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A call to public service

Jeff Ramsay
GUEST

This week’s big story was undoubtedly President Khama’s substantive opening address at the 72nd Annual General Convention of the Botswana Public Employees Union.
 
While the event marked the first time that the President, though not members of his administration, had opened the Union’s annual gathering, he has had previous contacts with the Union’s leaders. This is in addition to his consultations with the Union’s membership through his now routine contacts with public servants across the country.
 
As much as some may steadfastly wish to deny it, the plain truth is that no President has devoted himself more to engaging in direct communication with ordinary Batswana in various settings than Khama. It is also true that in today’s information age one’s social and by extension political authority is increasing reliant on direct rather than mediated forms of communication.
 
After all, why allow others to convey your message to the public when through electronic more especially interactive communications, as well as good old verbal consultations, you can directly engage the world. We thus increasingly find global leaders eschewing press conferences for ‘town halls’ and social media outreach.
 
Given the above, the notion of returning to our pre-1972 Constitutional order when the President’s diary, in the Westminster tradition of Prime Ministers, like the rest of his Ministers was tied to the schedule of Parliament hardly seems progressive.
 
This is not to say one cannot go back to the future if one really wants to.       But, one would think that those advocating for the ‘independence’ of Parliament would, if anything, want to reduce rather than increase the Executive’s presence in the House.
 
It is due to the fact that, as in other parliamentary democracies, Cabinet serves as legislative frontbench, that the authority of Parliament is fused rather than separate from that of the executive branch. This is further reflected in the ongoing tradition of generally having His Honour the Vice President serve as the titular ‘Leader of the House’. 
 
By contrast, in a political dispensation where there is a true separation of power between the executive and legislative branch, Heads of State tend to only enter the hallowed halls of the legislature by invitation on special occasion.
 
American Presidents have thus pretty much limited there formal visits to Capitol Hill to the annual State of the Union Address, for which the judicial and military leadership is also in attendance as a symbolic reflection of the full spectrum of Federal leadership.     
 
But I digress. Coming back to this week’s BOPEU Convention it is clear the direct exchange of perspectives by the President and the Union leadership was a fruitful, if not overdue, escalation of former’s personal commitment to engage in continuous dialogue with civil servants about ways of enhancing public service delivery as well as conditions of service. Both of these commitments are predicated on a need to reduce conflicts in the workplace to facilitate constructive labour relations aimed at improving productivity. As Khama observed:
 
“We need to ensure that we develop or improve and sharpen our skills for better implementation of processes that could lead to improved productivity and returns for the country and thus could also translate to increases in salaries and a vibrant economy.”


 â€¨Khama further affirmed the need for the public sector to collectively guard against issues of corruption, red tape and bureaucratic lethargy.  While the Cabinet must carry the ultimate burden of accountability, at the end of the day it is the machinery of Government as a whole, that is the public service, which are expected to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of big projects or programmes on time and within budget.



In his remarks Khama also made reference to the need to reduce inequalities in the workplace through among others, being mindful of gender and disability issues. He further used the occasion to reaffirm the continued relevance and authority of the eight principles of the Public Service Charter, namely: Regard for the public interest; Neutrality; Accountability; Transparency; Freedom from corruption; Continuity; the duty to be Informed; and Due Diligence.


ʉ۬Acknowledging that the reality on the ground was that the public is not happy with the current level and quality of public services, he further urged the Union sensitize its members on the need to improve the quality and speed of public services, adding that Government is reviewing the current performance management system to achieve a high performance culture linking pay to performance.
 
He also directly appealed to the Union membership to ensure that the public service as a whole is not politicised, by upholding the Public Service Charter principle of Neutrality, stating that a politically inclined public service could ultimately compromise national stability.
 
Coming to the Budget he observed that the reality is that Botswana is not a rich country; the 2014/15 budget being a modest P48 billion, while for example the budget of RSA is over P1 trillion. The World Bank Development Indicators further show that Botswana spends around 43% of our budget on employees, double that of other middle income countries although the public service is only 5.6% of the population.
 

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

POSITIVITY
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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

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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