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Touch my Grave and Go!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

“Here I cease no further can I go; go into the winding hills beyond; here I end where my journey ends; for my strength has reached journey’s end; here I lie gazing into the void; the void of my tired eye-lids; here I call and smile at you, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. These words from Tokyo Sexwale’s poem, “Touch My Grave and Go!”, which he wrote in honor of Nelson Dalibhunga Rolihlahla Mandela, will forever echo through the mountains for their meaning is greater than we think.

When Mandela said “many a battle have we fought; many a battles have we lost and won” he was obviously referring to worthy battles aimed at redressing the injustices suffered by his people. Have you, like Rolihlahla, fought any worthy battles?

Have you made any sacrifice for the good of your people? Have you not turned a blind eye to the subjugation of minority tribes, women and gays, lesbians and bisexuals? Nelson Mandela says “…we have lost and won against foes small and might”.

Have you not shied away and abandoned your people for fear of the might of the Oppressor? Have you not betrayed your people for the like of power, privilege and material gain?

Did you know that if you remain true to your course you will, like Dalibhunga, conquer sights and heights; that you will, when you finally depart this world, have death as your one and last fight which you will win and you will, like Madiba, say to your fellow liberators “tis time for you to march on, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end.” Yes, if you fed orphans and destitutes and housed the homeless we will, at the end of your journey, tell you that “yonder lies greater glories to take, yonder waits better victories to make, to scale and triumph over Everets”.

You will, when you cannot see and speak anymore, rest if you never exploited your workers. Nobody can say to you “so I ask: shall you ever rest” for you then shall lie and rest for your day will be done and sunset will have come. But for you to rest you need to have known the poor; you need to have never thrown away food when your neighbor slept hungry; you need to have put your people’s life and happiness ahead of yours; and you need to have been your people’s servant, not master.

If you have really lived a life worth living, a men as great as Mandela can say to you “just do your last duty for me, for the grave of a fellow warrior is dug in the heat of battle by the wayside, so touch my grave and go in this journey without end”. This is not an honor you can get if your hands have the blood of innocent men and women.

Nor can you get such an honor if your people sleep thirsty and in the dark because you mismanaged their resources. Who can accord you such an honor if you steal from your people? Such an honor cannot be yours if children cry all because of your mercilessness.

Madiba says “ take with you my fighting tools; take with you my trowel to build; take with you my book to read; take my pen to write; take this song to heart; take my rifle; take my icon”. This is such an honor that it cannot be asked of you if you defiled innocent children and abused your spouse.

What can you build if you thrive in covering your people’s light so that yours alone shines? Which book can you read if you are drunk with power which you drink from the skulls of the slain? What can you write if you hate writers whose only sword is the pen while yours is a nuclear bomb? Which song can you take to heart when you hate musicians simply because they are unionized workers? Which rifle can you take when your every rifle is torture, espionage and sabotage?

Can you have an icon when you are the only icon? Can you even listen to Dalibhunga when he says “off to newer battles yet as you do touch stone touch my grave and go in this war without surrender”? Can you have newer battles when you have abandoned the old? Can you not surrender when you have retreated from speaking the truth and telling truth to power?   Are your hands clean enough that they can touch a grave as clean as Madiba’s?

You cannot touch Madiba’s grave without leading. And ‘To Lead” is another poem I righteously steal, for I pledge to use it fruitfully. Can you, like Rolihlahla, lead ever from the front, but not too far? Can you like Sir Seretse Khama lead never from the back no matter what? Can you like Sir Ketumile Masire be ever in sight not out of sight? Can you like Festus Mogae lead from amongst the people but one step ahead? Can you like Baledzi Gaolatlhe be within hearing but not too close?

Can you like Gomolemo Motswaledi sing your people’s chorus but take the solo? Can you like Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete sing like a lark with no discord and change the tune but check with your people? Can you like Madiba chart new paths but fight for your people? If you listened to Rolihlahla and you are Duma Boko you will remember to lead the opposition and win the opposition. You will remember not to win the enemy, but to win your enemy’s followers.

As we celebrate twenty five years of Mandela’s release from prison, take with you Madiba’s fighting tools; take with you Dalibhunga’s trowel to build; take with you Rolihlahla’s book to read; take Utata’s pen to write; take this song to heart; take Mandela’s rifle; take Madiba’s icon”. It is only if you have taken these that Utata may say to you “Touch my grave and go in this journey without end!

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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