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Runing Scared

Looks like we’re on a slow crawl back to business, hopefully the start of regaining a semblance of order and familiarity when those deserted streets, closed shops and traffic-free roads will be naught but a memory. But before the new normal, lets reflect.

From a business perspective we have learned a considerable amount in a very short time: we have learned that future thinking is an essential component of business, along with agility – as organisations were forced to rapidly change their business models. I used to urge clients to interview remotely and they would say it could not be done and now managers who two months ago did not know what Zoom was, are now in virtual meetings every day as if it’s as familiar as using the phone.

Inevitably there have been changes and realisations on a personal level too. Change can force you to look at things in a new light and challenge your current beliefs, values, and knowledge. There are things which we do in life that are important to us, not just as activities or hobbies but because they extend way deeper than that and become integral values.

I myself spent the best part of my adult life running. I was never a great runner if you are measuring competitiveness and ability but I did a few marathons, even an ultra-marathon, but all very modest and fun achievements. I ran everyday. I loved to run. I loved calling myself a runner. I loved associating with runners.  I even wore Nike running glasses casually –  it felt like I was the real deal!  It was my passion.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment that I stopped. I recall continual, crippling discomfort when I ran and, because I had Degenerative Disc Disease (don’t be fooled by the big name – it’s as common as wrinkles in older people). I discerned that a condition caused by wear and tear and aging would be ill-served by pounding the pavement and with this  I concluded I had to stop.

That was hard because some of the happiest times in my life have been when my running was going well and some of my greatest revelations have come when running. Running was both a companion and teacher. It taught me resilience, meditation, working through pain and discipline. Running taught me that every hill eventually ends, pain is temporary and how easy it is to be in the moment when it is just yourself, with body working with breathing on the road.

My language changed to I used to run, I loved running and when I ran. I tried to fill the vacuum with gym and yoga and although I really like yoga, it has always felt like a poor second best. There has always been something that I got out of distance running that I have been unable to replicate elsewhere. I was envious of others who could run, often feeling a pang of loss and envy when I saw others running.

During lockdown it hit home that life is short and everything can change overnight. The impermanence of life felt illuminated and although there was not a single’ eureka’ moment, my musing took me to the question ‘why did you stop running? The answer I found was because I believed I could not anymore.

No doctor’s diagnosis, no proof positive, just an untested belief and one that made me quite dissatisfied. I was only one Google away from “can you run with DDD?”, a question I had never asked but when I did found a positive answer.

At the same time my state of mind and thinking was being influenced by a Dutch extreme athlete called Wim Hof, noted for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures and who holds the world record for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow and for climbing Kilimanjaro in two days wearing only shorts and shoes! As I have run both a half marathon and climbed Kilimanjaro, albeit suitably clothed, I was intrigued by my kindred spirit.

Known as the Iceman, Hof proved that we can voluntarily influence our automatic nervous system, something previously thought impossible. And before you think that he is unique and a freak of nature to be able to do this, he proved that through his methods of mindfulness, breathing and exposure to cold,  he could get others to have the same control and achieve the same results. The power of mind over matter demonstrably personified.

So, I started running again and so far, so good. I don’t deny it’s humbling as my speed is gone and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. It’s a struggle but one of those pleasurable struggles, like trying to finish every last morsel of your gateau. While I am not young anymore, the muscular memory is still there and it’s just awesome to be running again. So, I can run with DDD.  Is my back still sore? Yes. Can I feel the stiffness and pain?  Yes. But I get to do what I love again and is it any worse? No!

This is not just about mind over matter its about changing the constantly running stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we deserve, what we need, what we can do (or can’t). You can’t play the R Keely song ‘I believe I Can Fly’ and then meditate and expect it to happen, because that’s not practical. But how often do we envy freedom looking through the bars of an open cage? How many lies do we tell ourselves about what we can and cannot do? How many opportunities are we missing because we are finding reasons why we should not instead of why we should? How many of our passions have we killed when the reasons are not justified?

