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A tender area

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is known for half-truths, wilfully misleading statements, inaccuracies and divisive remarks,  perhaps most infamously for voicing a claim that after Brexit the UK would take back control of roughly £350m per week which could be used for the UK’s ailing National Health System.

The problem with that statement however was there was no evidence whatsoever that Brexit would make the UK better off to the tune of £350 million. Regardless, this false, unsubstantiated claim, embellishment or whatever you call it was emblazoned on a highly visible, oft-photographed, double-decker campaign tour bus which was integral to the marketing of the leave campaign.

Considered one of the most visible and effective ‘slogans’ of the campaign, assumed to have the effect of convincing many voters to vote ‘yes’, especially because the NHS is close to the hearts of many UK citizens, all crying out for better healthcare facilities and better service through increased  funding.  So, it was a lie basically.  And if a lie justifies the end and Boris got the result he wanted, does that somehow make the lie more tolerable for being just political spinning?  It is akin to Donald Trump’s tweet “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  A tweet to justify his lack of climate change support and to vilify the Chinese.

In 2016 my company ‘partnered’ with a company – let’s call them ‘ X & Y PLC’ – on a number of tenders for a certain power company .  X & Y are a major engineering, technology, manufacturing, construction and so on, conglomerate, with global operations. They had al the appearances of credibility and gravitas, or so I thought, and thus we partnered with them because the tender required bidders (X & Y) to use a local agency for the recruitment of local personnel.

We were the official company to provide the service, duly named in and contributory to, the tender documents. There was considerable work involved in the meticulous preparation of the tenders and the inclusion of numerous company documents including financial documents, declarations, corporate history, competencies etc. so, when X & Y’s overall tender was selected and approved , we were chomping at the bit to get started and receive our reward – the share of the work, and yes, the financial spoils –   only for X & Y to effectively completely and without explanation, sever relations with us and not use any of our services.  

You can imagine our consternation and confusion, and after being sideline and ignored we resorted to demanding some answers with the help of a lawyer.  X & Y then claimed that they were not obliged to use our company and that they were free to use other companies or recruit for themselves. This sounded strange to me, our company being a named stakeholder in the tender process, and I was left me wondering why we were an integral part of 12 tenders if being a part of the tender was not binding in any way.

Of course, the story changed depending on the stage we were at. When the company was short-listed during the tendering process, they sent a message telling me that they had been technically and commercially qualified and “this happened because of you and your team”. At the final stage X & Y sent another message saying they had “affirmed you (us) as official business partner in Botswana for getting local manpower. We highly appreciate your support extended towards X & Y.” If that doesn’t sound like an acknowledgment of our partnership in the process and a valuable one to boot, I don’t know what does. 

So what am I to think? How does it happen that an international company can use a local company to tick compliance boxes during a tender and then simply discard the very same company who has played a part in the winning of the tender?  I guess this is what ‘fronting’ looks like or in other words, deception and dishonesty? Is this a bald-faced lie, half-truth, fraud or what?

David Livingston Smith in his book ‘Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind’, says lying gives us a "selective advantage" and that falsehoods, deceptions, and lies are essential to our current Darwinian ascendancy as a genus. In other words, we, as liars, are better survivors.  Now I don’t know if X & Y’s strategy was to deceive me from day one by getting a reputable local supplier for their bid with no intention of ever using them. 

Maybe the decision not to honour the agreement only happened when it came down to hiring staff for the project and then the man or woman holding the purse strings decided we don’t need them (read we don’t need to part with any money to an outside company  when we can wing it ourselves). It really is shocking. The hours of work which we put into the tender were significant. The blatant disregard for integrity and fairness when the work that should have come our way was shunted off,  is testament again that in business and in politics people will lie to get what they want – regardless whom it damages or misleads along the way.

So where does it leave me and where does it leave the British people?  Lets deal with Boris Johnson first. Boris, when he was the Tory leadership frontrunner for the prime minister’s role, faced three allegations of misconduct in public office after “Brexit Justice” campaigner Marcus Ball crowd-funded £300,000 for a private prosecution. He claimed Johnson had deliberately misled the public with his Vote Leave campaign’s slogan "We send the EU £350 million a week, let's fund our NHS instead”, while Johnson's legal team argued that the offence of misconduct in public office was about the secret abuse of power and that there was nothing secret about Johnson's claim, which had been repeatedly challenged during the campaign. The judges were persuaded, and the claim squashed.

As for me the jury is still out. The power company, although awarding this big tender to a company with all our credentials included, don’t seem that interested or perturbed that the big guns winning multi-million pula contracts for major projects where part of the covenant is to use local companies, can simply renege on the promise with no consequences.  Usually with big tenders there’s a few token crumbs thrown patronisingly in the direction of the local entrepreneur but in this case not even a morsel. 

The power company should know that part of social responsibility is the role they play in achieving economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders and to encourage businesses to conduct their companies in an ethical manner.  They might also factor in that local companies have added value in terms of footprint and contacts, as well as the competencies and expertise outlined in initial contacts and further reinforced in the tender application

And just like the believing UK public who never questioned the £350m pledge and who are now probably as good as out of the EU without a deal, I am out of this deal too.   Both of us have had our eyes opened and will be a little shrewder and less gullible next time. Of course it would be churlish and childish  of me to laugh when the minefield that is effective recruitment, staff management and local labour laws blows up in X & Y’s  face, even more so to think or say ‘I told you so’.  Nevertheless I probably will!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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Columns

A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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