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Iqbal Ebrahim

‘Allah will never change the Grace that He has bestowed on a people until they change what is their own souls’ (Quran 8:53)

We see so much unhappiness, disillusionment, distress, and all sorts of other irrational behaviour and negative happenings around us that it slowly begins to gnaw at us. So much so, that we too can also easily slip into that mode if we allow ourselves to wallow in it.

One might ask, what is the cause of all this? Much of this can be put down to the fact that humanity seems to have lost its moral values embedded in their religious teachings and beliefs. The moral values of the world community have disintegrated and distorted because of the selfish greed and passions of people. Despite so-called modernisation we seem to be slowly edging towards returning to the ‘dog eats dog’ primitive cultures of the life prior to the advent of religious faith as we know it.

Unfortunately many of us have been misled to believe that happiness comes from material possessions, of course, some material possessions can lead to a more comfortable life, but usually there no correlation between happiness and material prosperity – it goes much deeper than that.  

The bottom line is that the world needs reformation, but before we can attempt to reform the world we need to look at ourselves and see our role in that process. Change comes from within. We need to pause and remind ourselves of our purpose on this earth. What is our purpose and what are we on this earth for? Man has been placed on this earth but for a short while; in our short life in this world we will be groomed, trained and tested and then pass on to the Hereafter to reap the rewards or otherwise of our actions in this world.  

‘It is He who made you His agents (vicegerent) inheritors of the earth, He raised you in ranks some above others, that He may try you in the gifts that He has given you’. (Quran 6: 165).And: ‘We did indeed make you a vicegerent of earth; so you  judge between men in truth and justice; nor do you follow your follow the lusts of your heart, for they will mislead  you from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray is a penalty grievous….(Quran 38: 26).

We have to do some honest soul searching to identify our own weaknesses and shortcomings to see what we can do change our patterns of thought, behaviour and actions so that they are in line with what the Almighty God has intended and decreed for us. Once we have identified our worldly ephemeral weaknesses, passions, desires and outlook, only then can we embark onto the road to reformation.  

How do we get onto the road to reformation? The first step is to bring our Lord and Creator closer to our daily lives and to worship Him alone with all sincerity and to submit to Him in every aspect of our lives. ‘Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him’. (Quran: 17:23). And ‘…do not join in worship others with Allah; for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing (Quran 31: 13). And: ‘….Worship none but Allah’ (Quran 2:83).

The Bible says: ‘The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love him with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment’ (Mark 12:30).

Once we have created this connection with our Creator it will become easier to follow in the ways of our religious teachings and edicts. We have to turn to prayer: ‘….. establish regular prayers…for those things that are good remove those that are evil; be that the word of remembrance to those who remember their Lord’ (Quran 11:114).

We can then move on to many other things that can bring that comfort into our lives. One of the important factors is that we need to bring ‘peace’ within ourselves. This means that we have to learn to be comfortable and confident with ourselves, we then spread the net wider to include our family our family and loved ones.

There are some basic human values that form the bedrock of all religions and societies the world over and are without doubt universal in their belief and practice. If we were to bring them into our lives there will be much more peace and understanding within our communities. In every faith, religion and even culture, the respect for one’s parents is paramount. Respect and kindness to parents is not just a social responsibility but it is our religious duty and obligation.  

‘….And that you show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour……’ Quran 17: 23-24. And: ’We have enjoined on man to be good to his parents…show gratitude to Me and your parents’. (Quran 31: 14).

The Bible also speaks about respect for parents; in the Ten Commandments the instruction is ‘honour thy father and thy mother’ and further, ‘Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing unto the Lord’ (Col 3:20)
Our parents deserve to be treated with love, kindness and compassion because not only did they bring us into this world, raised and cared for us from our childhood to adulthood. It is our obligation to reciprocate that type of love and commitment in return.  

Nowadays it is embarrassing to see the way some people treat their parents with such disrespect, including using verbal, mental or physical abuse. In many parts of the world parents are seen as a burden and are just dumped and left to fend for themselves with little or no support. Yet when they die some make elaborate funeral arrangements just for ‘show’, yet when the parents were alive they lived a miserable life with little or no support from the children.  

Sadly elsewhere in the world, and even in our midst, in their old age parents are abandoned because their off-spring are too busy with their own lives and the parents are seen as a burden. They even encourage them to go into an old age or retirement home with the lame excuse that ‘they will be better off in the company of people their own age’; only to visit them when we have time, if ever. What a sorry state of affairs.

Once we have created a happy and loving relationship within the family unit we will begin to look outwards to the wider community.
(to be continued)

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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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