The 2014 general elections saw the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) suffering its worst electoral performance since its formation. While its seats in the National Assembly fell from 45 in 2009 to 37 in 2014, its popular vote declined from 53.26% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2014. For many people this signals the imminent end of the BDP rule, with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) expected to attain state power in 2019.
However, if consideration is had to the BDP’s efforts to regain Batswana’s trust post the 2014 general elections, the Opposition may be well advised to beware for the BDP is awaking. Writing its political obituary and holding a night vigil for its burial may be a costly mistake for the Opposition.
Even pre-2014 the BDP, perhaps sensing loss of popular support, especially among public servants following the 2011 public sector strike, started awaking from its stupor. On 31st March 2014 the then Director of the Directorate on Public Service Management(DPSM), Mr. Carter Morupisi, obviously acting at the behest of his political masters, issued a press release in which he revealed a number of proposed incentives for public servants which he said government had tabled before the Public Service Bargaining Council(PSBC).
These proposed incentives, which were obviously intended to entice public servants at a time when there was a stalemate on the 2014/15 salary negotiations, included an increase in the repayment period for Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS) housing loan from 10 years to 20 years.
Not only that. The incentives also included free rent for employees in Category 1 Remote Area Service Allowance (RASA) earning areas; free internet and a special Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) scheme for public servants of grade D4 and below; and allowing Public Servants to engage in private businesses.
According to Mr. Morupisi, government, in order to encourage a culture of saving among public servants, initiated the Botswana Public Officers Savings and Credit Cooperative Society which was registered in April 2013. He said for a joining fee of P50.00 and a monthly contribution of P50.00 and above a member enjoys benefits which include loans at a reasonable interest rate of 10% at a ratio of 1:2 of one’s savings; buying shares for P500.00 and above which entitle a member to annual dividends and getting shared interest from one’s total savings on an annual basis.
Still on its crusade to regain public servants’ confidence, it is reported that the BDP has resolved that government should increase public servants’ salaries and, as an incentive, introduce a thirteenth cheque as is the case with some private companies. According to the reports, the BDP is of the view that the thirteenth cheque could be financed through the funds set aside for the ESP.
The few months that Botsalo Ntuane has spent as BDP Secretary General have seen an improvement with respect to the BDP’s relations with some public sector trade unions. Also, BDP’s tone in relation to trade unions has been less accusatory and more reconciliatory. At Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s recent congress Ntuane is reported to have said “we cannot wish the past away because it informs our present and future, but those historical challenges should be a lesson to both sides that we need to do more to find one another.”
Demonstrating that the BDP has taken a conscious decision to improve relations with Labour Ntuane said “it would be incorrect to think the BDP could govern effectively and be responsive to the aspirations, needs and concerns of Batswana without BOPEU, and other worker formations.”
To buttress his point Ntuane revealed that “on the basis of an appeal made to the BDP Labour Sub Committee and the Parliamentary caucus respectively by public sector unions, we caused debate on the Trade Dispute Bill to be delayed pending further consultations. This gesture we consider another step towards generating goodwill and improved relations with Labour.”
While there is no guarantee that these interventions aimed at regaining public servants’ support will tilt the scales in BDP’s favour during the 2019 general elections, the Opposition has to beware and re-engineer its relations with trade unions. The Opposition also has to propagate its manifesto as regards Labour so that workers, including public servants, are continually reminded of what the Opposition will offer to the workers if it is elected into power in 2019.
The UDC cannot rest on its laurels and assume that its partnership with the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will guarantee it success in the 2019 general elections. If workers on the ground believe that the BDP is now responsive to their needs the partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU may become irrelevant since the individual public servants would vote for the BDP despite the partnership.
Even worse for the UDC, BOFEPUSU can withdraw its support for it. After all, if BOFEPUSU really meant what it said its support for the UDC is not a lifelong commitment and it will withdraw it and lend it to any other political party that promotes the interests of the workers if the UDC ceases to do that.
Recently the BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, was quoted as saying the BDP has resolved that the party, and not the government, will be responsible for policy formulation and direction. If this indeed happens, as traces of it showed with respect to the recently introduced Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), it is likely to benefit the BDP in 2019, especially if it is successful since Batswana will accredit the success to the BDP. The contrary will, however, be true if the programme fails.
In South Africa, for example, one of the reasons why in the 2014 Parliamentary elections the African National Congress (ANC) won with a majority of 62.1% (though it reduced from 65.9% in 2009) despite the Nkandla and Gupta family scandals by President Jacob Zuma is that the party is in charge of the government’s policy direction. It is the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) which, through the National Working Committee (NWC), runs the country.
If the Opposition, be it the UDC or the Botswana Congress Party(BCP), is to attain state power in 2019 it needs to counter the BDP’s efforts of awaking from near death by presenting itself as an alternative ruling party. For example, the Opposition needs to make Parliamentary debates as vibrant and informative as they were during the days of such political stalwarts as the late Dr. Kenneth Koma, Maitshwarelo Dabutha and Paul Rantao.
Truth be told, remnants of that are beginning to show, especially through the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Honourable Duma Boko, Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central, Dr. Phenyo Butale and MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Honourable Dithapelo Keorapetse.
Because the Opposition cannot implement its policies since it is not in government, the only way to make itself relevant and appeal to more voters is to initiate, through parliamentary motions and questions, robust debates and, in the process, remind the voter of its manifesto while exposing weaknesses in the ruling party’s manifesto.
In addition, the Opposition has to have deliberate programmes which target such sectors of the society as the media, women, youth, people with disabilities and such marginalized groups as minority tribes. More than a year after the 2014 general elections neither the BCP nor the UDC has established itself as a champion for any of these groups. Both political parties have only focused on Labour, but Labour alone cannot ensure that the Opposition attains state power in 2019.
It is common knowledge that a ruling party, especially in Africa, usually wins elections despite its flaws because of the benefits of incumbency. For an opposition party to win general elections, all hands have to be on deck and it has to work extra ordinarily hard. Nor opposition party can win elections when it conducts business as usual.
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.