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What goes online stays online

Jeff Ramsay

In these fast changing times, one is inclined to believe that there are two types of people in the world, those who are actively engaged in social media and those who are not.
The engaged now constitute about a quarter of the world’s population, including not less than ten percent of all Africans and at least one third of Batswana aged 18 and over. Collectively they have become both the drivers and guinea pigs of a rapidly emerging new global information order.
As the primary producers and distributors of user generated content the globally engaged are constantly expanding the boundaries of the virtual digital world, while seeking social authority within its conversation.  
This we are warned can all too easily become an obsession through extended use resulting in Internet addiction, accompanied by associated maladies such as sleep deprivation and a decline of non-virtual social interaction. Additional risks include exposure to various forms of cybercrime.
At the same time those who engage in any form of interactive online communications inevitably also become the targets of aggregated data mining by governments, commercial firms and others interested in their digital profiles. In the process they voluntarily if not always knowingly surrender much of their privacy.
Those not engaged in social media are often oblivious to its presence; being blind to the simple fact that Facebook and Twitter, along with Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, Youtube and Instragram etc. are quietly rearranging the world around them.
With the spread of mobile devices and public networks whether one is or is not engaged has increasingly become a matter of individual choice rather than material means. Among the engaged and non-engaged alike one may thus find both Prime Ministers and peasants.
The impact of social media is most visible in such otherwise high profile areas as entertainment, marketing and politics. With respect to the later a study released by the Pew Journalism Research Centre in the United States last month found that a solid majority, 62%, of all internet users accessed their political news from Facebook, which was about the same as proportion as those who turned to broadcast news and far higher than conventional news websites.
Election upsets as well as uprisings and other forms of unrest around the world, e.g. the Arab spring and the global reach and recruitment of groups such as the Islamic State bear further testimony to the growing political impact of social media.
In our own country and continent the predominant social media remains Facebook whose number of subscribers has been doubling every seven months. In September 2014 Facebook announced that its users on the continent had exceeded 100 million, with over 80% of traffic on mobile devices.
With respect to our own country earlier this year the number of active users was reported to have been some 450 thousand. This is consistent with the fact that the BWgovernment Facebook page this month reached a domestic audience of over 312 thousand, with another 200,000 external visitors. Among these over 90% were reached through mobile devices.
While BWgovernment’s followers are be found in every corner of the country, some two thirds of its domestic visitors were from the greater Gaborone area. Among these at any given time between 10% and 15% were interactively engaged. Many other institutional sites in the country also clearly enjoy mass following.   
Such numbers are reflective of a communications revolution whose commercial and political, as well as social, potential has yet to be fully appreciated by the engaged, much less the unengaged.
As this space has previously suggested, it is becoming increasingly clear that social media played a major in our last election and is likely to have an even greater influence five years from now, having overtaken not only print media but traditional news websites.
If this sounds like it could be a threat to the future survival of newspapers it certainly is; as is already reflected in stagnant and falling circulation here and elsewhere. This cold fact, as much as public complaints, institutional rebuttals, and the threat of law suits ought to concentrate the minds of publishers on the advisability of setting higher editorial standards.
If the quality of reporting by the commercial press is no longer perceived by the public to be at a level higher than the 24/7 user generated gossip and rumours found on Facebook, there will be little incentive for anyone to continue to pay their hard earned money on newspapers.
More broadly the near half million Batswana who are regularly engaged in social media constitute huge consumer base that can be reached, while external traffic onto Botswana based media also presents an obvious opportunity to court international opinion and investment.
Finally with so many young people in particular engaged should not the opportunities, risks and legal implications of online activity become part of school curricula, as well as public awareness campaigns. Batswana young and old should realise that anything they publish online stays online.
Only truly ignorant people, such as EU regulators, can ever imagine that a right to be forgotten is either practical or advisable. Barring Armageddon pictures you take and the words you utter online are likely to be there for all to see after you are buried.   

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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