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Is Masisi delivering on his inaugural speech? (Part 7)

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

This week, we are continuing with this series whose purpose is to consider whether or not His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, is delivering on his inaugural speech promises, commitments and undertakings.  

Last week we dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector which, he rightly said, would propel this country to greater heights in terms of economic stimulation, job creation and sustainable economic growth. 

We also dealt with his commitment that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade through such agreements as the SADC Free Trade Area, Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, AGOA, SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the bilateral agreements Botswana has with other countries and development partners.

We also dealt with his undertaking that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications. We also dealt with his pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), water, energy, transport and road networks, to create an enabling environment for commerce and industry, as well as to stimulate the economy.

This week we deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment that, in line with Vision 2036, which he said is aligned to the 2030 United Nations Agenda on Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063, investment in research, science, technology and innovation will be prioritised to enable Botswana’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy.

We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking to ensure that the transformation of education and training, through the Human Resource Development Strategy of 2009, receives all the necessary support in order to ensure that education meets the needs of industry. We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s assurance to Batswana that, as part of the reforms proposed by the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2015-2020, his government will introduce pre-primary education as well as expanding such school facilities as classrooms, teachers’ quarters and building new primary and secondary schools throughout the country to respond to the growing population of our towns, villages and settlements.

We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise that his government will continue to focus and intensify the maintenance of the existing school facilities to ensure an enabling environment for effective delivery of the education, learning and training programmes. H.E Dr. Masisi promised that his government will not hesitate to intervene, where necessary, to cause the inclusion of new primary and secondary schools in the current NDP11 as per the dictates of Botswana’s population dynamics.

This, he said, will all be done to to improve the quality of our education system as well as ensuring universal access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education. We consider how far his government has moved in this regard. We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking that his government will also continue intensifying and sharpening teacher training, re-training and retooling to build their capacity to adapt to the ever-changing education environment, especially in the areas of ICT.

First, H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to prioritise investment in research, science, technology and innovation to transform Botswana into a knowledge-based economy. In 2012, Government established the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) to provide the framework for high level research that is needed to transform Botswana into a knowledge economy.

According to its Research & Innovation Policy Hand Book adopted by its Board of Directors on 26th June 2015, BITRI is expected to provide the products and services based on Indigenous Knowledge (IK) that meet the values, needs and expectations of Botswana society and internationally.

Its mandate is to conduct needs-based research and development in focused areas of national interest, and to deliver high standard technology solutions that maximise the beneficiation of local resources, through both institutional and collaborative programmes, to effectively and affordably address current and anticipated needs for sustainable socio-economic development. One of the national priorities guiding BITRI’s focus is the need for Botswana to create downstream beneficiation and value addition from its resource base, mainly minerals, agricultural and tourism products.

The question is: has government used BITRI to maximise investment in research, science, technology and innovation to transform Botswana into a knowledge-based economy? Put differently, has there been development-focused research in such areas as Technologies (Energy, Electronics and ICT) and Natural Resources and Materials (i.e. Water and Environment, Materials and Built Environment and Natural Resources)?

While government must be commended for establishing the Botswana International University of Science & Technology (BIUST), its impact in the development of science and technology is yet to be felt. Also, the university has failed to attract a sizeable number of international students, something which would not only be a source of revenue for the country, but also raise academic standards through knowledge exchange. If there has been research in these areas, then government has not used it for development because our country is lagging behind in innovation, especially in the areas of Technologies and Natural Resources and Materials.

Obviously, having been in office for only one year, H.E Dr. Masisi cannot be blamed for this, but his government, of which he served as vice president for about five years, is certainly to blame, especially considering that research, science, technology and innovation had long been identified as priorities if we were to transform Botswana into a knowledge-based economy.

Second, H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to transform education and training through the Human Resource Development Strategy of 2009. It is incontrovertible that our Human Resource Development Strategy is one of the best in the world. It is similarly irrefutable that the two parastatals at the centre of the strategy, namely Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) have done well in setting standards in as far as education and training curricula and institutional infrastructure are concerned.

Consequently, colleges and universities, both private and public, have been accredited to offer tertiary qualifications requisite for almost all sectors of the economy, including the all-important science, technology and innovation aspects. Government has also taken a commendable decision to sponsor all qualifying students, including those admitted to accredited private colleges and universities, to tertiary institutions, mainly local. Third, H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to introduce pre-primary education as well as expanding school facilities in response to the growing population of our towns, villages and settlements.

Government is still lagging behind in as far as pre-primary education is concerned. As it is, beyond making the promise to introduce pre-primary education, H.E Dr. Masisi, like his predecessors, has not made any meaningful strides in that regard. Generally speaking, however, while curriculum related issues still exist in all layers of our education system, especially at primary, secondary and Brigades level, the issue is not so much about the standard of education and training, but about employment opportunities for graduates.

For instance, even if government can upgrade Teacher Training Colleges to degree offering institutions, the degree graduates from those colleges would still be faced with unemployment just like university graduates are suffering from unemployment. Fourth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to focus and intensify the maintenance of the existing school facilities. Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) have, for years, been decrying the appalling status of class rooms, laboratories and toilets in primary and secondary schools.

Apparently, not even government’s plan to eradicate the classroom backlog through the failed Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) has alleviated the situation. The dire situation is even exacerbated by shortage of teachers resulting in some classes having more than fifty students to one teacher, something that can only negate the quality of educational delivery.

Fifth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to cause the inclusion of new primary and secondary schools in the current NDP11 as per the dictates of Botswana’s population dynamics. If this is done, this will indeed be a welcome development, but, to date, there is nothing meaningful done in that regard. Sixth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to intensify and sharpen teacher training, re-training and retooling. The decline in the demand for teachers, which has seen a reduction in the intake of teacher training colleges, has negatively impacted on the teacher training, re-training and retooling programme.

Education Centres, which were intended to offer in-service training to teachers, are no longer functional. In fact, many of them dilapidated. Today, re-training and retooling of teachers is done mainly through workshops, something that cannot be enough to address the skills gaps in the teaching profession.

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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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