John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States of America, once said: "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost". In the context of this column, Adams’ statement can be adapted to say “Always stand for principle, though you may stand alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your stand is never lost”.
When Botsalo Ntuane, the Chairperson of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Gaborone Region, authored an opinion article in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 11th January 2015 under the heading ‘20 years on, is it time for BDP’s 2nd Reform Agenda?’ he, at the risk of being labelled a radical by some conservative elements in the BDP, stood for principle and put the party and the country first. As Adam said, though Ntuane may be alone now, he, if he continues with such a mindset, which I trust he will since he has exhibited it before, will cherish the sweetest reflection that his stand will never be lost.
On the contrary, those ‘Democrats’ and ‘party loyalists’ who, for political expediency and gaining favours from the party leadership, fail to advise the party leadership to embark on reform will certainly have their stand lost. When the party leadership, perhaps when it will be too late, realizes that such ‘loyalists’ misled the party the results may be dire for both the individual and the party.
It takes a brave and principled party member, let alone a Regional Chairperson, to call for such an electoral reform as using the hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past the Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS) when his or her party has expressed opposition to such. By citing examples of countries, in Africa, where PR and hybrid electoral systems are being used Ntuane dispelled the propaganda that is often used alleging that such systems are western and/or socialist.
The fact that Namibia has been using the PR system since independence in 1991 and has not experienced political upheavals dispels the myth that PR or hybrid electoral systems lead to political instability. The truth is that such systems, which address such socio-economic ills as gender inequality and minority right violations, promote peace and stability. That Lesotho and Zimbabwe, both of which use the hybrid system, are tainted with political instability has nothing to do with the electoral systems. The political instability is as a result of such vices as vote rigging and corruption and, in the case of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s insatiable desire to remain in power until his death.
If, as Ntuane reminds us, the BDP, following its 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress, embarked on such far reaching reforms as introduction of the two-term presidential term limit; reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18; external balloting and the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission, it can certainly afford a second phase of reforms. In fact, considering the fact that the last such far reaching constitutional reforms were twenty years ago, it can be argued that reform is long overdue. Further, such reforms would be opportune in view of the fact that we are just about to reach Vision 2016 and start a new Vision. Not only that. We have reached the year 2015, the milestone year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Also, in 2016 Botswana will be celebrating her 50th anniversary.
I have written earlier in this column that beyond President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s departure the BDP may lose elections if it does not renew itself now. Such renewal is not, like some BDP Public Relations Agents shortsightedly advice, only about election messaging, bill boards, newspaper adverts and press releases, but also, and most importantly I opine, about ushering in constitutional reforms. Such reforms, which will further entrench such of our long held values as the rule of law; judicial independence and separation of powers, will make Botswana a freer and fairer society. Consequently, regardless of who initiated the reforms, the BDP, as the ruling party, will enjoy the credit and Batswana will reap the rewards.
It is, therefore, naïve for any BDP member, official or Consultant to advise the BDP against adopting certain reforms simply because they were initiated by the Opposition or by such interest groups as civil society and the media. Were the 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress reforms aforesaid not initiated by the Opposition or by interest groups? Who benefited the most from the reforms, is it the BDP or the Opposition? I agree with Ntuane that, as evidenced by the BDP’s winning of 33 out of 40 seats in Parliament and a popular vote of 54% in the 1999 polls, the BDP benefited the most. But, beyond party politics Batswana emerged the victors.
Therefore, over and above reforming the electoral system by introducing a hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past The Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS), the BDP should consider such other reforms as making Parliament, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman truly independent; introducing political party funding; introducing direct presidential elections; decentralizing power to Local Authorities; and abolishing Specially Elected Members of the National Assembly and nominated Councilors. The least the BDP can do is to subject these to a referendum.
Further, the BDP should, in order to enhance judicial independence, introduce a system where the Chief Justice (CJ) and the President of the Court of Appeal (CoA) are appointed by the President with advice from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Also, like in such democracies as South Africa, the JSC should not, save for one member of the Law Society nominated by the Law Society, only comprise such appointees of the Executive as the CJ, President of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General (AG), the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and a person of integrity and experience not being a legal practitioner appointed by the President. It should also comprise Members of Parliament (MPs), DiKgosi, the clergy and the civil society.
There are those within the BDP as well as Consultants who advise the party leadership that such reforms may result in the BDP losing elections. This is not necessarily true. If there is any reform which could have led the BDP to lose elections it was the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18, yet it did not. Following the reform, the BDP, like the Opposition, developed strategies to attract the youth vote. How can introduction of political party funding, for example, result in the BDP losing elections? Will the BDP not receive funding like the Opposition? It will and if the funding will assist the Opposition to reach more voters, it will do the same for the BDP.
How can enhancing the independence of Parliament, the IEC, DCEC and the Ombudsman make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP has a good presidential candidate, how can direct presidential elections make it lose elections? If the party president is a member of the party who can be disciplined and recalled by the party, how can there be two centers of power? Even Mugabe, one of the world’s worst dictators, is elected through direct presidential elections! How can an independent judiciary make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP is a democratic party and abhors such ills as corruption and economic crime and subscribes to the rule of law why should it be afraid of enhancing the independence of the judiciary?
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Some defeats are more triumphant than victories”. If by conceding to the calls for reform, the BDP will have been defeated, such a defeat will in fact be a victory-a victory for democracy and the country. While some reforms will require a referendum, the BDP should implement those reforms which do not require a referendum. Even for those reforms which require a referendum, if the BDP uses its majority and influence to support them such reforms will certainly gain Batswana’s support.
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.
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”
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)
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.
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.