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In Support of Tshireletso: Ethics and Morality can never be frozen in time

In recent weeks several newspapers have carried news to the effect that Asst. Minister Botlogile Tshireletso supports the legalization or decriminalization of prostitution and abortion. If that is true, then I laud Ms. Tshireletso for being one of our few Political leaders to think out of the box. Our laws regarding these matters are based on out-dated European/ English laws, that in turn are based on outdated Christian approaches.

The world has moved on since our society’s first contact with Europeans and Missionaries in the 19th century; the Christian principles and practices they brought here at that time have undergone tremendous changes in their own countries.

They arrived here at the time when the Enlightenment was getting fully established in Europe. That resulted in Christianity in Europe giving up a lot of its primitive Christian traditions and its medieval practices. For example, there are no longer people burnt at the stake as “heretics”, capital punishment has all but disappeared in Western Europe, with a few exceptions safe abortion is now the norm, commercial sex work is generally decriminalized and legally regulated hence ensuring its practitioners are protected by the law, and same sex relationships are also accepted by law.


Christianity has a long history of evolution and change. The Christianity we practice now has little in common with the Christianity that formed after Jesus’s crucifixion in or around the year 30 CE. Jesus was a committed Jew; he was born and died a Jew, and participated in all the works of the covenant- circumcision, the dietary laws, observing the Sabbath and the festivals, and performing Temple rituals. That is why some historians do not subscribe to the view that Jesus founded Christianity.

That credit usually falls to Paul, who was initially a Pharisee, persecuting followers of Jesus, but a few years after Jesus’s crucifixion was converted to be his follower. It is only in the 40s in Antioch that followers of Jesus started to be called Christians, and from then on the Jesus Movement slowly broke away from Judaism.

“Christ” is actually not part of Jesus’s name; it is derived from the Greek word Christos, meaning ‘the anointed’, itself a translation from the Aramaic word Meshiach, which we call Messiah (Aramaic is the language that was spoken in Palestine during Jesus’s time). Paul popularized the use of ‘Christ’ as a name.


When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, only two Jewish sects from the late Second Temple period survived – the Pharisees and the followers of the Jesus Movement (the other main sects were the Essenes and the Sadducees). After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, while the Pharisees carried forward Judaism from being a Temple cult to being the Rabbinical Judaism we know today, the Jesus Movement slowly broke away from Judaism to become Christianity. This was because Jews generally did not accept Jesus as the expected Messiah, and more gentiles were converted to the new movement, resulting in Christianity becoming essentially a movement of the gentiles.


The first three hundred years of Christianity were tumultuous, full of controversies, such as the Arian controversy that lasted into the 5th century. Jesus himself had not left any writing.  Paul’s authentic letters were really the first writings of Christianity, written between 50 and 60 CE, 20-30 years after Jesus’s crucifixion. 

There are seven of these authentic letters, namely, 1st Thessalonians, Galatians, 1st Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 2nd Corinthians and Romans (in the order they were written). In his letters, Paul was actually responding to issues raised by the congregations he had started; he was not writing scripture. But early Christians found in Paul’s letters good guidance to Christian principles, and adopted them as scripture.

The other letters attributed to him, but which historians do not believe were written by him, such as Ephesians, Colossians, 2nd Thessalonians and the pastoral letters to Titus and Timothy, were written probably after his death which occurred in the early 60s. The four Canonical Gospels were written from about 70 CE, with the one attributed to Mark being the first one around 70 CE, followed by Matthew and Luke probably in the 80s and John in the 90s.


Early Christians or founding fathers used Paul a lot in the formulation of Christian theology. In the first centuries there were many Christianities, not one. Since Jesus had left no written guidance, many groups of Christians were formed with different theologies. For example, a major issue was Jesus Christ’s nature. Essentially, the question regarded his Christology; was Jesus fully God, was he fully Man, or was he something in between? Each view had a lot of supporters: some thought Jesus was God and not Man, some thought he was Man but not God, some thought he was both God and Man.

Some thought he was God who just took on a human body that was not real. There were other groups such as Gnostics and Marcionites. Eventually the group that thought he was fully God and fully Man won, not from merit of argument, but from garnering the support of the Emperors of the Roman Empire. This group came to be known historically as the proto-Orthodox group, because they eventually became the Orthodox group that took over the Church, what became the Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the East.

They articulated the concept of the Trinity as we know it now, confirmed at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon in the 4th century. The other groups disappeared because of vicious repression, including the burning of their books and literature. The Western Church, the Catholic Church, was under the Pope (the Roman Pontiff) and under the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Orthodox Church was under the Patriarch in Constantinople, which was also the seat of the Eastern Empire. The two operated for centuries as one Church, but in the 11th Century, the rivalry between the Western and Eastern Churches and their Pontiffs, burst into the open, resulting in the Schism of 1054.


Christianity has always had different groups with contending views in theology. From the early founding fathers such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Justin and others, there were always big points of argument. While Christology, the nature of Jesus Christ, dominated the contentions, human sexuality was always a point of argument too. Coming from Judaism, Christianity based its sexual morality on the first three of Chapters Genesis, the story of creation and the fall.

The Biblical legend of creation consists of two stories, one starting from Genesis 1:26 up to 2:3, and the other starting from Genesis 2:7 to the end of the Chapter (verse 25). God is said to have told humans to increase and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  After the second creation story, the Bible then states that a man is supposed to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, the two forming one flesh (Gen. 2:24).


