Connect with us
Advertisement
[spt-posts-ticker]
Thursday, 18 April 2024

Recognition of former presidents: the case of Sir Ketumile Masire

Columns

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

Ordinarily, a former president is celebrated by his or her country, especially if he or she led the nation exceptionally well. Such recognition and celebration should not await the person’s death, but should be done during the person’s lifetime so that he or she truly experiences and relishes it.

Not only that. Such recognition and celebration is good for democracy because it serves as an incentive for serving presidents to govern well in order to reach the same heights that their predecessors reached or to even surpass them. In this article we consider whether or not we, as a people, accord our former presidents the recognition they deserve. We use the case of Sir Ketumile Masire.

But, who is Sir Ketumile Masire? To answer this question we steal, with limited adaptation, from his biographical information published in the Global Leadership Forum (GLF) website. Born on 23rd July 1925 in Kanye, Masire, a son of a minor headman, grew up in a community where male commoners, such as him, were expected to end up as low-paid migrant labourers in the South African mines.

​Between 1949 and 1950 Masire was trained as a teacher at Tiger Kloof, in the former British Bechuanaland Protectorate and in 1950, after graduating from Tiger Kloof, he helped found the Seepapitso II Secondary School, the first institution of higher learning in the BaNgwaketse Reserve.

Masire served as the school's headmaster for about six years. During this period he clashed with Kgosi Bathoen II of BaNgwaketse. Resenting Bathoen II's many petty interferences in school affairs, Masire, working through the revived Bechuanaland African Teachers Association, became an advocate for the autonomy of protectorate schools from chiefly authority.​

In 1956 Masire took up farming, and earned a Master Farmers Certificate and established himself as one of the territory's leading agriculturalists in 1957. His success led to renewed conflict with Kgosi Bathoen II, who seized Masire’s farms as punishment for alleged infraction of fencing communal land.

In 1958 Masire was appointed as the protectorate reporter for the African Echo/Naledi ya Botswana newspaper. He was also elected to the newly reformed BaNgwaketse Tribal Council and, after 1960, the protectorate-wide African and Legislative Councils.

Although Masire attended the first Kanye meeting of the Botswana People's Party (BPP), the earliest nationalist grouping to enjoy a mass following in the territory, he declined to join the party. Instead, in 1961 Masire, together with such stalwarts as Sir Seretse Khama, Moutlakgola Nwako, Goareng Mosinyi, Gaefalale Sebeso, Archeus Tsoebebe, Tsheko Tsheko, Englishman Kgabo, Ben Stienberg and Amos Dambe helped found the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Masire served as the BDP’s first Secretary General.

It is apposite that before we consider whether or not Masire is getting the recognition he deserves we should have a cursory discussion of the achievements and failures of his presidency. I say cursory because the achievements and failures of a person of Masire’s stature cannot be adequately discussed in an article of this sort. It requires a book.

In discussing Masire’s achievements and failures we consider his performance in the area of politics within the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP); his performance as Vice President and President; his performance in the international community; his general social life and his conduct after he retired as president.

First, his performance as a politician. Having been able to rise from the rank and file of the party until he became Secretary General, a position he held for many years, is a remarkable political achievement, especially considering that he was a commoner under the shadow of a powerful chief cum politician, the late Sir Seretse Khama.
The aforegoing notwithstanding, his political detractors blame him for a leadership style of favoritism and purging which led to the development of factionalism within the party. It is during his leadership, they contend, that factionalism was at its peak with the Kedikilwe/Kwelagobe and Nkate/Merafhe factions rising to the level of cults.

Secondly, his performance as Vice President and President. A commoner, teacher, journalist and newspaper editor, Masire, affectionately called Rra Gaone, rose through the ranks of his party, the BDP, until he became state president in 1980 following the death of our founding father, Sir Seretse Khama. He served as president until 1998 when he retired.

At a strategic and visionary level, Sir Ketumile Masire contributed to the development of our country’s founding pillars among them the endorsement of the national anthem composed by Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete; the endorsement of the national flag and the development of the four national principles being Democracy, Development, Unity and Self Reliance.

Still at a strategic level, Masire played a pivotal role in the determination of our motto “Pula” and the national symbol that entails the zebra, shield, water, the cow head, sorghum and the elephant task, symbols which indicate our reliance on wildlife, agriculture, water and our people’s will to defend themselves.

At an operational level, Rra Gaone contributed to the establishment of Botswana as a nation state by initiating legislation for enactment by Parliament; playing a leading role in the establishment of such institutions of state as Parliament, government ministries, the courts and such parastatal entities as the University of Botswana(UB) and Botswana Meat Commission (BMC). He also contributed to the discussion and decision on the establishment of our currency, the Pula and Thebe.

