships, social network support, social norms and civic participation. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 4.50. This matches our GDP per capita which stood at USD 6,788.04 in 2016.

That, on the whole, Botswana ranked position 54 out of 149 countries is no doubt a positive not only for President Khama, but also for his predecessors and Batswana in general. Yet, such incidents as the hasty enactment of the Bill establishing the DISS and the hasty enactment of the Bill introducing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) happened under President Khama’s watch.

President Khama has also presided over the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s refusal to introduce such reforms as political party funding; direct presidential elections and abolition of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Specially Nominated Councillors. He has also presided over the ruling BDP’s refusal to enact the Freedom of Information Act; the BDP’s unfair coverage by such government media as Botswana Television, Radio Botswana and Daily Newspaper.

It was also under President Khama’s rule that the relations between government and the media and trade unions fell to their all-time low. These, no doubt, tainted our democratic credentials. Of course, Botswana has done a lot better than many countries, especially African countries.

But, we could have done much better had it not been for these lapses which if not addressed can lead to an infraction of other tenets of our democracy as we have recently witnessed with the acrimony between some members of the judiciary and the executive, something which can compromise our judicial independence. Throughout his tenure, President Khama has emphasized such of his 5Ds as Delivery, Discipline and Dignity, not Democracy. This is perhaps the reason why he has not performed admirably in the promotion of democracy.

No wonder that none of President Khama’s ‘initiatives’ were in direct promotion of democracy. For instance, despite Batswana’s calls for an enhancement of the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) he did nothing in that regard. Batswana’s calls for the strengthening of such institutions promoting our democracy as the Ombudsman and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) were not heeded to or at least subjected to a referendum. 

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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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