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2020 VISION


I am a sucker for New Year’s resolutions. The anticipation and pre-planning process starts about halfway through December when my intentions about intentions begin to form and lurk in my psychological ’ to do’  list (loosely translated that means I haven’t committed anything to paper or thought through my resolutions but there is an overwhelming sense that now is the time to start).

I saw a funny post on social media which said the earth makes one full rotation around the sun and then carries on doing exactly the same and everyone reacts with celebration and renditions of Auld Lang Syne – referring of course to the fact that the morphing from the end of December into the beginning of January is simply another day, all the more so because the Gregorian calendar is an artificial construct anyway. 

Looked at logically, the obvious time to mark a new rotational cycle would be the first day of spring, not 10 days after the official start of winter in Europe or summer in the southern hemisphere.  January 1st makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, yet just like most,  I too view the start of a new year as a defining moment – a new chapter, a fresh start or an opportunity to begin afresh.  ‘Happy New Year, Compliments of the Season and let’s hope it’s a good one’!

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that at the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults formed New Year's resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did and about 40% to 50% of Americans participated in the New Year's resolution tradition, according to the 1995 Epcot and 1985 Gallop Polls. A study found 46% of participants who made common New Year's resolutions (e.g. weight loss, exercise programmes, quitting smoking) were over 10 times likely to succeed than those deciding to make life changes at other times of the year.

So even if you think it is corny or you don’t accept there’s anything much to it, a resolution if nothing else,  is a self-improvement, to-do list and there has been countless research to support that simply writing down your intention increases your chances of turning that into a reality. The real beauty is in its simplicity – work out what needs to be done and in what order, write down the tasks, carry them out and then, one-by-one, cross them off.

There has been other research that has focussed on the brain’s obsession with pressing tasks which has been called the “Zeigarnik effect” – that we remember things we need to do better than things we’ve done.  For example, it was observed that waiters could only recall diners’ orders before they had been served. After the dishes had been delivered, their memories simply erased who’d had the steak and who’d had the soup. The deed was done and the brain was ready to let go and turn to the next table.

Unfinished events – like the fact that last year we had promised ourselves to start writing that book or get the family’s finances in order including filing and planning,  clean out our closet, go  swimming 3 days a week and do charity work at least once a month…– tend to prey on our ever-more-cluttered mind. So when the new year comes, we see the opportunity to start over, to try again and do better this time.

American psychologist Will Joel Friedman says that the dissonance caused by unfinished business prevents us from living fully in the present moment. What we've accomplished takes second place in our minds, and what we haven't done moves front and centre. While this may serve as a useful to-do list, it also increases stress and chips away at our self-esteem.

New Year's resolutions are an exercise in positivity.  Even if we made the same ones last year and failed to keep them, we feel optimistic about success this year. And it is not only the territory of individuals. Organisations make New Year’s resolutions all the time. They show up in budgets, goals, and strategic plans.

They are often launched in a flourish of sparkly communications via Whatsapp, Facebook or Twitter, purportedly from the Chairman of the Board or the CEO, jollying and chivvying everyone in the organisation to pull together and come back to work with a renewed optimism. “Let’s make it the best year ever!.”  And just like our individual lists,  corporate  resolutions are also statements of hope and promise, the opposite of which would be despair and disappointment.  Looked at in that light, they’re pretty well obligatory!

And for those of you who are either unconvinced about the purpose and efficacy or those who want to buy into it but are still undecided on exactly what to commit to, let me make it very simple.  No matter how you phrase it, nor how you intend to achieve it, all New Year resolutions, be they private or corporate, boil down to three things – health, wealth and happiness –  To quote Keats. “That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’”

And on that note, ‘Lang may your lums reek’!

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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