During his tenure as Vice President and Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Masire exercised prudence in fiscal and monetary policy, ensuring discipline in government expenditure. He was at the centre of Botswana’s decision to invest in foreign reserves and the establishment of the Pula Fund. Sticking to prudent economic fundamentals gave Botswana an economic head start, especially in a region tainted by financial imprudence.

Masire was at the centre of the development of programmes which saved Batswana from peril, especially during the years of drought. Some of the programmes he developed are the Accelerated Rainfed Arable Programme (ARAP), Arable Lands Development Programme (ALDEP), Services to Livestock Owners in Communal Areas (SLOCA) and the Financial Assistance Programme (FAP).

Considering that at its nascent stage Botswana had limited material and human resources Masire and his generation of leaders did not just stick to policy formulation as the Presidency and cabinet should, but descended to implementation because we had a limited and relatively unqualified and inexperienced civil service.

Some of the milestones that Masire will be remembered for are the establishment of such institutions supporting our democracy as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC); the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman. Masire will also be remembered for bringing such electoral reforms as reducing the voting age from twenty one years to eighteen; introduction of the two-term presidential term limit and external balloting.

But, perhaps more poignantly, Masire will be remembered for pioneering the development of the nation’s long term vision, Vision 2016. This demonstrated that indeed Masire is a visionary who, despite the existence of National Development Plans (NDPs), recognized the need to rally the nation around one common set of aspirations for the future.   

Thirdly, his performance in the international community. Together with such leaders as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Masire was at the centre of the formation of such regional organizations as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). During his tenure of office he was Chairman of SADC and Co-Chairperson of the Global Coalition for Africa. He also became the first Vice-Chairman of the OAU in 1991.

It is this belief in the strength of the community of nations that gained Masire international respect and recognition. Consequently, he played a mediatory role in Lesotho and Zaire when these countries were at the verge of collapse due to conflict and civil strife. His admirable mediatory role in Zaire earned him the nick name ‘MaZaire’.

Only people of honor and integrity can be entrusted with the duty to save an entire nation from collapse through mediation, especially during a time of armed conflict and civil war. Only a few like former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan, former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and our very own ‘MaZaire’ can earn such trust.   

Fourthly, his general social life. Many a times, leaders, perhaps corrupted by power, live a life tainted by such vices as corruption and maladministration, alcohol abuse, adultery, self- exaltation and opulence. Such of Masire’s peers as Mabutho Se Seseko of Zaire and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe threw away the good work they did in their countries’ liberation because of greed and corruption.

Besides the unproven allegations that Masire’s decision for government to write-off the agricultural loans obtained by farmers from the National Development Bank (NDB) under the FAP programme was motivated by his interests in farming and that he has amassed too much farming land, Masire’s record in as far as corruption and maladministration are concerned is almost blemishless. This is indeed commendable for someone who served as state president for eighteen years.

Even at a personal level, Masire has never been accused of such vices as adultery, alcohol abuse, pride and self-exaltation. He remained married to his wife, Mma Gaone, until death did them part. They raised their children well and one of them, MmaSekgoa, made us proud by representing us in the Common Wealth of Nations as Deputy Secretary General. Unfortunately, she recently lost the elections for the Secretary Generalship by two votes, but she ran a good campaign.

Masire is known as a morally upright men who has remained down to earth despite his position. When in Kanye, his home village, he behaves like an ordinary tribesmen who shops in traditional stalls, called mabentlele in Setswana. The only ‘negative’ label he has earned in Kanye is that he is stingy, perhaps because instead of buying expensive things he buys cheap things from mabentlele.

Masire’s down to earth status is evidenced by the jokes he used to make while addressing kgotla meetings. One of the most popular is where it is said someone, in trying to demonstrate that the tarred road passing through his village is too narrow, said a person can jump across the road with little effort. In reply, Masire is reported to have said instead of wasting such talent the person should rather use his talent in long jump competitions and represent Botswana at the Olympics.      

Fifthly, his conduct after retirement. Masire has remained a statesman by giving guidance and commenting on national issues. For example, the media has reported that he is deeply pained by the way president Khama and the BDP literally pushed the late Gomolemo Motswaledi out of the BDP; the way government handled the 2011 public sector strike and the abuse of the presidential automatic succession provision in the Constitution.

It is also reported that Masire is saddened by the development path Botswana is taking where government embarks on such unsustainable projects as Ipelegeng and the new Tirelo Sechaba programme which has abandoned the principles of the original Tirelo Sechaba which was indeed national service because it inculcated among the youth the spirit of nationhood while preparing them for the world of tertiary education and work.

