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Iqbal Ebrahim

In any culture or society, the quality of forgiveness, is welcome and is considered a sign of generosity. It brings about peaceful human interaction, love and reduces resentment, hatred and misunderstandings in our personal relationships with others.
Forgiveness is an admired trait among people be it our family, friends or acquaintances especially those whom we consider to be ‘above’ us, be it in age, position or any other station in life.

According to the Islamic teachings, we have to aspire to internalize the sublime qualities of compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness and so on. For peace in our lives we must try to be compassionate, loving, merciful, and forgiving, among those traits.

Such individuals, who are by nature forgiving, get more respect from those around them and therefore prove to be more respected and liked. The Quran has stressed this quality many times as a necessary ingredient in the smooth functioning of society.

‘Praised are they who restrain their anger and pardon the faults of others; and God loves those who do good to others’ (Quran 3:134). And: ‘But forgive them and overlook their misdeeds, for Allah loves those who are kind’ (Quran 5:13)

Take a moment to reflect on life in general.  Ever wonder what life would be like if our family and friends never forgave us for the mistakes we made? Each one of us, at one point or another in our lives has made mistakes or have had an experience that made us frustrated, upset, resentful, or angry. The source of that might have been wittingly or unwittingly the words or actions of a family member or friend, or the words or actions of a stranger.

Not only that, the world is full of enmity and hatred simply because very few people are willing to admit that they have wronged others through their words, actions or inactions. It is time that we ‘own up’ as it were to bring back that human trait of forgiveness.  

What type of person are you? Do you see yourself usually more on the apologizing side or are you the one waiting for an apology from others? Let us try to forget about all of those times when we felt someone else should have been asking you for forgiveness but did not get around to it. Forget about all of those times when you felt you deserved an apology but was not forthcoming. This is not about others, it is about you. It is about you making an intentional and a deliberate decision and choice to embrace forgiveness as a way of life.

Sometimes we may even feel that forgiveness is a sign of weakness, on the contrary, it is a sign of strength of character and mind. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has taught us that exercising self-restraint, especially in situations where we would be justified to exact retribution, is an ideal to which every believer should aspire. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.’  

Islam urges forgiveness, but also recommends that we go a step further, by doing good to the people who have wronged us. This is the rationale offered by the Quran in this matter: ‘The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is good, then lo! He, between whom and thee there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.’ (Quran 41:34). According to the above quotation from the Holy Quran, The emphasis is on forgiveness rather than compensation for a wrongdoing.

From the above the virtue of forgiveness is seen to be beneficial. Islam avoids extremes like tooth for tooth, but rather urges turning the other cheek as a more balanced and practical approach. The objective is to provide the maximum good for the largest group of people.

The Bible also urges the same: ‘You have heard it said that an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you……whomsoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also’. (Mat 5: 38 – 39)

Islam permits retaliation commensurate with the extent of wrong done to an individual, but it encourages forgiveness as the more appropriate choice. A forgiving attitude strengthens social ties. ‘The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto in degree; but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah; for Allah does not love those who do wrong.’ 

(Quran 42: 40). ‘If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted. But if ye endure patiently, that is indeed the best for those who are patient. And you be patient, for your patience is from Allah; nor grieve over them; and do not distress yourself because of their plots, for Allah is with those who restrain themselves and those who do good.’ (Quran 16: 126 – 128).

One obstacle to being forgiving is our tendency to hold a grudge against people because our internal pride does not allow us to be the first to say ‘I am sorry’, ‘I forgive you’, or, ‘let bygones be bygones’. But sometimes holding his grudge ends up being years spent apart from a family member or a friend. The question to ask then is: What do we gain by holding a grudge and not wanting to forgive? What could be so painful to us that we are unwilling to give the person who hurt us a second chance. 

Can we not find it in our hearts to forgive our family and friends and to strive to strengthen and bring peace into family and friendship? Learning to be forgiving is not something one can achieve overnight. It takes a lifetime of practice and reflects the height of self-restraint.

Are you ready to incorporate forgiveness as a way of life?  Are you up to the challenge? Who will be the first person you e-mail, text or call to tell them that he or she is forgiven? Who will you walk up to and say, ‘Listen, I'm sorry for holding a grudge against you for so long.’ Imagine how relieved you will feel knowing that you are no longer carrying around with you the burden of anger and frustration. Knowing that you have released all of that negative energy from your body will be refreshing and make it easier for you to be forgiving of others and to be forgiven by others.  

‘But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs’. (Quran 42: 43)
Do not feel ashamed to forgive and forget. Do not get angry and lose your temper quickly over the mistakes and failures of others. On the contrary, be patient and sympathetic with them. Anger and desire for vengeance are a never ending cycle.

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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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