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Iqbal Ebrahim

Many non-Muslims will be surprised to learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh) is a much respected figure in Islam. The Qur’an honours her with an entire chapter titled: Surah Mariam.

Both Christ and his mother are highly revered in Islam. Jesus (pbuh) is considered one of the five greatest prophets sent to mankind.  The Muslims’ knowledge about Jesus (Isa) is based on the two main sources: the Quran and Hadeeth (prophetic sayings).  Jesus is referred to as Isa ibn Mariam, or Jesus, the son of Mariam (Mary) (pbut).  

Her story is spoken with reverence in the Quran, for she is a woman like no other. Mary was born to the pious household of the family of Imran. The story starts with the mother of Mary who when expecting a baby, hoping for a boy child, planned on devoting him to the priesthood made an appeal to the Lord: ‘O my Lord! I do dedicate unto you what is in my womb for your special service.’ (Quran 3:35).

But instead she gave birth to the girl, Mary, knowing that she could not take up priesthood, she prayed thus to the Lord: ‘………..when she delivered a female, she said “I have named her Mary and I commend her and her offspring to your protection from the evil one”……Right graciously did her Lord accept her; He made her grow in purity and beauty’ (Quran 3: 35-37)  

Afterwards the honour and responsibility of taking care of and raising the child Mary was given to an elderly and childless couple, Zachariah and his wife. ‘She was assigned to the care of Zakariya’. (Quran 3: 37). He noticed that the young Mary was a unique and special girl. This uniqueness was also relayed to her by the angels: “And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all nations.  O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow down in prayer with those who bow down …… (Quran 3:42)

The Quran holds the Virgin Mary as an example of what the virtuousness and the chastity of all believers should be. ‘And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into her body of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations—and was one of the truly devout’ (66:12).

Zachariah noticed that Mary always had provisions provided for, when he asked her how she came by the food and she answered: ‘It is from Allah.  Indeed, Allah provides sustenance to who He pleases without measure. (Quran 3:37)

As she grew into womanhood she became a well-respected and much loved person in the community. Allah sent to her the Angel Gibraeel (Gabriel) with a message.  He said, ‘I am the messenger of your Lord to give you news of a pure boy (son)’.  She said, ‘How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?’  He said, so it will be, for God creates what he wants. When he decides something He only says to it ‘Be’ and ‘it is’ and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us.  And it is a matter already decreed.’” 

So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.” (Quran 19:16–22) And also in an earlier verse: ’Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name shall be Christ Jesus…held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the company of the righteous’ (Qur’an 3:42-45)

From the Quranic description we deduce that Mary spent most of her pregnancy alone and in seclusion. The Quran picks up the story at the time that Mary goes into labour.

“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of palm tree.  She said, ‘Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.’  But a voice cried to her from beneath the palm tree, ‘Do not grieve; your Lord has provided you with a stream……And shake toward yourself the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates…… So eat and drink and be contented. (Quran 19: 23 -26)  

After the baby Jesus had been born Mary faced another difficult and terrifying task: Because her character was impeccable she was worried about having to face the shock and disgust of the community with accusations and maligning of her character of being single mother. God further guided her how to deal with the situation: ‘….. A voice cried out to her…… and if you see any person, say ‘I have vowed to fast to Allah Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into any talk with any human being’. (Quran 19:26).

When she brought out the baby Jesus to her people, they were very perturbed that she had had a child out of wedlock and they started questioning her. They said, ‘O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.  O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.’  Instead of responding to them she just pointed to the baby Jesus.  ‘They said, ‘How can we speak to one who is a child in the cradle?’ (Quran 19: 28-29).

Much to their surprise the baby Jesus miraculously defended his mother from accusations of adultery and sin, and in a nutshell, explained who he was and why he was sent by God. ‘He said, I am indeed a servant of Allah; He has given me Revelation and made me a Prophet; and He has made Blessed where so ever I be and has enjoined on me Prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable…….so peace is on me the day I was born and the day that I die…..’ (Quran 19: 30 – 33)

So is the story of the miraculous birth of one of the greatest Prophets, Jesus (Isa) (pbuh) described in the Quran. We can see that Mary was an amazing woman and she did it with grace, faith and a fortitude that would shame even the staunchest of believers, thus our faith calls upon us to honour her in the most reverent way possible.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

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.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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