In only a couple of weeks time many companies will be closing their doors for the extended Christmas shut-down, effectively drawing 2015 to an early demise. My prediction is that for management, Board members, shareholders and business owners this will be a double-edged sword this year. Let me explain:
The long Christmas closure is a peculiarly local custom. All over the world the festive break has shrunk from being a partial holiday beginning at closing time on Christmas Eve to January 2nd in the New Year. It was a tradition honoured on screen in films such as Kramer v Kramer, the movie that put the single dad on the map forever. On the day that advertising executive Ted Kramer, played by Dustin Hoffman, lands the biggest account of his career, he also learns his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) tells him she is leaving both him and their young son. Ted subsequently loses his job and ends up effectively gate-crashing a Christmas office party, begging the boss, who can’t believe this can’t wait, to take him on in a lowly design post, because as an unemployed parent, he would lose custody of the boy.
If you haven’t seen the movie, fear not, he lands the position. And how about the much earlier The Shop Around the Corner starring the late Jimmy Stewart? Set in Budapest, Stewart plays experienced store salesman Alfred Kralik who works for the store owner, well-to-do-businessman Hugo Matuschek. In a plot line as corny as it is convoluted, suffice to say Kralik is fired on Christmas Eve after a mix-up and misunderstanding over a girl and a rival at the store but as the shop closes its doors on a snowy Christmas Eve in Hungary, Jimmy gets his girl and is re-hired and lonely widower Matuschek promotes a young goffer whom he also treats to a sumptuous festive feast in a local restaurant.
So the Christmas closure was an established tradition for many years. The world came to a virtual standstill and woe betide any harassed housewife who forgot to stock up on essentials because every single shop, be it large or be it small, remained firmly shut till the New Year as did many other businesses. Even the major global newspapers shut down, even if only for the Bank Holidays. But with the growing acceptance of shopping as a leisure activity and the demand for business as usual, much of the world has relaxed this formerly hard-and-fast rule. Many retail outlets remain open, other businesses give a nod to the actual holiday dates but re-open in between and even the major press now publishes and is damned 365 days a year.
Except here, that is. In Botswana the long break not only persists but it has long been a tradition in some industries, such as the building trade, to close early in December and not to re-open till mid-January, allowing staff an extended break with friends and families. And many other businesses close the Friday before the Christmas holiday and only open the Monday after New Year. So let’s pause a moment and consider the implications:
Firstly and most importantly such closure is reliant on having had a profitable year, such that it can afford to go without income for anything from 2 – 6 weeks. This is not as unusual or foolhardy as it sounds. In holiday resorts where business is seasonal and relies on a short-term, high-income, finite time period, hoteliers, restaurateurs, souvenir sellers and the like, plan their year with an intensive spell during the peak season, a slow warm-up and gradual tail-off before and after and then putting the shutters up for several winter months when the punters don’t come. But then this is fairly predictable, so long as the weather plays its part, which for most of the time, it does. And of course, that there is right where the problem lies in here and right now.
For a couple of years our weather just hasn’t played the game, has it? The rain hasn’t come, the Gaborone Dam has dried up, the city is now reliant on a sporadic water supply from the wetter north and many businesses are feeling the strain. The afore-mentioned building trade is one- construction relies on copious amounts of water in the building process so the less water is available, the less building can be carried out, even though this industry can turn to grey water to meet its needs. But how about hotels and lodges which have to supply potable water for consumption and ablution purposes to all their guests, not to mention stringent kitchen hygiene? How about small business which are heavily water-reliant such as hairdressers and car wash facilities? And large office complexes which need to provide ablution facilities for hundreds of staff within? And let’s not forget local schools, both private and government, struggling to remain open, using only what water tanks they may have for their pupils and staff. Things got so bad recently that I heard of one Professor at UB who had to leave the premises and go home just to use the lavatory so pity the poor student body….
So I predict that although many business here will close as usual and there will be all the normal celebratory pre-Christmas staff cocktail parties and suppers, it will be with a heavy heart and a sense of foreboding that many managers and owners will be shutting up shop this year, fearful of worse to come in the New Year unless we are finally blessed with rains of Biblical proportions in January. Of course in the Bible, Jesus is said to have turned water into wine. Now what we need is a reverse osmosis – that would be a real miracle.
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.