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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 Our laws regarding these matters are based on out-dated European/ English laws, that in turn are based on outdated Christian approaches.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 imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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