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Of Gratitude and Thanks

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

It is human to want more and to want what we do not have. And once we have acquired what we want, the cycle starts again and we move on to the next thing on the list. This begins at a young age and progresses as we mature, and sadly it seems never to stop and it can become an obsession.


One way to combat this obsession would be to be grateful by acknowledging that Allah has blessed us with whatever He has given us and we have to use His blessings in the best way possible. We may not have all that our heart desires but there are many others who may not have what we have.


There are some people whom Allah has blessed with financial security. They have enough money for home and provisions and their children have what they need and most of what they want. On the flipside there are others who have far less than they have and life is a daily struggle of a hand to mouth existence.   


Yet we find that some of those and even us, who have been blessed with reasonable financial security, this is not enough, as we want a little more, increasingly we see that our children are also asking for more and this can be a sign that our children are on the path to becoming ‘greedy’ for more.

Many responsible parents are worried that some children do not value what they have and will grow up not to fully appreciate the true blessings that Allah has bestowed on them and us as a family. We have to start somewhere along the line to bring them to recognise and appreciate the favours and Blessings from our Lord and Creator.


‘If you are grateful, I will add more favours unto you, but if show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed’ (Qur’an 14: 7).’And remember with gratitude Allah’s favours upon you.’ (Qur’an 3: 103)


One of the most elementary steps to show gratitude is to simply say, Thank you. Above all, we have to remind ourselves and our children that we owe our gratitude to Allah for what He has blessed us with. We should explain to our children to realise that all that we have is through the Grace of Allah and we should always thank Him for it. We ourselves too have to learn to and also to teach children to live with an attitude of gratitude.   


And this means that we have to lead the way. When our children see us saying "Thank you" to one another, to our own parents and friends and especially to our spouses, they will mimic that behaviour. When we say "Thank you," we are not just using good manners, we are showing gratitude to someone else and acknowledging that someone else did us a favour.


‘Show thy gratitude to Allah. Any who is grateful does so to the profit of his own soul, but if any is ungrateful, verily Allah is free from all wants, worthy of all praise’. (Qur’an 31: 12).


How often do we hear parents complaining: "My children have so much and yet all they ever do is want more and more. They have the latest games and toys and they come home from school asking for more. They see things in the store and ask for it. They see things that others have and ask for it.”


Does that sound familiar? For many parents, this is all too common. We hear our children tell us time and again that they want what their friends have and that ultimately they are not satisfied with what they already have. And we are stumped with how to teach them to be happy and content with what they have. How do we teach them to be pleased with what Allah has already blessed them with? How can we teach them to be satisfied with enough when it is never enough?


As adults, sometimes we too forget what we have and get caught up in our daily routines and forget to say thanks. It is no wonder the children are always wanting something new; usually, we as adults are always striving and saving up for some new gizmo or gadget anyway.


Depending on the age of our child, we have to instil the values of good manners from an early age and the best way is for us to start saying thank you regularly and our children will learn this from us. Somewhere along the line many adults and even children seem to have forgotten the two golden words: ‘thank you’.


Muslims have always been taught that before we eat we should at the least, say Bismillah (in the name of Allah) at the beginning of a meal, and Alhumdo Lillah (Praise be to Allah) when finishing. But how many of us have taught this to our children to show gratitude for their meal to Allah.

I know that in Christianity many families used to say ‘Grace’ before meals, but think about it how many of us both, Muslims and Christians do so in this day and age? Starting and ending the meal with a short prayer of thanks is a stepping stone to teach the children about gratitude and thanks.   


Therefore, when we do so we should say it aloud so that our children can hear us and copy us and learn from us.  We have to remember that good habits are created, not born. If we observe them, children will easily follow and do what you do rather than do what you tell them to do. Constancy and regularity are keys to inculcating good manners. We have to be consistent with our good manners if we want our children to remember them as well.


However, after gratitude we should begin to introduce our children to the joys of giving, they will begin to experience the wonder of sharing. In this way they will appreciate what they themselves have. To appreciate what we have, we do not need to lose it but rather share it in this way we can appreciate what we have by sharing it with others. Only when we show gratitude and thanks will we be able to the joy of giving and sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves.


Islam not only teaches us to thank Allah, but we are also told to thank our parents, our spouses, our friends, our neighbours, and all those who do any good to us. The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Those who do not thank people, they do not thank Allah”


Finally, ‘thank you’ to the readers and followers of this column.

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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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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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