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EXTRAVAGANCE – The scourge of society

Iqbal Ebrahim

Nowadays we have almost wall to wall advertising commercials on television, radio and on billboards that whet the consumer’s appetite and our desire to go for whatever is advertised. They tempt us into thinking and make us believe that if we do not get those advertised products we will be unhappy, ineffective and clumsy or out of tune with the fashion and trends of the times. To satiate our appetites we rush out to buy those things.

‘…….squander not your wealth in the manner of a spendthrift’ (Quran 17: 26)

Islam discourages its followers the free reins to reckless spending and consumption instead it encourages us to avoid luxurious items so that we do not become enslaved by them, many of us are capable of blindly and irresponsibly abandoning ourselves to the squandering of our hard earned wealth in order to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Extravagance has moved from being a practice of the rich and wealthy people to a practice that regrettably has affected all levels of the society – it has become so common that it has affected each and every one of us. What we see is an increase in expenses, increase in consumption and to squander wealth as soon as we gain it or rise and move up the ladder to a position of affluence is a common characteristic of our society today.

Those who have the means can become reckless, but those who do not, have to borrow money to squander it in order to meet their families’ desires of luxuries and unnecessary items. For some people wealth means only one thing, more consumption, more comfort and enjoyment of luxuries to the full. The Quran captures this trait when it says that humans will exceed the limits of moderation because it is a characteristic in man. “If Allah were to enlarge the provision for his servants, they would indeed transgress beyond all bounds.” (Quran 42:  27). And: ‘Those who, when they spend are not extravagant and nor miserly, but hold a just balance between those extremes’. (Quran 25; 67)

This practice of showmanship has reached a stage where many a bread winner resorts to taking loans from finance houses at ridiculously high interest rates, in order to meet his families wishes to travel aboard or to give a big wedding party, for his son or daughter in such an extravagant manner just to win peoples’ admiration, etc.

Regrettably this even goes as far as fancy funerals with the attendant costs. This also filters down to our daily lives when such things as accommodation, furniture, fancy cars for transport, the latest in electronic gadgets, clothing and food.
It has become a common practice that some people have turned to the evil habit of drinking alcohol, wines and spirits, the more expensive the better. I have heard that the price of some of these alcoholic beverages cost more per bottle than what many ordinary people earn in a month! Worse still I believe they polish off a bottle in one sitting entertaining guests – of course making veiled references to their cost just to impress their guests.  

We tend to be wasteful in dress, means of transport, furniture and any other things. The Quran says: ‘O children of Adam! Wear your apparel of adornment at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink but do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant’.  (Quran 7: 31)

Islam does not forbid a person to acquire wealth, to make it grow and make use of it. In fact Islam encourages one to do so as long as it is not acquired in the forbidden ways, but it is how we spend that wealth that we have to be careful with. Islam encourages us to live a life of moderation in all matters. Every individual has to earn in a dignified manner and then spend it in a very wise and careful manner. One should never try to impress others by living beyond one’s means, therefore extravagance is forbidden in Islam.

The Quran reminds us not to be wasteful in the buying of food, extravagant eating that sometimes leads to throwing away of leftovers as forbidden. It says, ‘Eat of the fruits in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. And waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.’  (Quran 6: 141)

Think about the extravagance and the squandering of wealth that continues to grow in our society, while throughout Botswana and indeed the all over the world there are countless helpless and deprived people who do not even have sufficient food or decent shelter. In some countries thousands of people die of starvation. Can it be right that we go on spending in such a reckless manner while witnessing the suffering of fellow humans?

We have to put on the brakes somewhere along the line and take stock of our lives and also the suffering of others. We have been blessed with wealth today, but life is unpredictable and things can happen is such a way that we can lose all our possessions over time.
Many a family has been brought to the brink of poverty after leading a life of affluence.

There are many people who lived a life  of extravagance and indulged in excesses only to be later inflicted with trials and tribulations to such a point that they wished they could only have a little bit of what they used to possess. To capture the balance that we should strive for here are a few quotes from various writers on our desire for wealth:

‘Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. 2) Money often costs too much. 3) Life is tragic for those who have plenty to live on and nothing to live for. 4) If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy. 5) Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants. 6) A man’s bank account doesn’t indicate whether he is rich or poor. It is the heart that makes a man rich. A man is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.

Islam teaches moderation in all matters – Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) amongst his teachings said: i) ‘Verily, modesty and faith are related to each other; if one of them is taken away, the other is also taken away.’ ii)‘Do not wish to be like anyone, except in two cases; A man whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously; and A man whom Allah has given wisdom (knowledge of the Qur’an and the Hadith) and he acts according to it and teaches it to others. iii) Allah does not look at your forms and possessions, but He looks at your hearts and your deeds.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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