When the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Goodhope-Mabule constituency, Honorable James Mathokgwane, resigned only seven months after he was elected, the nation and his constituency were left in utter shock, especially that the resignation was sudden. Not only that. Some of his voters alleged, through radio phone-in programmes, that he neither consulted nor at least informed them of the resignation claiming that they only learnt about it through the media.
While initially the reason for his resignation was stated as ‘for personal reasons’ Mathokgwane was later quoted as citing his diabetic condition as the reason for the resignation, stating that on medical advice he had decided to resign since his condition has deteriorated since he became an MP. He implied that the deterioration was caused by the agitation that is often occasioned by his functions as an MP.
At almost the same time that the reasons for his resignation became public, it emerged that Mathokgwane was appointed as Regional Director (Operations) with the Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) only a day after attending the job interview. If this is true, it is extra ordinary indeed.
In this article, I consider the lessons that can be learnt from Mathokgwane’s resignation. I also consider the implications of the resignation for Mathokgwane himself, the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
If a people’s representative can resign so suddenly and without consulting or at least informing his electorate there is a problem with our representative democracy. An employee, even a low level employee earning less than One Thousand Pula a month, is required by law to give notice, usually one month, or pay the employer an equivalent of one month’s salary in lieu of notice. The employer is expected to do the same when he or she terminates an employee’s contract of employment.
What about an MP or Councilor who was elected by the people and is supposed to serve them? Should it not be part of our law that an MP or Councilor, who is a people’s servant, should serve notice prior to resigning?
Should it not be part of our law that an MP or Councilor should consult or at least inform his or her voters prior to resigning? Should an MP or Councilor not account to his or her voters or at least give a report of his or her tenure of office prior to resigning? Is it not ironical that an MP or Councilor can resign whenever he or she wants but the voters who put him or her into office cannot recall him or her from office for underperformance?
Mathokgwane’s integrity may have been dented irreparably in the eyes of his voters to the extent that he may never be trusted with public office again. Though they acknowledge that conditions differ from one individual to another, people are wondering how diabetes, a condition suffered by many people, can lead one to resign from his job. They give examples of known diabetics who hold more demanding positions than that of an MP but have not resigned their jobs.
Others wonder whether by joining SPEDU Mathokgwane implies that SPEDU has no challenges which can cause the same aggravation to his health that he suffered when he was an MP. Some argue that considering the enormous challenge of diversifying Selibe Phikwe away from dependence on copper and nickel bestowed upon SPEDU, the SPEDU job may be more challenging and stressful than that of an MP. They think that Mathokgwane is using his diabetes condition as an excuse to abandon his voters for greener pastures.
They think that the real reason for Mathokgwane’s resignation is an insatiable desire to amass wealth and that he has chosen his own well-being over that of his voters who entrusted him with their lives less than seven month ago.
Mathokgwane did not help the situation when he reportedly stated that he would not compromise his life for politics because if he dropped dead today politics would not take care of his children. One wonders whether he was not aware of that seven months ago when he promised to serve Barolong with all his might and will. One also wonders who would take care of the children of his campaign agents, for example, who risked their lives for him, if they dropped dead or had been killed during the campaigns.
Other people believe that Mathokgwane was ‘bought’ by the ruling BDP to resign so that it can re-gain the seat through a bye election. They allege that the mysterious way in which Mathokgwane got the SPEDU job suggests that the job was given to him in return for his resignation. Though this and the aforesaid allegations against Mathokgwane may be untrue they have irreparably eroded his integrity.
Following Mathokgwane’s resignation, which followed that of a UDC councilor in Kgatleng, some people claim that this is an indication that the UDC cannot be trusted with forming a stable government when it assumes state power.
They allege that the UDC is guilty of greed, the very vice it has always blamed the BDP for. While the number of resignations by UDC representatives is not that many for one to draw such a conclusion, this may work against the UDC. Unfortunately, in politics perceptions are often regarded as fact.
Tainted by this perception, which the BDP and the BCP are relishing, if the UDC does not work very hard to dispel the perception before the bye elections it may lose the seat. After all, the UDC won the Parliamentary seat with a slim majority. Also, the BDP won many Council seats. The BDP’s loss of the Parliamentary seat may have had more to do with the voters’ dislike for the then BDP candidate, Honorable Kitso Mokaila, than with their dislike for the BDP itself.
Not only that. At the last general elections the UDC was riding on the high winds of change, Moono, which do not necessarily prevail today. Such issues which gave traction to the Moono wave as alleged extra-judicial killings by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), the alleged assassination of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM)’s disputes with the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) are no longer as topical. Also, some are of the view that the UDC has performed below expectation in Parliament.
Considering that his popularity ratings have not risen since the general elections and may have in fact declined further as a result of the water and electricity shortages, the UDC’s prospects of victory may only be enhanced if Honorable Mokaila contests the bye elections.
If he does not stand and Honorable Eric Molale stands instead the UDC may lose the seat. The fact that he comes from Phitshane Molopo, a village which has not produced an MP for many years, the people from Phitshane Molopo and surrounding villages may want to see one of their own in Parliament.
Molale’s candidacy, if he does in fact resign as Specially Elected Member of Parliament and contests the bye elections, may also be a setback for the UDC because as the Minister for Presidential Affairs & Public Administration and having been Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) for many years, he has some gravitas which puts him in good stead.
In fact, rumor has it that those advocating for his candidature use the argument that considering that he has the credentials to be the next Vice President, it is better for the BDP that he earns an elected seat as early as now. This, it is reported, is going down well with the people from the constituency whose region has not produced a Vice President since independence.
For the UDC to win the seat it needs to have a strong candidate. If reports that Kgosi Lotlamoreng II intends to contest the seat under the UDC banner are anything to go by, he may be the only live line for the UDC. He may win not because he has much political gravitas but because he is Kgosi and, like Batawana with Kgosi Tawana Moremi II, Barolong may want to see their Kgosi in Parliament.
After all, given his intellect he is not of much use as a Kgosi, some argue. Also, his efforts to become chairperson of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have been thwarted by Kgosi Puso Gaborone of Batlokwa who many say is in the BDP’s good books.
The BCP too needs to have a strong candidate if it is to win the bye election, especially if Honorable Eric Molale and Kgosi Lotlamoreng II were to stand for the BDP and UDC respectively. Clearly, the BCP’s likely candidate, Comfort Maruping, who has contested and lost the seat several times before, has no political gravitas to challenge Honorable Eric Molale and Kgosi Lotlamoreng II.
This notwithstanding, the BCP may surprise many if the fact that since the general elections it has, against all odds, won one council bye election in Kgatleng from the UDC is anything to go by.
Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.
The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.
A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.
He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.
They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.
Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.
‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.
Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.
He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.
Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.
Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.
Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.
A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.
A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.
His attitude towards his body, mind and soul
The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]
The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.
As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114
The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.
His attitude towards people
The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]
With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.
With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.
The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.
These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?
For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.
“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).
These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.
The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.
But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.
It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.
Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.
We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?
Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.
It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.
So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.
Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)
The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.