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Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

A long while back there was a British sitcom series entitled ‘The Good Life’, the basis of which revolved around a man called Tom Good.  As the series starts he is a draughtsman in a company producing plastic toys.

His work colleague and next-door neighbour, Jerry Leadbetter, is a marketing executive in the same company and the pair are both on the conventional corporate ladder.  They live in a desirable suburb of London in large, detached houses, work 9 to 5, if not longer, sucking up to the boss in order to protect and advance their careers which are financially promising. 

But Tom, it seems, is not content.  It’s his 40th birthday and he is suffering from a mid-life crisis.  He is disillusioned with the convention, corporate world, he wants a complete change and he has a plan;  Hand in his resignation, turn his large garden into a self-supporting farm, growing vegetables, rearing livestock, keeping chickens and even using animal waste material to go off-grid and produce  his own electricity.  He persuades his wife to support his idea and the basis for the series is thus established.

The Good Life in the title is a play on his surname (Good) and turning the perceived idea  of La Dolce Vita – career success, material wealth and all its accompanying trappings – upside down.  His good life was going to be one of honest toil and living entirely and quite literally off the fruits of his own labour.

The series was a huge success, due, in part, to excellent scripting and acting, but also because it tapped into something many of us have often considered – leaving the rat race behind for a simpler life, eschewing the pursuit of money and the material world and going back to nature.  Deep down, there’s a farmer or sharecropper in all of us and we’d love to abandon the ties that bind us to the world of business in favour of an idyllic existence in a rural paradise, at one with Mother Nature.  Yet for most of us it remains a dream and probably rightly so.  The reality of such a drastic lifestyle change is too massive to truly contemplate – it’s just the germ of an idea somewhere in the back of our minds and there it remains.

But the idea of a radical career change doesn’t have to mean becoming sons and daughters of the soil.  It can rather be a switch from one profession or occupation to another very different one.  We trained to be one thing, we walked down that path, enjoying the view, till one day we realised we wanted to take a different track altogether.  This realisation can build up gradually over time or it can come as a bolt from the blue but either way, your mind is made up.  You want to retrain, re-think and reverse your chosen career path because it no longer represents who you are and how you want to spend your life.   

But giving up your job has huge implications.  You may also have to give up your home;  You may need to invest your entire life savings to effect the change;  You may have to relocate, not just yourself but uproot your entire family;  In most instances it will almost certainly mean a contraction in status, both financial and social.  It is, in effect, a leap in the dark.  But if that sounds like you, here is some practical advice on how to take that next big step:

Don't get bogged down in thinking that you only have one chance to change career: "When people start talking about their "true calling" or "finding their vocation" it adds a lot of pressure to an already difficult decision. You will probably change career direction several times in your life, so try to think in terms of what you would like to try next.

Career planning tools on websites such as Prospects or TargetJobs can be useful to throw up a few ideas, but the key is to think about the kind of skills you enjoy and are good at, the environment you'd like to be in and the kind of people you want to work with. Once you've narrowed it down to two or three areas, you'll be able to do some more targeted research and start looking at specific job roles. Just remember, you can always change your mind." Tracy Johnson, career coach and founder of Brainbox Coaching

A gradual approach to changing your career can work well: "While some people want to radically reinvent their career instantly, it is more realistic to work towards a new career over time. This might mean making changes in your current job, studying a course in the evening, shadowing someone in the role, or learning new skills to make yourself more attractive to potential employers. It might also mean that you gradually move into your new career via a series of jobs rather than one giant leap – and this is important if you want to protect your salary rather than going back to entry level wages." Corinne Mills, author and managing director of Personal Career Management

You need to believe that it really can happen: "One of the hardest things with a change of career is believing that we can do this new task. We tend to think of ourselves as a photographer, an accountant or whatever. That's what seems to define us. Now we have to re-define ourselves and begin to believe it deeply inside us. Once we believe it, others will too. I would suggest you start saying to yourself and to everyone you meet that you work in [your new sector]. When I changed career, I continued to say that I was an actor who also worked as a coach, but once I started saying that I was a coach who used to be an actor, my coaching work really took off." Robin Kermode, leading European speech director and founder of Zone2

The first steps to take when thinking of changing career: "Your starting point is to really think about what's important to you in a career. What sort of working environment do you think you'll be happy in? What energises you most work-wise? And what do you naturally love doing and are good at? All these questions will help you to identify some possible avenues. Spending a bit of time thinking about yourself and what fulfils you will help you to make the right choices." Sally Bibb, founder of Engaging Minds

The Good Life was a work of fiction, but a radical career and lifestyle change can become a reality if you are truly convinced that career satisfaction now lies somewhere else.   Remember the old adage that as you grow old it’s not what you did in life that you regret the most but rather what you didn’t do!

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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