Unfortunately, it is this continued statesmanship which has earned Masire the wrath of his own party. Masire is accused of breaking the convention in terms of which a former head of state should not meddle with government business. Reportedly, the BDP treats Masire like a stranger to the extent that it has labeled him as pro-Opposition and as one of the people who contributed to the spilt within the BDP which led to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2010.

Consequently, it is reported, the BDP and president Khama do not listen to Masire’s advice since they regard him as an enemy. Reportedly, despite trying to advise president Khama on such issues as the Gomolemo Motswaledi suspension and the handling of the 2011 public sector strike such advice was shunned and he is accused of trying to rule from the grave.

In 2007, Masire set up the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation to promote the social and economic well-being of the society of Botswana. The Foundation strives to facilitate and drive efforts to promote peace, good governance and political stability internationally; assist children with disabilities from birth; and promote innovation and alternatives in agriculture.

Masire has remained relevant internationally. He has been involved in numerous diplomatic missions in several African countries, including Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana and Swaziland. Between 1998 and 2000 he served as Chairman of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities Investigating the Circumstances Surrounding the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
From 2000 to 2003 he was the facilitator for the Inter-Congolese National Dialogue, which had the objective of bringing about a new political dispensation for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in terms of the Lusaka Ceasefire Accord.

In May 2010 Masire led an African Union Election Observer Mission to the May 2010 Ethiopia Legislative Elections, and in October 2010 he co-led (with fellow GLF Member Joe Clark) a National Democratic Institute pre-election assessment mission in Nigeria, which identified a number of hurdles that could undermine a successful process surrounding the 2011 state and national elections.

Masire’s contributions have been mainly recognized by the international community. He has received Honorary Doctorates from University of Botswana, St John University, De Paul University, Williams College, Sussex University, University of Port Elizabeth, Ohio University, and Carlton College.

In 1989 Masire was awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, the Grand Counsellor of the Royal Order of Sobhuza II (Swaziland), Honorary Knighthood of the Grand Cross of Saint Michael and Saint George (UK), and the Order of the Welwitschia (Namibia). 

In terms of memberships and associations Masire is the founder of the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation, Co-Chairperson of the Global Coalition for Africa, Board Member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Member of Club de Madrid and Member of the Africa Forum.

In view of Masire’s outstanding achievements as shown above, I was surprised when I recently realized that there is nothing Botswana has named in his honor. Not even when he celebrated his 90th birthday on 23rd July 2015. I say honor and not remembrance because I believe that our heroes and heroines should be celebrated during their lifetime and not only remembered when they are dead. A life not celebrated in life is a life killed.
 
Is it not an embarrassment that there is no single road, street, stadium, school, clinic or hospital named after Masire? Would we rather call our streets by such weird and divisive names as Ditimamolelo and Marapoathutwa than ‘Sir Ketumile Masire’? Would we rather name our streets and roads after foreign former presidents than our own former presidents?

Rra Gaone deserves to have something named after him during his lifetime and not when he has departed this world. So does former president Festus Gontebanye Mogae. And so does president Khama. Queen Elizabeth II did not wait for Sir Ketumile Masire to die before recognizing him. She knighted him in 1991, seven years before his retirement.

Continue Reading

Columns

GONE FISHING

28th March 2023

In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device).  But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.  Consider these examples:

Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.  Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.

Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli.  As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.

And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.

Of course, hackers target governments or business giants  but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.  Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.

This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.  A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.

Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.  Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.  Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.

Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity.  Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,  sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.

BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.  Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.  Ransomware attacks are on the increase,  predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.

Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise –  whereby  cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.

Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,  consult your IT security consultants.  You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!

Continue Reading

Columns

“I Propose to Diana Tonight”

28th March 2023

About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.

As he trudged the woods, Williams  had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”

Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”

The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He  took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative  Unit.

The report read as follows:

“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”

Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.

Meanwhile, General,  even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”

DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ

Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.  Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.

At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet.  The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates.  Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.

Rita, General,  was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him  in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well,  she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.

As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”

Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.

THE “TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED

Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring  Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome.  It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.

The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law,  had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco  and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative  Dodi transaction.  Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one  he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi  was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy  on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.  With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi  did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.

Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.  There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It  may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious  choice for her.

The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash,  has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.

Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.

DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS

At about 7 pm,  Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.

As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm  and showed him  the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.

Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz  that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.

Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back  (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are

Continue Reading

Columns

RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting

28th March 2023

Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).

‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an  (2 : 185)

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.

Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.

Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.

 

The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.

Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”

This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.

Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.

The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.

Continue Reading