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Our Misguided Youth

Eqbal Ebrahim

Last week this column asked the question ‘How Low can we Go’, it touched on some of the issues that show that humanity is on the slippery road to moral decay and depravity.

Today we have all sorts of social ills that directly conflict with our traditional, cultural and importantly our religious values. We of the ‘older’ generation find ourselves caught in this new world quagmire where our time trusted values, traditions, beliefs, morals and norms are being tested to breaking point. We are bewildered and find it difficult to come to terms with what we see going on around us.

Humanity is no longer the healthy society that it was because we seem to have sunk even deeper into the murky depths of depravity. Botswana also has and faces the same turmoil that we see throughout the world. As a result of the loss of cultural identity of our youth who have started to ape the worst of western sub culture based on the ‘hip hop’ generation and of the ‘yob culture’, contributing to a rise in anti-social behaviour.

To them no social event is fun unless as some youth believe it consists of hooliganism, excessive drinking, taking of drugs and other substances, immorality, vulgarity, causing general disturbance, and being obnoxious is the fashionable order of behaviour.

The sad reality is that this depravity has now touched our youth in schools. The youth are now exposed to alcohol and substance abuse, drugs, cyber bullying, devil worship and a host of related physical and psychological challenges and temptations that this modern world has brought to our doorsteps.

The ball is in our court; as parents, adults, churches, religious organisations, traditional and cultural leaders and all other responsible people we have to lead the way to ensure that our youth of today will be the responsible adults of tomorrow. The love and care we give our children should be for their well-being in this life as well as the next. This is why the moral aspect is very important and should not be neglected.

In Islam we believe that children are an ‘amanah’ a ‘trust’, handed to us from our Lord. Therefore we have been directed by the Quran: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Quran 66: 6). Further Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training’.

The Bible also gives guidance: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward”. (Psalms 127:3)

While most responsible parents do their utmost to raise well-adjusted children the frightening thing in this life of today is that from an early age our youth are exposed to the scourges of these modern day evils. Even more frightening is that these evil temptations are readily and easily available to our youth. These social and moral ills are very infectious and our children are exposed to them in this society.

In the early stages of their childhood they accept as the truth without question whatever they are told by Mom or Dad. But then at a later stage, the situation is different. They can hear and see what goes around them in the street, at school, on the TV, on social media, the radio, newspapers and everywhere else. They become exposed to all the vices and ills of this society.  They become victims of peer pressure from their friends in the street or at school. Our youth are facing a serious challenge in terms of societal and peer pressure of having to ‘conform’ to prevailing youth culture of today.    

At this stage, the maximum influence on the child is peer group, his mates and friends, not his parents. They will influence his thinking, and provide the food for his thought. Parents who care for the well-being of their children and families should not be limited only to the physical and health aspects but also be the guiding light for them.

Let’s look at some of the more obvious problems of our youth: Alcohol and drugs are totally prohibited and forbidden in Islam: The Qur’an says: ‘o ye, who believe, intoxicants and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games  of chance are abominations of the devil; ye shall avoid them that you may succeed’. (Qur’an 5:94). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount is prohibited’. And; ‘don’t drink wine (intoxicants) for it is a key to all evil’. Further he said: ‘All intoxicants are prohibited’.

The Bible says "Drink no wine nor strong drink, you nor your sons with you”..   And “….for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine, nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit”… (Luke 1:15)

Yet frighteningly, many children are exposed to it at home. Parents today have no qualms about drinking in their homes and it is common to have alcohol with their meals. Parents can overindulge and become inebriated to such an extent that their behaviour can be source of embarrassment to their children and even lead them to accept such behaviour as acceptable. We need to change our ways and be better role models to our children.

Providing a good example is extremely important. This is when the parents need to spend more quality time with their children trying to plant the seeds of goodness in them. Children learn more by imitating their parents, than merely by being told what is right. As this column has oft repeated, children may not necessarily listen to what their parents say but they will easily follow what they do.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. (Proverbs 22:6)

Unfortunately some parents are very poor role models for their children and even out there in the public domain there are too few role models. The youth like to ‘ape’ some of what they see as ‘role’ models in the music and other such glitzy industries, but frankly some of these characters are of dubious distinction. So it is our responsibility and duty as parents to guide and lead our children onto a righteous and moral path that many of us are failing to do. We may not actually be able to control our child's choices when it comes to alcohol and drug use, but we can definitely alert them to the dangers and thereby become more street wise.

We need to wake up to the fact that our children are taking the path to destruction and we need to act urgently lest we lose them to the evils of this new world. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said ‘whenever someone sees a forbidden act being committed, he must prevent it by the use of his hand; and if he has no power for this action, he should try to prevent it with his tongue (talk about it); and if he cannot even do this then he should at least feel pain in his heart, but this is the lowest level of one’s faith”

It is said that the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crises.

Therefore it is appropriate that an inter-faith meeting be held to discuss these issues of common societal concern to see what we can collectively do to rejuvenate and rekindle the flagging spirits of our people by giving them the necessary moral guidance.

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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