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Gladys Kokorwe: a living legend!


One hopes that as the curtain falls on Honourable Gladys Kokorwe’s public service chapter, her contribution to our country’s development is not forgotten only to be remembered when her obituary is finally written.

Let it be known that in Honourable Kokorwe, the person, resides a soul-an enormous soul-worth celebrating for Honourable Kokorwe is indeed a living legend. We do not need to await her departure from this world in order to celebrate her life. No, we need to celebrate it today when her eyelids are wide awake to join the celebration. Littering her final resting place with message cards and roses will not be celebration of her life, but will be in mourning her passing, mourning our loss and hoping we could have done better for her while she was still alive.

Reading her obituary when she is no more will not be in exaltation of her name, but it will be exaltation of ours. It will be more about us than her. Spending the whole night at her vigil will not be in service of humanity, but in service of self. It will be self-exaltation, not selfless service. She may be a stompie in physical stature, but hers has been a giant’s life. She has indeed been a tower. But most importantly, she has been a beacon, especially in our politics which are often characterised by darkness.     

Of course, being a politician, she has, in some instances, promoted the interests of her party, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), but she has not done so in a manner that is detrimental to our country’s interests. Unlike her deputy, Honourable Kagiso Molatlhegi, she has been less divisive, less inflammatory. She has been more acceptable to both sides of the political divide in Parliament because of the fair manner in which she handled MPs.

For instance, it is reported that during the General Assembly when the 11th Parliament resumed business she reprimanded Members of Parliament (MP’s) across the political divide for undesirable behaviour.  I had the privilege of serving the youth under her stewardship when she was Minister of Youth, Sport & Culture. At the time, I was Executive Director of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC). In her, the youth truly had a mother. Fortunately, during her tenure she had an exceptionally good Director of the Department of Culture & Youth, Mrs. Tlhabologo Ndzinge, who the youth also called mother.

I remember the time when government wanted to pass a BNYC Bill that would have made it almost a government department, contravening the Common Youth Councils’ principles. She, much against many in her party, listened to the youth’s voice, and she withdrew the Bill at the verge of its adoption by Parliament, saving the BNYC to live to fight another day though it was later obliterated by the former Minister of Youth, Sport & Culture, Honourable Thapelo Olopeng.

I remember the time when some cabinet ministers and BDP Members of Parliament (MPs) who were fighting their political battles with the then BNYC Executive Director, Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele, wanted BNYC’s funding stopped, but she stood up for the youth. Honourable Kokorwe, affectionately called Mma Stompie, stood up for the youth when she resisted the Department of Youth & Culture’s attempts to close BNYC’s district offices simply because its district officers did not want ‘competition’ from BNYC’s district officers.

I remember how she supported the drafting and adoption of a pro-youth and progressive National Youth Policy and National Youth Strategy. I remember how she tried, in vain, to prevail over the BNYC Board when a few Board members, who were acting as agents provocateurs for the BDP, were vying for my dismissal from the BNYC simply because they suspected that I was a member of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

She endorsed the National Youth Charter despite the fact that some in her party and in government generally regarded it as leftist. What mattered to her was its strategic foundations. In dealing with the youth, Honourable Kokorwe never bothered to enquire about their political affiliation. She related with the youth from her party, the ruling BDP, and the Opposition alike. No wonder Honourable Kokorwe, born on 28th November 1947 in Cape Town, South Africa, has had a very successful public life. Before joining politics, she had an illustrious career as senior civil servant.

That she rose from a position as low as a typist and minor clerical worker to Speaker of the National Assembly, especially during the time when gender inequality was rife, is indeed admirable. Honourable Kokorwe did not just become Speaker. She worked her way up the ladder, serving as Commercial Officer for  Lobatse; Town Clerk for Sowa Township Council and Gaborone City Council. She also served as Assistant Council Secretary for Kgatleng District; Chief Training Officer for local government officials and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Kgatleng District.

In 1999, she was elected to the National Assembly. Former President, Festus Mogae, then appointed her Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Local Government, a position she served with aplomb until 2004.She then served as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, becoming the first woman to hold the position, from 2004 to 2008, when former President, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, appointed her as Minister of Youth, Sport & Culture, a position she held until 2009.

It was then that Honourable Kokorwe was called to the diplomatic service, becoming Botswana’s High Commissioner to the Republic of Zimbabwe, a position she held until 2014. Though she was based in Harare, Zimbabwe, she also had non-resident accreditation to   Malawi,   Mozambique, and Madagascar. After diplomatic service, Honourable Kokorwe returned to Parliament as Speaker of the National Assembly, a position she has held from November 2014 to date after defeating another giant of our time, Dr. Margret Nasha, who made history by becoming the first female Speaker of the National Assembly.  

Over and above making history as the first woman to hold the position of Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Kokorwe made history again when, in August 2008, she became the first parliamentarian in Botswana's history to have a private member's bill enacted into law. Honourable Kokorwe, one of the forerunners of Botswana’s feminist movement, successfully tabled the Domestic Violence Act which was passed into law in September 2008, a few months after she left Parliament in December 2009 when she was appointed Ambassador.

Honourable Kokorwe is one of the few public figures who have not faced any corruption scandal despite being in the public eye for well over four decades. She, despite the several positions she has held, has remained humble. She has been a true servant of the people who has put country commitment and honour above everything else. She is indeed a true patriot, a citizen par excellence.

I am aware that Honourable Kokorwe has been awarded a Presidential Order of Honour (PH). In my view, she deserves such a higher honour as Naledi Ya Botswana. I hope we do not wait until we bestow it upon her posthumously. I hope we do not wait until she passes on to name something after her. Does it mean that even Thamaga, a constituency she has served with such distinction, cannot name anything, even a classroom, after her?  

I have said before that we should celebrate our heroes and heroines when they are still mortals living among us rather than celebrate them when they are no more. In my view, honourable Kokorwe is one such heroines, a true patriot, a living legend and a citizen par excellence whose life deserves to be celebrated today for tomorrow may never come.

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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


  • 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. 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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