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True Grit

I am working closely with two MDs who hardly surprisingly both feel emotionally tested by a second lockdown. They feel that they were just getting things back on track and regaining business traction when the wind was sucked from their sails again, as business activity has for the most part ground to a halt.

As one of them asked, “How much more can be thrown at me?”, as along with this she simultaneously battles several personal health and financial challenges? Of course, I don’t have an answer because let’s face it, you couldn’t make this year up. I also have no clear answer in terms of what each manager should work on in terms of how they are experiencing it all.

An obvious place to go is to the resilience domain which Psychology Today describes as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” Basically, it’s the ability to bounce back – being able to put up with disappointment and setbacks and instead of you spiralling into a depression or wallowing in it, you get back up, dust yourselves off and continue with your life.

I have no doubt that the people and businesses which survive this period will be the ones who are resilient.  I had a sort of epiphany on this the other day when I was out running. I was reflecting that when I started running a few months ago after a decade-long hiatus, each time I would start the run with a feeling of dread. Fear. I feared the discomfort – the heavy breathing, the hills, the struggle.

I have spent a chunk of my life as a runner, so I was familiar with how to run physically but I had forgotten how to run mentally. A few months on and it is different. I look forward to the discomfort and struggles which comes with running, the heavy breathing from exertion, the sight of a big hill up ahead that says to me ‘ok now ,this is going to hurt’. I had forgotten that the struggle is all part of it and now it’s the part which I relish. As you can imagine, the shift in attitude and mental toughness has resulted in a shift in achievement and performance.

It’s the same thing that is needed dealing with this period. Mental toughness is having that “personality trait which determines in large part how individuals deal with stress, pressure and challenge irrespective of circumstances” (Strycharczyk, 2015). With my two managers I was asking myself if they should be working with resilience which would allow then to recover from the setback of a second lockdown or should their focus be mental toughness which could help prevented them from experiencing a setback in the first place? As Strycharczyk further puts it, “All mentally tough individuals are resilient, but not all resilient individuals are mentally tough”.

Or maybe it’s about grit which may appear synonymous with mental toughness, but I think it is more than that. Guy Claxton defines it as “the tendency to sustain interest and effort towards long term goals. It is associated with self-control and deferring short term gratification”.

One simple way to think about the differences between resilience and grit is that resilience more often refers to the ability to bounce back from short-term struggles, while grit is the tendency to stick with something long-term, no matter how difficult it is or how many roadblocks you face. In today’s world for us that means dealing with these short-term interruptions like lockdown and settling into the new normal.

Back to my runner’s analogy, when training we work on discomfort – that’s what the long runs and hill work are all about. Eventually you find yourself in that place where you feel physically depleted – often referred to as ‘hitting the wall’ – and then all that you are left with is the mind. Different runners have different strategies, but it seems most have a combination of using associated and detached thinking when the going gets tough, a mix of internal and external thoughts.

So, the runner recites internal stuff like a mantra – for example, ‘I am strong, I am tough’. Long-distance runner Kara Goucher, for example, said “I try to think about positive things – how great my form is, how my arms are swinging, my breathing, how loud people are cheering. My sports psychologist taught me there are a million things telling you, you can’t keep going, but if you find the things that say you can, you’re golden”.

For Ryan Hall who has the second fastest marathon time by an American, he is more outward focused in his thinking. “I think about Jesus on the cross. I think about my wife. I think about my family watching the race at home. Sometimes I really don’t think about anything. I find the best way to manage pain is not to have a set formula because different things work at different times. What matters is that the thoughts are positive”.

So here’s the rub.  If you, like two of my managers, are struggling currently, it doesn’t matter whether you have internal or external goals and drivers as long as you have a plan. See this period as the opportunity to train yourself in grit, resilience, or mental toughness. It doesn’t matter what you call it but know two things – It is trainable, and positivity plays a big part in all of it.

You might be comparing it to the unanswerable riddle of which came first, the gritty chicken issue or the resilient egg problem, but I say it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t stick your head in the sand like an ostrich. Tough times are not going away, and nobody ever won by being chicken but they well might have ended up with egg on their face!

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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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