The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s 2014 general elections manifesto is glowing with ideals consonant with a true democratic movement. Among those ideals are tolerance, accountability and transparency. Rightly so, the UDC has, either collectively or through its member parties, admonished the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for compromising such ideals for political expediency.
Yet, the UDC has, on several occasions, failed to practice what it preaches by desecrating these very ideals. This, despite the fact that it calls itself ‘the government in waiting’. There is a Setswana proverb which says ‘Mmamotse o bonwa mantwaneng’ literally meaning that a woman who will later become a wife and mother shows that during play time. If the UDC is really the government in waiting as it professes, it should start acting like it is in government today.
In a rather scaring development, the UDC has started showing its lack of tolerance for criticism. Those who criticize it are insulted, especially through the social media. They are called names and referred to as BDP operatives or members of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). The UDC’s petulant response to criticism is just like that of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) which labels all its critics as anti-revolutionary.
What democratic party does not want to be criticized? Why should the UDC always expect to be praised even when it clearly derails from the people’s mandate? Is it wrong for people to state that the UDC’s performance in Parliament is below expectation? Is it wrong for people to note that despite his endowment with intellect and wisdom the Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Duma Boko, has not fully applied himself, especially in Parliament?
Rightly so, since 1994 the Botswana National Front (BNF) has relentlessly called upon the BDP government to release the Scotland Yard report on the death of Segametsi Mogomotsi, the fourteen year old school-girl whose killing on 6th November 1994 caused public unrest in Kgatleng as a result of suspicions that she was murdered for ritual purposes.
Yet, the UDC has, for more than a year now, refused to release the report on the death of the late leader of the Botswana Movement for Democracy(BMD) and UDC Secretary General, Gomolemo Motswaledi. Some in the UDC and BMD are now saying the UDC and BMD should only release the Motswaledi report after the government releases the Segametsi Mogomotsi report.
This is ridiculous is n’t it? Clearly, the UDC and the BMD know that the government will not release the Segametsi Mogomotsi report and it wants to use the Segametsi Mogomotsi report as a justification for not releasing the Motswaledi report. Should n’t the UDC and the BMD show that they are different from the BDP by releasing the Motswaledi report? Is the UDC not campaigning on the promise that if it assumes state power it will be more transparent and accountable than the BDP government?
Perhaps the reason for UDC and BMD’s failure to release the Motswaledi report is that contrary to what the UDC made the public believe there was no foul play in Motswaledi’s death. Perhaps the Botswana Police Service’s report that there was no foul play in the car accident that led to Motswaledi’s untimely death is correct.
The current UDC leaders were not democratically elected by the members. When the UDC was formed that was understandable because the coalition was preparing for the bigger picture, the 2014 general elections. But now that it is more than a year after the elections, there is need for the UDC to hold elections for its leadership. Surprisingly, when people call for leadership elections they are insulted and labelled as counter-revolutionary.
What revolution? Is revolution not about respect for democracy? Is democracy not about allowing the members to elect their leaders? Is democracy not about majority rule? Is it democracy for example for the BNF to be holding the position of President in the UDC when it has eight Members of Parliament (MPs) compared to BMD’s nine? Should n’t the leader of the BMD, Honourable Ndaba Gaolatlhe, and not the BNF president, Honourable Boko, be the UDC president and Leader of Opposition in Parliament?
Prior to the 2014 general elections the BNF was no doubt the senior partner in the UDC and it is, therefore, understandable why the BNF president, Honourable Boko, was appointed the UDC leader. But, the balance of power has changed and such should be reflected in the UDC leadership.
These issues may appear insignificant today because the next general elections are still far. But a year or so before the 2019 general elections the dynamics will have changed because those in the UDC leadership will now be looking at the possibility of getting positions in government. That may be a source of conflict which may split the coalition at a critical time and cost it the opportunity to attain state power.
It is, therefore, imperative that elections be held now so that the leadership has legitimacy. Also, if conflict arises as a result of such elections the coalition will have time to heal from such conflict before the 2019 general elections. History has shown that coalition political movements often fail to win elections because of leadership conflicts which often occur at the eve of general elections or if they win elections they fail to form a government because of fights over positions.
After general elections some coalition partners have abandoned their partners and entered into coalitions with other much smaller parties to form a government. In our situation, if the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) does not join the UDC and leadership fights ensue between the UDC affiliates during the next general elections, it is possible that either the BNF or the BMD could abandon the other and enter into a coalition government with the BCP.
Another thing which shows the UDC’s departure from its democratic values is the way its affiliate, the BMD, has handled Advocate Sidney Pilane’s application to re-join it. I have never heared of a situation where one’s application to join a political party is referred to the party Congress.
Political parties need as many members as possible and they would approve a membership application at the earliest opportunity. Yet, the BMD president, Honourable Gaolatlhe, is on record stating that Advocate Sidney Pilane’s application to re-join the BMD will be decided by the party Congress.
Honourable Gaolatlhe quotes a clause in the party Constitution which states that such decision vests with the party Congress. What he deliberately neglects to tell Batswana is that every party Constitution enables the National Executive Committee (NEC) to make decisions on behalf of the Congress in between Congresses.
Advocate Pilane is no ordinary applicant. He is one of the founding members of the BMD. In fact, he was BMD’s interim deputy leader. The BMD Secretary General, Honourable Gilbert Mangole, is on record saying Advocate Pilane is an asset that every political party would do everything to have, stating that even after leaving the BMD he has continued assisting the party.
The way Advocate Pilane’s application has been handled gives credence to the allegations that there are some in the UDC and BMD leadership whose objective is blocking his BMD membership for fear that he will challenge for the BMD and/or UDC presidency.
First, his application was considered by the Constituency Committee which positively recommended his membership to the National Executive Committee (NEC). When the NEC remitted the matter to the Constituency Committee reportedly for compliance purposes and the Constituency Committee, after a long delay, later reneged from its initial decision and recommended against his re-admission, it was clear that politics was at play.
The latest development where there are deep divisions within the NEC following allegations that some members of the NEC have contravened the party Constitution in approving and announcing Advocate Pilane’s application prove that there is more than meets the eye in the Advocate Pilane saga. The tone of the letter to the NEC by Honourable Gaolatlhe reversing Advocate Pilane’s re-admission pending the party Congress says it all.
For many Batswana the UDC is their hope of liberation from the yoke of the BDP’s stifling fourty nine year rule. For them, being liberated from BDP’s rule would be like being freed from a frying pan. But, if the UDC ends up being worse than the BDP those Batswana would have escaped the frying pan only to fall into the fire.
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.