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EL NIÑO HAS BECOME EL HOMBRE!

Thank God for social media. News have always travelled fast, but ever since the advent of social media, they've received rocket boosters. Such is the tremendous velocity of news travel that sometimes I swear news have been reported before they happened! Yes, sir! I lie not! I've lost count of the number of times news went viral that someone had kicked the bucket while they're still alive. But wait for it! Before long, those very people would kick the bucket! So, you see, news of their departure burned our ears before they actually checked out.

And then you claim not to believe in Prophets! I've said all of that because once again I've been following the news from my country from my serene surroundings of Southern California.

I've followed with religious devotion the daily trickle of newsfeeds about the kind of weather phenomenon that's held the entire country at ransom without naming the price. From what I could glean, the sun over Botswana has been taking performance enhancing drugs. It's the only conclusion I could make. Laugh not.

The guys over at the Weather Bureau, who, like Prophets, are tasked with foretelling us how the weather will behave, have been giving the nation dire warnings of the kind of hot weather that's animated! Yes, the kind of heat that's so self-assured and arrogant that it waves! It goes by the name, "Heatwave." You see, heatwave is unlike your regular heat. Uh-uh! Heatwave is born from another mother; manufactured from another lab, with freakish capabilities like the experiment of a mad scientist gone horribly wrong.

Years ago, when the climate decided that we weren't being baked and roasted at the correct temperature, it was introduced by another name – an exotic one. The name bandied about at the time; the name that had us all enthralled in awe and wonderment, was El Niño. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? I love Spanish. It's a very nice language. And, El Niño is Spanish for, "The Baby." I don't know why the climactic phenomenon of a warming planet resulted in such a naming. It's not like babies are hot.

For the life of me, I cannot find the connection between heat and babies. I guess I'll need to pursue that subject further. I'll tell you what I discover. But, you see, it doesn't end there. Here in Botswana, our things are never like the things of others. We're a special people. Our peculiarities and idiosyncrasies are the stuff of folklore and timeless.

Right around the time the phenomenon of El Niño was gaining traction, news blared through our village Omega and Tempo radios that a Motswana man who'd long left for Europe against his will was coming home! But wait! The man in question had left in the 19th century or thereabouts and his remains were in Europe and needed to be returned home. As it turned out, "home" was here – right here in Botswana. Our dear brother, not having a name known by anyone since all his buddies were nowhere to be found, not to mention his next of kin, was given a name.

That name? El Negro! Indeed it never rains but it pours! So, in a very short time while we were still trying to come to terms with El Niño, here comes El Negro! Anyway, to cut a long story short, few of us today remember anything about El Negro, although some kind of national fuss was made over him. He soon got relegated back into blessed memory where he belonged to begin with. On the other hand, El Niño has endured. In fact, the baby has grown into a very strong man. As I write this, the entire globe is at its wits' end trying to contain him.

He has become a big problem child. El Niño the baby has become "El Hombre," – The Man. I kept reading reports and seeing car dashboard photos of temperatures on the wrong side of 40-degrees Celsius. The national outcry was almost reminiscent of the Biblical "weeping and gnashing of teeth." El Niño is here and he's no baby he was all those years ago.

His diaper is full and we are feeling the tantrum. Being a preacher, I naturally had to think transcendentally. Yes, it was hot. Yes, it's hot. But, there is a much, much, much, hotter place the Bible speaks of. In fact, it's so hot that the great part of humanity has chosen to believe, as a self-comfort mechanism, that it's symbolic or even fictitious. You guessed right. I'm talking about Hell.

The word "hell" has in fact come to be universally used to describe all things terrible. Of course, even amongst the devout, beliefs about the existence of Hell are varied. Some believe there is a Hell, while others vehemently refute its existence. To the latter, the idea of an eternal place of damnation is irreconcilable with the theology of a loving God.

