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A Right Charlie

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

The dust has by no means settled on the Charlie Hebdo debacle in Paris last month which saw a massacre at the offices of the satirical cartoon, followed by hostage-taking and more deaths.  Whatever it was and it wasn’t, the episode was a series of acts of terrorism, carried out in the name of Islam mainly by people of foreign extraction against mainly people of French stock. 

Some of it was directed against Gentiles, some against Jews but then extreme forms of Islam make no differentiation – all non-Muslims are infidels, though of course some are more infidel than others and there is a long history of animosity between Jews and Muslims, despite both their origins being from the very same region in the Middle East.

But last week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, arguably the most feared and most notorious of all the Nazi death camps.  Survivors of the Holocaust and of the camp made their way to their former prison to pay tribute to those who were not so lucky and to remind the world of what happened there, lest the coming generations forget. Yet in an unforeseen backlash to the Charlie Hebdo affair there appears to be a growing wave of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe, causing many Jewish people to consider fleeing to Israel.

All of that has been happening in Continental Europe and you may be tempted to think that it does not concern us here.  And true, Botswana is very tolerant of other races, colours and creeds but sadly this is not the case everywhere in the region.  Only a few hundred kilometres away, in Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation, there has been a wave of violent attacks on foreign-owned businesses, mainly Tuck shops and General Dealers. 

This wave of terror began in Snake Park, Soweto when one Somali shop owner shot dead a youth whom he suspected of stealing.  Rightly the shop owner has been arrested and charged with murder but the initial spark  quickly escalated into widespread attacks on any foreign-owned business throughout Soweto,  spreading to Alexandra, Eden Park, then Pretoria and Durban,  causing injury, death, devastation and destitution as shop owners find themselves left with nothing but the clothes they stand up in. 

Municipal officials have been obliged to step in with hand-outs of basic essentials, police have tried in vain to stem the tide of looting, shooting and arson and the general mood of township residents is one of prejudice, xenophobia and misplaced jealousy.  

Their arguments are ones we’ve all heard before.  The foreigners are exploiting locals and taking their jobs.  Why don’t they go back where they came from?  One was even quoted as saying the shop owners are prepared to run their operations at a loss, just to put locals out of business – seriously?  None of these arguments hold water.   Researchers Lawrence Piper and Rory Liederman studied many such shops in Delft South in Cape Town and published heir findings in last week’s Business Day and this was what they found:

Somalis have a network of suppliers which allows them to source and sell their goods cheaply.

Their shops are better stocked and offer more variety since they open with an initial capital outlay of between R15, 000-R20, 000.  Start-up capital by local shop owners, in contrast is between R450-R1000.

Somalis acquire their capital from hard work and saving, locals often from hand-outs.

Somalis and other foreigners are prepared to open early and close late whereas local owners open and shut when they please.

Somalis are more prepared to offer credit to their customers, a working example of ‘ubuntu’ which locals refuse.

When this research is examined objectively it is clear that running such businesses seems to be a national trait, just as the British were formerly known as ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. Somalis aspire to own their own business and save to do so and they have the assistance of a support and supply network of family members and business associates.  They offer good service in their local communities, are an asset rather than a nuisance and local hostility appears to be built of envy and laziness rather than valid reasoning.

But there is a sinister familiarity to all this.  Jews in Europe, too, were known for running successful businesses.  They were astute in commerce and finance and this made them easy targets for hate and the green-eyed monster.  In most countries this amounted to nothing more than an undercurrent of resentment and anti-Semitism but in Nazi Germany it resulted in a genocide unprecedented either before or since.  Instead of crediting their culture of hard work and respecting their right to worship in peace they were vilified, ridiculed and exterminated. 

And this, in microcosm is what is happening in South Africa, right here and right now; a people attacked for being different, for trying to make an honest living and live in peace, having left a conflict zone back home and seeking asylum in a more peaceful climate, or so they thought.  Yet in those South African townships today there is no tolerance, no Ubuntu, no sympathy; merely race hate, greed, envy and aggression.

I have no answer to any of this but interestingly, renowned South African Numerologist Sandy Smith was on the radio this week answering listeners’ queries on their life numbers and predicting their immediate futures.  And thrown a question about the current wave of violence all over the world she responded immediately with an explanation that the current numerical year, which began in November 2014, is an ‘8’ year, the most aggressive, according to Ms. Smith. 

And ‘8’ can only find balance when laid on its side, when it becomes the symbol for Infinity which is the most positive of all such symbols. Now I’m not saying that I buy into numerology but right now it seems as good an explanation as any for what seems to those of us standing outside and looking on to be baseless, mindless, heartless behaviour in a world which seems to never learn the lessons of the past.

‏STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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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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