I will be grateful for the lockdown for giving me back my true joie de vivre and letting me literally run free.  How about you?

 

This is not just about mind over matter its about changing the constantly running stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we deserve, what we need, what we can do (or can’t). You can’t play the R Keely song ‘I believe I Can Fly’ and then meditate and expect it to happen, because that’s not practical. But how often do we envy freedom looking through the bars of an open cage? How many lies do we tell ourselves about what we can and cannot do? How many opportunities are we missing because we are finding reasons why we should not instead of why we should? How many of our passions have we killed when the reasons are not justified?

 

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Moses vs Ramesses

28th July 2020

Moses returns to Egypt to reclaim the Pharaonic throne

When Moses was deposed as Pharaoh Akhenaten of Egypt in 1352 BC, General Atiku, he was not officially banished from Egypt: he was obliged to flee Egypt as he was not hundred percent sure of his safety.

Ideally, the place he should have headed to was Harran, in modern-day Turkey. Harran was apt in that not only was it the place of his ancestry but it was the major domicile of the Hykso-Hebrews. There, the Hykso-Hebrews abounded more than in any other place on the globe, including Canaan.

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Turn CEDA into a Commercial Bank

28th July 2020

The announcement by President Mokgweetsi Masisi that CEDA now was in position to loan sizeable and therefore worthwhile sums the nation as a matter of course greeted with enormous glee.

As much as I too was euphoric at the news, I could not at the same time help a feeling of censorious pique which dates back to the time I was CEDA chairman from 2006 to 2008.

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Parley July meeting: an executive affair

28th July 2020

Monday the 27th Parliament will resume its July meeting. What is specifically on the agenda of Parliament in this coming meeting? A lot! There will be government and Private Bills, policy proposals, questions, themes and motions.

The meeting is also likely to be punctuated by statements from ministers on a variety of issues. Some statements may come as preemptive strikes to prevent the opposition from either making speeches on the subjects ahead of the government or to simply forestall questions on same.  The House is expected to be active for five weeks nonstop. It is obviously a very short time considering the agenda.

Before its adjournment sine die in March, Parliament was supposed to discuss the National Development Plan 11 Midterm Review. This is what will become a priority of the government in its order of Business or scheduling. The government is expected to table an addendum to the already tabled review document.

The reason is simple, COVID-19 has not only gobbled funds from the fiscus, but has also resulted in a sharp decline in government revenue. The mainstay of the economy is mining, particularly diamonds revenue. These germs are mainly luxury commodities which are prone to international market changes.

Diamonds and other precious goods are seldom needed in large quantities during turbulent times such as these. Those countries that depend on them, such as Botswana, are always at high risk of external shocks. Southern African Customs Union revenue is also likely to decline because of slump in trade.

Tax collection has gone down due to many obvious reasons. Tourism has been shattered. Non-mining sector has also been negatively affected. Therefore, the estimated revenue has declined, necessitating a serious review of the development plan.

Which Bills are likely to be debated in this coming meeting? Two Botswana Defence Force Amendment Bills have been Gazetted; one is Private and the other a government proposal.

The private Bill is proposing to rectify the injustice of not fully paying soldiers who are on indictments or suspensions. The government Bill is a minor amendment relating to the BDF Court Marshall Judge Advocate General position.

Other government Bills include Income Tax Amendment, BURS Amendment, Citizenship Amendment, Legal Practitioners Bill, Environment Assessment Amendment, Financial Reporting Amendment, Accountants Amendment, Citizen Economic Empowerment Bill and a controversial one on Floor Crossing.

More interest will be on the anti-defection Bill and perhaps the citizen economic empowerment proposal. Other Private Bills to be tabled include Police and Prisons Amendment and the Media Practitioners Repeal Bill. Parliament will also debate the following policies; Climate Change, Tourism, National Energy and Minerals.