God is said to have planted a garden eastward in Eden, and put his created humans there, giving them freedom to eat all trees except one- the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then, according to Genesis, Eve (the female), was tempted by the snake to eat the fruit of the tree they had been instructed not to eat as they would die if they ate it. The snake told Eve that they would not die if they ate it, instead they would be wise like the gods, knowing good and evil. She is the one that persuaded Adam to also partake of this fruit. This resulted in their falling out with God, and being chased out of Eden.

God is said to have given them a rather grim picture of the future, saying to Eve “ I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children,  yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”;  and saying to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which  I commanded you,  “you shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall  eat of it all the days of your life;…..By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it your were taken;….” (Gen. 3:16-19).


Later fathers of Christianity, notably Augustine in the early 5th century, used this story to conceive something called Original Sin. According to that concept, every human is born with the sin, having inherited it from the first couple, and it passing from generation to generation through semen!; and it is only removed by baptism. And according to this same concept, man is inherently sinful and cannot control his sexual desire. Augustine is credited by historians with being the most influential of the church theologians. His view of Original Sin strongly influenced the Church’s policies and traditions. His views on death and nature were also very influential, although they were at odds with what is now known.


This story of the fall of the first two humans from Paradise has shaped Judeo-Christian attitudes to sex since it was formulated, and these attitudes have been very influential in modern attitudes to sex generally. Unfortunately some of the early fathers of the Church blamed the woman for the whole fall- she is the one who was a temptress and treacherous, and the snake went to her knowing this, the snake representing the devil.

This was unfortunately translated into human sexuality- the forbidden fruit was interpreted by many of the early writers as sex. Judaism went on to set up an elaborate set of rules governing marriage and sexual relations between men and women, making sex outside marriage virtually punishable by death, under the name of adultery. According to them, sex was strictly for procreation, and the man and woman had to be married, even though the man could have more than one wife.

The man could divorce the woman, especially if the woman could not conceive! Jesus is quoted in the Synoptic Gospels as having talked against divorce when asked a question about it by the Pharisees. However the story of Adam, Eve and the Serpent, was largely influential in promoting and entrenching sexism and patriarchy.


Christianity was a further development on these rules. In the first three hundred years after Jesus’s crucifixion, Christianity spread quite fast in the Roman Empire, despite it being persecuted sporadically in various places. At different periods and in different localities, just professing to be a Christian was enough to get one sentenced to death, hence the emergence of martyrdom.

Yet Christianity spread quite relentlessly through Syria, Greece, Asia Minor, to Rome itself, after the pioneering work of Paul and other workers. How did it achieve that? Historians believe that the most determining factor was the social support it gave its converts. As stated earlier, the spread was mainly in gentiles; Jewish converts to Christianity remained few, and virtually dried up after the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. They were referred to as Ebionites and Nazarenes.


Christians became reputable for looking after the poor, including giving them good funerals. They formed strong support networks and did not discriminate against slaves, women or those from low social classes, whereas society in the Roman Empire was very stratified socially. Christians also propagated sexual behaviour and morals carried over from their Jewish origins but modified and made stronger. Monogamy was the norm; adultery was highly condemned as can be seen from Paul’s Epistles and from the Canonical Gospels. Practices that were generally accepted in the Empire, such as homosexuality, infant exposure for unwanted babies, abortion and prostitution, were condemned by Christianity.


When Christianity became the official religion of the Empire after it was embraced by Emperor Constantine in the early 300s, Christianity experienced a large number of converts from the pagan religions that had been the norm in the Empire. So Christian sexual practices progressively became the norm in the Empire, both the Western and Eastern branches.

Even after the fall of the Western Empire to the “Barbarians” in the fifth century, Christianity marched on, converting the conquerors themselves, so that Europe became Christian, hence the word Christendom. European civilization is therefore Christian based. It means that the whole West accepted Christian sexual mores, and these mores and other cultural and religious mores evolved into what is now known as Western culture and civilization. This civilization has evolved with time, through such phases as the Renaissance, the Christian Reformation, the Enlightenment and Modernity.


By our adoption of Christianity and Democracy as conceived in the West, we have actually become part of the Western culture whose development was based on Christianity. Our behaviour however suggests that in some aspects we are frozen in time, we are sticking to things that came to us early in the Enlightenment, which is the period when Missionaries and Europeans reached us. For example, while we profess to be a secular State, the churches try very hard to influence decisions at State level on the basis of their religious beliefs that should be individual choices.

Homosexuality is a personal matter and should remain so, unless of course it is related to rape or abuse of minors. In the same manner while we should not as a State encourage commercial sex work, we should not treat prostitutes as criminals. They should have access to health care to deal with their special risks and should enjoy protection against physical and sexual abuse. Abortion should similarly be a personal choice, and those in need of it should have access to safe abortion performed professionally. The Western countries, which brought Christianity to us have moved on; they don’t jail prostitutes and homosexuals; safe medical abortion is available to their people who need it, and they don’t hang murderers.


Christianity is a religion that was conceived by humans, and it has evolved as human culture and civilizations have evolved. And remember there are different Christianities even now- Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant (Lutheran, Reformed, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists etc.), Pentecostal, African Independent Churches and others. There are theological differences between these groups- their approaches to subjects like abortion, prostitution and homosexuality usually differ substantially.


This is why if indeed Minister Tshireletso is being correctly quoted, that prostitution should be decriminalized and abortion be legalized, she has my support. Our society has to move on!

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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