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Boko may have sealed victory for the BDP!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Recently, I ran a four-part series through which I interrogated the question whether or not Botswana would emerge from this year’s general election with a hung Parliament. As you may be aware, I concluded that we are unlikely to have a hung Parliament since, in my view, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is likely to win, albeit with a thin margin.

The reason for my conclusion is two-fold. Firstly, it is that under the leadership of His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, the BDP has gone through a rebirth which puts it in pole position compared to the Opposition. Secondly, it is that the Opposition has been weakened by the expulsion of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the fact that the Alliance for Progressives (AP) will be contesting outside the UDC.

I concluded that while the fact that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is now part of the UDC will, no doubt, increase the UDC’s fortunes, it will be outweighed by the BMD and AP factors. It was my further conclusion that the fact that the Botswana Patriotic Party (BPF) will be collaborating with the UDC in certain constituencies will not deter the BDP from winning its twelfth successive general election. This, because the BPF’s arch-sponsor, former president, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, is generally unpopular among many Batswana who believe his ten-year tenure was tyrannical. Some just believe that he has had his time and he should allow Masisi to rule unhindered.   

Recently, Afro-Barometer released a report which concluded, inter alia, that according to its survey conducted in July/August the ruling BDP would enjoy a 2-to-1 lead over the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). It gave the BDP 44% compared to the UDC’s 22%. It gave its margin of error as +/- 3% at a 95% confidence level. Another aspect that makes the BDP’s prospects of victory higher is that according to the survey though nearly 60% of the respondents said they feel closer to a political party while 40% said they do not, among those who feel close to a political party 56% identified with the ruling BDP, with UDC coming second at 22%.

Another factor which is favourable to the BDP is the possibility of absenteeism at the polls and vote splitting. The survey reveals that there are some UDC members who still identify with their old parties, with 5% rooting for the BCP and 3% for the Botswana National Front (BNF). 4% is rooting for the AP.  Of course, one is never certain until the voter has spoken through actual votes. All predictions may turn out to be wrong. In 2014, Afro-Barometer got it right in predicting BDP’s victory but got it wrong in its prediction that the BCP would come second followed by the UDC.

The reason why it may be so is that human behaviour can never be predicted with certainly. Also, in elections, some voters may change their minds in the final days, especially if something major happens politically. So, the aforegoing predictions notwithstanding, the UDC still stands a chance of winning or at least forcing a hung Parliament though I remain doubtful. In my view, the historic Presidential Debate that was held this week may have swayed some swing voters who had hitherto not been decided on which political party to vote for.

Unfortunately for the UDC, I think more of such swing voters may have been swayed more to the BDP than they were swayed to it. In fact, in my view, Ndaba Gaolatlhe’s AP may have benefited more than the UDC because of Gaolatlhe’s composure and intellectual prowess during the debate. Right during the debate, social media was lit with people’s disdain with UDC’s Advocate Duma Boko. Many described him as arrogant, both in his verbal and non-verbal communication.

But what may have cost him and the UDC the most is people’s dislike of his language, saying it is uncouth and disrespectful. This was especially in relation to the words he picked from Ratsie Setlhako’s song, referring to the BDP leadership, including Masisi, as Mathinthinyane, Rankoborwane, Magogajase, Rankurate, etc. In theory, Advocate Boko may have been right that ‘pina ya Setswana ga e na bosekelo’, but in practice he may live to regret using those words since some voters may punish him for that.

Condemnation against Advocate Boko was not only in social media, which is often wished away as less indicative of popular view. It was also in mainstream media. Many called in during live radio programmes condemning him. What should be worrying for Boko and the UDC is that the condemnation seemingly came from across the generational divide since both the young and the old condemned him. In my view, one may be taking it a bit too far in suggesting that the condemnation also came from across the political divide, but there are some who claimed they were going to vote for the UDC but have changed their mind because of Boko’s uncouth language and arrogance.

Of course, it is unlikely that long time and faithful Opposition supporters would change their vote because of one incident, especially considering that Boko has mobilised resources for the party which enabled it to match the BDP almost pound for pound in this year’s campaigns. It has to be said, however, that some people, presumably staunch UDC and/or Opposition supporters, came to Boko’s defence, finding no fault with his language and demeanour. On the contrary, they praised him for using rich Setswana. They regard those who chastise Boko as hypocrites since it is them who have always castigated Boko for shunning Setswana in preference for sophisticated English and Latin.

I think what made it worse for Boko is that none of the other presidential candidates took up his bait, not even the BPF’s Biggie Butale who was comical at times. Masisi, who would have been expected to respond to Boko, generally maintained his magnanimity despite the fact that Boko repeated such name calling. I think what Boko may have failed to realise is that while such language may have been appropriate at a freedom square it may not have been appropriate in such a debate which was watched by all, including conservative voters.

Also, Boko may have failed to realise that we are just from a cycle where many Batswana have been condemning politicians for using uncouth language, even at freedom squares. Nobody has faulted Boko for lack of substance during the debate. Indeed, though I believe that Gaolatlhe won the debate, I believe that Boko acquitted himself well, especially on governance related issues. It is for his language and non-verbal gestures that he has been castigated. The other issue for which some have blamed him is his failure to unconditionally confirm that the UDC will accept the outcome of the elections even if it were to lose.

Personally, I did not find much fault with his response because he made the acceptance of the outcome of the elections subject to the absence of electoral irregularities and vote rigging. Certainly, in such an event such an outcome is not to be accepted but is to be challenged through such lawful and democratic means as peaceful demonstrations and court action. I think that is what Boko mearnt. I do not think he mearnt that the UDC will take up arms and cause unlawful civil strife. So, though the BDP was still likely to win this year’s general elections, Boko’s language and non-verbal communication may have sealed victory for the BDP. But it may well be that the people who are claiming that they will vote the BDP because of Boko’s language and non-verbal communication during the debate are using that as a pretext and were still going to vote the BDP anyway.

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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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