Whilst there is nothing on COVID-19, MPs are likely to ask questions on the pandemic. So many things come to mind as possibilities of issues likely to be raised. MPs are likely to ask the Ministry of Health, Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development about the whole pandemic fighting strategy.

There may be questions on the capacity and reliability of COVID-19 testing. Questions may be asked on positive cases that quickly become negative and or false alarms cases etcetera.

More focus may be on the budget and procurement. Some controversial tenders are likely to be questioned by MPs. It is expected that given the chance, MPs will likely lament the stoppage of food rations distribution by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

MPs will raise other miscellaneous issues on corona virus related policy decisions. These include the terms of engagement of the COVID Task Force and enlisting of the public relations private persons team from outside the government to help.

There may be questions by MPs on the business dealings of the President and his intention to acquire a government ranch, Banyana Farm. Clarity may be vehemently sought on these issues. Corruption related issues may be on the agenda of Private Business. So many issues have been reported; direct appointment of the 100KM NSC water pipe tender and other controversies may crop up.

There may be clarification required from the ministry responsible for international relations on the implications of the engagement of an Advocate working for Afri-Forum white supremacist organisation. The consequent and seeming tension between South Africa and Botswana will probably be on the agenda of MPs.

Recently the country has experienced serious fuel shortages. It is likely that parliament will raise issues on this matter and get the Minister to explain further.

Whilst this issue has been all over the media with clarifications offered by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary, parliament is likely to engage on the matter to get assurances into the record.

Answers will be demanded on the exact cause of the shortage, policy failures to predict the crisis and to avert it as well as the way forward.

Power issues have also irked MPs, particularly the recent tariff increases and recent threats to increase them even. All is definitely not well at Botswana Power Corporation, so MPs are probably going to probe these matters further.  It is clear that there is a lot that Parliament will deal with.

The disheartening fact to note is that most of the Government Business will be expected, by the executive, to pass through parliament rather than be passed by it. There is condescension for free and adequate debate as well as ostensible intolerance of alternative views from the backbench and the opposition by the frontbench.

The ruling party caucus will discuss all these matters and once explained fully by technocrats, the expectation will be for MPs to swiftly rubberstamp executive ideas without raising controversial issues or simply reasoning on the floor.

There will be no time to reason! There is likely to be limited time allocation, in terms of minutes allocated to individual MPs per debate, on all these matters aforementioned. The Speakership, which traditionally is the gatekeeper of the executive, is likely to fully cooperate and not protect the MPs against the executive wrath.

The executive will reason that five weeks is too short and that all business must be dispensed with before time elapses. Whilst the backbench will be unhappy with these decisions, there’s nothing it will do, it is numerically weak in the caucus.

The opposition will face the whole ruling party bench and be defeated in their protest for adequate debate time. That’s just how things work in Botswana parliament. The legislature is a governing tool of the executive; it is used to pass through policies, laws and budgets for the ruling party’s own political ends.

It is not an independent institution which can hold the executive accountable effectively. If Bills or policies are not completed and there’s about week remaining, everything could be squeezed into that one last week. It has happened before; the House can pass many Bills in one sitting, even if it means staying up until late night or wee hours of the morning.

There are private motions which if not withdrawn and replaced with new ones, may not address topical issues that arose as a result of or during COVID-19. These are motions which may seek accountability of the government on corona virus related policies.

One of the likely motions is the motion touted by one of the opposition parties; motion of no confidence on the government. If this motion comes on urgency, it may die on arrival.

The ruling party MPs will be under strict instructions to kill it the moment a question is put on whether the agenda should be changed to allow a debate on it.

The only way it can be debated is if it comes in through the normal process. Even that way there is no guarantee; the ruling party MPs may stay outside to kill the quorum like they do with motions they don’t want debated.

They may also debate it and unleash their ‘attack dogs’ and put their views across before defeating it. Other motions which may be tabled include COVID-19 related motions. Expectations of the general public should be managed; the next meeting may be the usual ruling party show to do as they please.

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