To some, Hell exists and eternally so. To others, Hell does exist but is not eternal in duration of punishment for the damned. Many like to argue by using such reasoning as, “I believe these religious views are private matters and should not be pressed upon people.” No one is pressing anything here.

But if you feel pressed, that's too bad. You are reading this column that you chose to read, and you can move on to the Sports section at any time. Others would argue that, “The existence of a burning hell is only the opinion of some, while many others disagree.” Yes, but the opinions of those who believe in a literal burning Hell are based on clear passages of Scripture while the opinions of those who disagree are based on liberal interpretations and outright denials of Scripture.

Pleading innocent while playing the, “I just don’t know who to believe anymore” game is nothing less than stupidity. Friend, your eternal soul could be at stake! Suppose you are asleep one night and someone in your home wakes you and says, “I think I smell something burning.”

Then someone else says, “Oh, go back to sleep. I don’t smell anything.” What would you do? I seriously doubt that the majority of people reading this article would just go back to sleep before walking through the house and making sure of their safety.

However, most people reading this article will brush aside this issue, at least for the time being, and some forever. Why would one not want to know the truth about Hell? It’s really a simple thing: truth calls for a response. People have their busy lives and they do not want to be interrupted with things, especially not negative things, and definitely not negative things that are life-changing in nature. If you know for certain that Hell exists, then you must violate your conscience in order to keep living in sin.

This, of course, would bother you, and you prefer to not be bothered. So, you’ll be tempted to downplay this article and tend to something “more important.” Hopefully, you will not die in the process. Most people do die in the process because “the process” turns out to last for the duration of their lives. That is, they never “get around” to facing eternity seriously.

The words “Hell” and “damn” are extracted from the Bible and used as curse words while the true application of these words is mostly ignored. Others may accept the doctrine of an eternal burning Hell, but then condemn themselves to Hell by refusing to take the “fire escape.” Finding a person who believes the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, can be quite a task these days.

This writer is such a person, but he has learned through the years that most of his readers are not. This article is filled with the words of God and supportive comments on those words. That is, nothing in this article will correct any part of the Bible (KJV) with the opinions of men. This author’s words and the words of any other man used will be used to help explain what God’s word has already said.

Also, no portions of Scripture will be used out of context in order to teach something that the context doesn’t teach. You are about to read a solid and sound Bible-believing and Bible-honoring work on the subject of Hell. If you believe the Bible, then you’ll have no problem with this article.

If you doubt the Bible while having a tendency to read and follow the views of men, then you might as well grab a pizza or roll over and take a nap. If my often straight-forward approach offends you, please accept my insincere apology. However, I believe we are dealing with a very serious subject and some straight talk is in order.

I’ll try to be well balanced and show some grace through this submission, but I will not do injustice to the word of God by addressing the subject of eternal damnation lightly.

After all, if Hell is real (and I certainly believe it is), then souls are dying and going there every second. Yes, every SECOND. You can do your own math, but if you figure the world death rate into Matthew 7:13-14, you won’t get a pleasant picture.

Conservatively speaking, every time you’ve read a line on this page, at least one more person has dropped into Hell fire for eternity. Statisticians tell us that roughly 156,000 people die daily in the world. I wonder how many of those make it to Heaven? If the Bible is anything to go by, then the answer is very few. And I can safely say that most of those who find themselves in Hell got the shock of their lives (or is it the shock of their "after-lives?") since they had lived their lives believing that Hell couldn't possibly exist.

The premise that the Bible is a symbolic book, much less a “highly” symbolic one, is a false and dangerous premise. Yes, the Bible offers some symbolism, as do most writings of men, but Satan has deceived people into over-emphasizing Biblical symbolism. Most of the Bible deals with history – the history of man’s relationship to his Creator. Within that recorded history, one can learn of many things about God and His plan. As He reveals these things to us, He sometimes uses symbolism, but this doesn’t make the Bible a symbolic book.

