Once lost, trust is invariably almost always impossible to restore.
Following leaked documents of spin last week, the burden to win back public confidence is going to be awesome for PEEPA Chief Executive, Joshua Galeforolwe, and his executive team.
He will need a strong presence of spirit and personality to restore public confidence in himself and in PEEPA.
It is very unlikely that he will succeed.
He may be under immense pressure to be seen to be doing something at his office, but the use of cynical media manipulation as a tactic is bound to backfire and fuel a backlash of public outrage.
It is not yet clear exactly why PEEPA would want to privatize Air Botswana at all costs, including the use of tricks so patently and explicitly dubious.
What is clear though is that for privatization to even takeoff, sincerity and forthrightness are going to be elementary pre-requisites.
Galeforolwe’s new found role as a spin doctor, ostensibly against members of parliament, has killed his prospects of successfully seeing through his mandate of privatizing state assets; a process he comes across as impatient to see get done.
He definitely should have anticipated the firestorm of backlash and public recrimination his spin documents would unleash if found out as they have been.
He has killed whatever trust the public had for PEEPA.
The leaked memos are destined to spark festering feelings of antipathy towards him as a person and PEEPA as an institution.
The PEEPA Chief has no one to blame but himself.
I don’t see PEEPA gaining a toehold again, certainly not in the near future.
Although it can be lost with frightening ease, public trust is never easy to regain.
It, therefore, should never be risked or put to the test, yet disappointedly that is just what the PEEPA executive team led by Galeforolwe did last week.
Trust is a priceless commodity.
It cannot be bought back by use of spin.
Even if it is regained, the relationship can never be like it was before the collapse.
Last week’s leaked memos have dealt a grievous and irreparable damage to PEEPA and to privatization in Botswana.
What the memos did was to test the public trust on PEEPA to the limit.
The theatrics were not worth it.
Now the whole institution of PEEPA is paying the price.
The only way out is to go back to basics of honesty and sincerity.
It will have to start with an apology, clearly underscoring the supremacy of parliament as the people’s voice.
Otherwise the whole privatization process, which by the way is already tainted, will get even more muddled.
The knock-on effect from the leaked memos is inevitable.
There is no doubt that J.B. Galeforolwe is under tremendous pressure to justify his budget which, by the way, has been running for about five years now; but he needs a careful eye, or else problems will persist.
The moral case for openness, fairness and honesty in the privatization of state assets cannot be emphasised.
It’s difficult to see how the leaked memos from PEEPA Chief add to those virtues.
Galeforolwe should be advised that the public hates the use of spin and rhetoric.
He should be advised to refrain from media manipulation.
He should be advised that only genuine reforms will elicit public sympathy.
He should be advised that fears expressed by members of parliament are shared by the nation at large.
And, as such, instead of turning himself into a public relations sales executive, Galeforolwe should become a guardian and true custodian of the policy that established the agency that pays his salary.
If he does not take this advice, he can rest assured that public disillusionment against him and his PEEPA is set to grow.
It will be difficult for PEEPA to disentangle itself from the current mess. Even before the latest PEEPA gaffes, privatization in Botswana has never been short of critics.
The leaked memos by PEEPA have only widened and increased the critics’ voices.
As a result, PEEPA should not be surprised if the public mood changes against them.
More than anyone else, Galeforolwe should have known that Air Botswana privatization has, right from the beginning, been on the floodlights of public scrutiny and media publicity.
He should have been more cautious.
More than anyone else, he should have been aware of the undercurrents of manipulation of the transaction by some influential personalities in government especially at the Office of the President.
Presciently, he should have stayed over board, and not allowed himself to become part of the story.
Unfortunately, PEEPA’s clumsy attempt to put a pretty face on what is essentially a botched up privatization deal by government is unpardonable.
Galeforolwe and his team are as guilty as the cabinet that is ramming this down the nation’s throats.