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Road to Reformation (ii)

Iqbal Ebrahim

Reformation is not an overnight journey because it is an uphill slog that requires a lot of time and effort, but in order to achieve reformation we first need transformation. To embark on that road we need to have that inner desire and commitment to change our ways because our lives are so engrossed and fixated with the lifestyle of today.

Unfortunately many of us live lifestyles that are totally out of sync with our religious faith and belief. Our lives, among other things have been overtaken by greed, selfish motives and intentions, lack of sincerity and integrity, hypocrisy and selfishness in all our relations towards our fellow humans.

For a start we need to get back to our basic values of sincerity, integrity and truthfulness. Sincerity is a broad and essential element in our relationship between a believer and his Creator and also spreading to his own fellow humans.

When we make an effort to get closer to our Creator we will find much peace and comfort. ‘….I am indeed near. I respond to the call of every suppliant when he calls on Me. So let them also with a will listen to My call, and commit themselves to me; that they may be rightly guided’ (Quran 2: 186)

Without sincerity our worship cannot be wholehearted because it can be tainted with our own selfish motives and intentions, hypocrisy and selfishness. ‘O, you who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true in word and deed’ (Quran 9: 119)

Equally, to be true in word and deed to our Lord, our sincerity and integrity must also be the hallmark in our relations towards our fellow humans because they lead to sincere, honest and genuine relationships. When we live a life of sincerity and honesty it brings our hearts, minds and souls a cleansing because we are at peace with ourselves and with the world.

Many of us are not at peace because of our lifestyles, let me use this example because we can relate to it as one time or the other we have done it. Take the common example of many of us who do things, acquire more possessions and live an extravagant lifestyle just to ‘show off’ and to impress others.  

Those who have spare money can afford it, but most of us run to the banks for access to loans to fund this extravagant lifestyle and as a result it becomes difficult to maintain this because we living beyond our means. So we get into a financial morass falling headlong into debt.

Once this happens we are forced to look around to see how we can pay off those burdensome debts. Some fall into arrears and are forced to resort to any means to service those debts, this regrettably may include a loss of our integrity as we out of desperation resort to any means, illegal and foul. It then becomes difficult to live a balanced lifestyle because we do things that can come back to bite us, as it were.

Extravagance is forbidden in Islam, Allah says, ‘Do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant’. (Quran 7: 31). And: ‘…but squander not your wealth in a manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the evil ones; and the evil one is ungrateful…… (Quran 17: 27).

We should aim for a balanced life style so that while being careful of and watching our spending habits we should not on the other hand become miserly and stingy.
On the love of wealth the Bible says: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some covet after, they have erred from faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’.  (1Timothy 6: 10)

The random example given above, dissected, shows among other things that we get into problems because we cave in to our worldly desires. We get driven by pride, greed, arrogance and live a false life. This leads to a stressful situation because our hearts and minds are in complete disarray and in distress.

This is when we need to pause, rewind and to review our life and make honest and sincere decisions to change our ways. Change is the key, but we must remember that it is not always without pain. This is part of reformation because to bring back peace into our lives we first need to bring back order into our chaotic life – this requires transformation.

Someone wrote these wise words when he said; Our future depends on us, and if we are to make it our success we must remember these ten little two letter words “if it is to be, it is up to me’.    

There are many other things in this world that prey on our hearts and minds that create the stresses in and to our lives. We need to manage and navigate through this morass using our inner strength and will. After all to some degree or the other, we all have the striving mechanism within ourselves the power of change.

We have been blessed with the strength of our thoughts, minds and hearts but we under rate them. Many of us sometimes look at the challenges that face us and feel intimidated by them as we find the overwhelming. But with a positive mind set we can turn the challenges into opportunities.

But even with all these things we have to learn the virtue of patience because it is only when problems strike that we begin to see the mettle in some of us. When we face difficulties and challenges we may go into a phase of uncertainty, worry and concern. The only way to deal with this irksome side of our daily lives is to exercise patience and tolerance.

We need to remember that the Quran tells us: ‘As is sure there come guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance will not lose his way or fall into misery’ (Quran 20: 123). Further: ‘And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions’. (Quran 16: 96). And, ‘…for Allah is with those who patiently persevere’ (Quran 2: 153).

Once we have put our trust in our Lord, this brings about peace and harmony, and our spirits are positively bolstered when to turn to our Lord and Saviour in prayer and for guidance. Once we put that faith in the Hands of our Lord, it will set us on the road to reformation.

There is also a verse in the Bible that reads: ‘In your patience possess ye your souls.’ (Luke 21: 19) And: ‘….and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us’. (Heb. 12:1)

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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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