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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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The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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