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Team Players or just Yes Men?

As someone who has never been a civil servant, I begin with an admission of own ignorance and puzzlement and a hope that others who are better informed will explain.

Hesitantly, therefore, very hesitantly - the times being what they are – with a Speaker given 24 hours security protection and a newspaper  owner/editor in court on a charge of sedition -  I want to pose a question.

How can Minister Tshekedi, ‘vow to purge his non-performing staff’? (head line - The Telegraph December 14). If I remember correctly there was a similar headline recently relating to Minister Mokaila’s determination to rid himself and his Ministry of his Permanent Secretary, Neil Fitt.

Apologies for any inaccuracies but it has become difficult to keep abreast of the many recent purges, transfers, resignations, sudden promotions and firings. 

Thus, may I ask if Minister Tshekedi (and other Ministers) is the employer of everyone in his Ministry, that he has signed employment contracts with them, sets their salary levels and conditions of service, is empowered to hire and fire and that their only right of appeal is to himself?

 I was puzzled by Minister Tshekedi’s insistence that he is a team player who wants everyone else to share that characteristic.

‘If you are not a team player’, he is quoted as saying, ‘I will gladly remove you or you remove yourself before I do.’ (The Telegraph December 14) Wow.

An insistence on team playing can so often mean doing, without query, precisely what the lead figure requires. Is this really the way to generate team spirit and to instill motivation?

Threats can prove to be horribly counter-productive. But I do wonder if the fate of perhaps a great many civil servants is now determined by the subjective judgement, for better or worse, of a single individual? 

What happened to all those performance enhancing strategies which were supposed not least to provide a fairer means of appraising individual capabilities?

In the past, I have regarded those one time fashionable SWATS, PMS and so on, as a complete waste of time and money. Recent developments appear now to support that view because the objective systems that were supposed to be put in place seems to be no longer existent being replaced by one which is personality determined. How come? 

Three recent firings or more diplomatically, transfers without need to fire, bother me.

I have never been impressed by the succession of hugely expensive consultancies, in their various emanations, most recently SPEDU, which were supposed to generate development in

the Phikwe area.

But it is impossible now to view the firing of the hugely qualified SPEDU Director, Dr Mokubung, with the almost simultaneous appointment, as the new Phikwe supremo of the recently retired Governor of the Bank of Botswana, Linah Mohohlo.

Did the one, in effect, have to make way for the other? My next problem relates to chief executive officer, Thabo Dithebe who recently resigned as Director of Tourism, citing an impossibly hostile working environment. It would seem that, regardless of his working performance, and achievements, Dithebe may have felt that he had no choice but to resign because he got in the way of his Minister’s wishes or, if you prefer because he had proved to be a poor team player 

My third problem concerns Fitt who, as with the other two, I have never met and about whom I have almost zero knowledge. All three appear to me to have one attribute common to all.

Each one achieved their respective jobs, as a result of the presumably routine processes of recommendation and evaluation.

Each one had a proven track record.

But all them, within a short period of time, were found wanting, and dumped. Of the three, Fitt’s career in government, in its various manifestations, is the most extraordinary. extraordinary.

Rarely out of the news in recent weeks, he was named as one of the BMC’s fall figures but, nothing lost, was soon appointed a Permanent Secretary.

Retaining the same post as Permanent Secretary. he was then transferred to a different Ministry, seemingly at Minister Mokaila’s behest.

Either Fitt is an incompetent mistakenly appointed to high positions or he is a competent individual who has found himself in the wrong places at the wrong time.

But are so many of appointments in the civil service made as a result of a personal whim?

If so, it is difficult to believe that all civil servants are now other than fully aware that their fate depends on a system which appears to be subjective and capricious.

But a further common factor, which is threaded through so many recent stories of upheaval in the civil service is interference by an outside authority.

The effect on the morale of a civil service, which by its nature revolves around inherent notions of working together, or expressed differently, team play, can only be severe.

Etcetera II



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