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Slanging Match

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Most of us enjoy following a sport whether we compete ourselves on an amateur basis or we’re just armchair fans, preferring to watch the professionals.  It might be footie – amazing how many there are out there who follow the English Premiere League, despite the fact that we’re thousands of miles away from its UK home!  Rugby is also hugely popular, with lots of locally-based Springbok supporters; cricket too and of course tennis.  For lots of people Wimbledon fortnight is the highlight of your year and you are glued to the television for every match and there are plenty of amateur club and school tennis fixtures for keen amateurs.

Whatever your passion what I wanted to ask is where do you stand on sportsmanship?  The sporting code, if you like, the idea of fair play and a fair fight.  All sports have their rules and codes of conduct but equally all sports have code violations, even at the highest level.  Oddly enough, though it’s mainly played by burly men built like brick outhouses,  and it’s about as rough a contact ball sport as it can possibly get, rugby probably ranks highest among good player behaviours. 

On the rugby pitch the referees are king;  one blast of a whistle and a raised hand for a rule infraction and the offending player slinks off to the sin bin without a protest.  Cricket too is famous for its sporting attitudes, hence the phrase ‘;just not cricket’.  Players defer to the on-field umpires at all times and histrionics would be unthinkable.

Even boxing, a combat sport, is famous for its adherence to the Marquis of Queensbury Rules, drawn up in the nineteenth century to dictate that every fight is a fair fight, gloves on and no hitting ‘below the belt’ – there’s another sporting phrase which has crept into the English language to refer to conduct or speech which is considered unfair or uncalled for.

So what is about tennis, particularly when played at the highest level, that seems to induce on-court rages from top players from time to time?  The latest example is, of course, the  temper tantrum and tirade of vituperation towards the umpire exhibited by Serena Williams at the US Open Women’s Final last week.  In case it has passed you by, the facts were thus:  Williams was playing Japanese player Naomi Osaka, the No. 7 seed and a name not familiar to the world at large, in front of a very partisan crowd of home supporters for Williams in the women’s final at the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York.

This flashpoint came in response to the game penalty, which was the result of a third code violation during the match. The first had been handed out for coaching, after Ramos spotted Patrick Mouratoglou making hand signals from the Williams player’s box. When the original violation was announced, Williams immediately charged up to Ramos to insist that she never takes coaching, and never cheats. The argument seemed to end there. But then, when she smashed a racket on being broken back for 3-3 in the second set, Ramos went by the book and gave her a point penalty.

Now Williams lost her temper – something that has happened twice before at the US Open. During the 2011 final, she accused chair umpire Eva Asderaki of being “a hater” and “ugly inside”. And even before that, in 2009, her semi-final against Kim Clijsters ended in another point penalty after she told a lineswoman “If I could, I would take this —-ing ball and shove it down your —-ing throat.”

Last weekend the major argument began with a reference to those earlier incidents. "Unbelievable, every time I play here, I have problems,” said Williams. “I did not get coaching, I don't cheat. You need to make an announcement. I have a daughter and I stand for what's right for her. You owe me an apology.

“For you to attack my character is something that is wrong,” Williams continued. “You will never ever, ever be in another final. You are a liar.” Then, when she called Ramos a “thief” for taking away a point from her, he gave her a code violation for verbal abuse, resulting in the game penalty that carried Osaka to 5-3 in the second set. Later, Mouratoglou confirmed that he had been coaching, but insisted that everyone does it.  “I was coaching but I don’t think she looked at me,”

The saddest part of this ugly incident was that Osaka had just become the first major-winner from Japan, closing out a 6-2, 6-4 victory in just 79 minutes. But it will be the verbal set-to, not the 2 sets, shared by Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos that most people will remember from this tempestuous final,  Poor Osaka herself was denied her moment of what should have been joy and jubilation and even wound up apologising for having beaten the crowd’s favourite in scenes that surely have little precedent in this or any other sport

All in all, what seemed to me to be a nasty case of ‘sore loser’.  Not the way to end a stellar career, Serena, and very far from serene! Of course this is not the first tennis temper tantrum and it probably won’t be the last.   I give you these classic examples courtesy of CNN, most of which are available on YouTube and make for amusing, if mildly shocking viewing.

At last year's French Open, Djokovic was docked a first serve and later given a warning for unsportsmanlike behavior for telling the same umpire "you're losing your mind," after a call Ramos made that infuriated the Serb. American Jeff Tarango, unable to stop himself from responding to goading from the crowd during his 1995 Wimbledon match with German Alexander Mronz looked over at the stands and said: "Oh, shut up," earning him a code violation for an audible obscenity.

He argued with the umpire that his words couldn't be considered to be obscene, called for a supervisor to intervene, while telling the umpire: "You are the most corrupt official in the game and you can't do that." After another code violation for verbal abuse, Tarango lost the match and stormed off the court. During one US Open, Andre Agassi got a warning for an audible obscenity for something he was about to say as he approached the umpire, but thought better of it and started to walk away. After hearing the umpire penalize him,  he called him a "son of a bitch." Play went on however, with no further remonstration from the chair.

Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis achieved eternal internet fame for an  epic racket smash during the 2012 Australian Open. During a break he smashed four rackets in under a minute. He went on to lose the match and pay a $1,250 fine.Argentinian David Nalbandian was disqualified from the final of the Aegon Championship in 2005 after he kicked an advertising board which broke apart and injured the shin of a line judge. Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Supervisor Tom Barnes said he had little choice but to "declare an immediate default."

One of the most notable tennis players to ever default a match was John McEnroe. At the 1990 Australian Open he got his first warning for intimidating a lineswoman who called his ball out. He stood in front of her, bouncing a ball on his racket and staring her down. Later, after losing a point, he hurled his racket to the ground and a loud crack echoed through the court, earning him another code violation.

After insisting to the umpire and tournament officials that he would continue to play with the damaged racket McEnroe slung insults over his shoulder as he walked away. That earned him another violation — this one for verbal abuse — and the entire match went to his opponent, Swede Mikael Pernfors.

Definitely gloves off!
 

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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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