It is simply a book that contains some symbolism. In November, 1993, Evangelist Billy Graham told Time magazine that he didn’t believe in a literal burning hell. He said that the Biblical hell was “possibly an illustration of how terrible it’s going to be – not fire, but something worse, a thirst for God that cannot be quenched.” As great a man as he is and much as I respect him, Graham had no Scriptural authority for making such an assumption.

He was merely giving his opinion, possibly designed not to alarm people. A preacher’s duty is to preach all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27), not speculate about things that might “possibly” be an “illustration.” To make matters worse, Graham “air conditioned” Hell by describing it as merely a “thirst for God,” something that wouldn’t move any sinner to repentance.

Why didn’t Jesus describe Hell this way, rather than leaving its occupants smoking with fire and brimstone? Graham’s symbolism is unscriptural symbolism, as is that of many other preachers. When the Bible uses symbolism, it is quite obvious. Jesus once said, “I am the door" (John 10:9). That statement cannot possibly be taken literally, so it must be taken as symbolism.

Jesus is definitely not a door in the literal sense! El Niño would have fried your brains if you took that literally! He also said, “I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14). Jesus wasn’t literally a shepherd, His followers aren’t literally sheep, and literal wolves (John 10:12) are not a threat to Christians. In fact, most Christians have never seen a wolf nor will they see it in their lifetime.

Those are symbolic terms because they can’t be literal. Hell, on the other hand, can be literal. Is it possible that a Christian can be a sheep with four legs in a pasture? No, that’s not possible. Is it possible that a literal lake of fire can exist somewhere? Yes, just open any standard text book on physical science, and you can see a lake of fire. For that matter, just run an Internet search on “earth’s core,” and you’ll see plenty. The only question is, "Does God condemn sinners to such a place?" According to the Bible, He does.

The term “hell” occurs 54 times in the Bible, and never once is it impossible for the word to be taken literally. Take the first occurrence, for instance, which is Deuteronomy 32:22: “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” To say that “hell” in this verse is symbolic would demand further commentary regarding the earth and the mountains. Are they symbolic as well? “Maybe they are,” one might suggest. Well, if they too are symbolic, then convenient symbolism becomes the standard by which men read and understand the Bible.

If that’s the case, then why bother reading it at all? Everything in the Bible could mean anything, and no one would know anything for certain! There must be a safe standard by which we can distinguish symbolism from literal application. The safest standard is the "possibility" standard: if it’s possible that a given passage can be literal, then it is literal.

If it’s impossible, then it’s symbolic (“I am the door,” etc.) Anyone who seeks a lesser standard is not a Bible believer and is not worthy of your learning time. Whatever your theological leaning, one thing we all associate with Hell is intolerable heat and suffering. And, of recent, the ravaging savagery of El Niño has been intolerable. The recent temperature surges have made theologians out of atheists.

I happen to have heard on more than one occasion people asking themselves and no one in particular, "If we cannot handle 40-degrees Celsius, how can we then possibly handle the fires of Hell?" I could only nod in agreement and contemplation. Religious or not, the recent temperatures have got to prod you to ask yourself uncomfortable questions.

Granted, you can continue on an assumed scientific or natural paradigm whereby your idea of the physics of the universe is self-governing. You are well within your rights to altogether banish the possibility of there being a Hell and just focus on getting past the heatwave or investing in air conditioning.

Or you can start to ask yourself questions like, "What if there is a Hell?" If 40-degrees Celsius has you speaking French, how do you think you'll fare should you find yourself amongst those in Hell? Assuming that Hell is in the center of the Earth as the Bible suggests, then that mean we're looking at the Earth core surface temperatures of between 4,400-degrees and 6,500-degrees Celsius! That's over one hundred times the average temperature of the recent heatwave.

Let that sink in for a minute. I think El Niño has now grown into El Hombre because we didn't take him seriously enough. Now he has upped the ante and we are starting to talk. I just hope that as we talk, we will end up remembering the God who is still in control even when nature seems to be out of control.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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