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Perfection in an Imperfect World

Iqbal Ebrahim

We live in a world where everyone grows up thinking that the world is a perfect place. Most of us have goodness in our hearts, and we think that goodness is in everything. In our idealism and innocence, we think that there is fairness, everybody is fair to each other, and if anyone is wronged, justice will be served. In this fairy-tale world of ours, people are happy for each other, and if someone else has more than you, you will be happy for him because Allah has Blessed him and you’re happy with His decision. It is only later we get a rude awakening and we begin to realize how wrong we are.

Look around you and you will see that there is so much deceit, envy, hatred, unfairness and evil in the world because we are overlooking a fundamental truth about this life. In our idealism, we fail to see and understand that this world is imperfect, and our goodness too, is imperfect.

‘Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves with their own souls’ (Quran 13: 11)

Humans are inherently imperfect. We are prone to mess things up, knowingly or unknowingly. Many times in those mess-ups, we inevitably hurt others, intentionally or unintentionally.

The world is seen differently by each one of us, and the goodness of one may be harm for the next. We are but human and no one is perfect, hence we should try to live a life that is in congruence with the command, guidance and teachings of our Creator that have been sent to us. But there is hope, in another verse that repeats an almost similar message to the one quoted earlier. ‘Allah will never change the Grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is their own soul.’ (Quran 8: 53)

This verse captures what we need to do in order to infuse into our lives how we should behave and how to change our behavioural patterns so that our lives are in congruence with that guidance. This is for all humanity.

‘Those who believe in the Quran, and those who follow the Jewish Scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Quran 2: 62)

We may be tempted to ask can we reach perfection when the world is in such a mess: how do you live in a world where people betray us and let us down, including our own family and friends? How do we learn to forgive when we have been wronged? How can we be the better party, even if we can take revenge? How do we become strong, without being hard; and remain soft, without being weak? How do we become compassionate, without being gullible, or cheerful, without being remorseful? When do we hold on, and when do we let go? These questions can only be answered once we have made up our minds to introduce habit change in our lives.

"He who created death and life to test you (as to) which of you is best in deed." (Quran 67/2)

Change can only begin with us because the path to paradise is most definitely uphill. It is paved with stumbling blocks and hardships.  It requires sacrifice and self-control, patience and perseverance; obedience and submission to our Creator; hard work and firm commitment. We need to learn to hone in so as to groom ourselves to perfection. It requires giving up instant satisfaction so we can get eternal satisfaction.

Muslims believe that only our Creator is perfect and it is an attribute of Allah, human beings are imperfect. This is why all humans commit mistakes and sin. Does this mean that we must stop struggling towards principled, ethical, honourable, moral and inner purity because we are inherently imperfect? No, it means that we must try our best to live by the highest values, integrity and of moral conscience.

‘Verily my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight – a religion of right – the Path trodden by Abraham, the true in faith….truly my prayer and service, my life, my death are all for Allah….and I am the first to bow to His Will.’ (Quran 6: 161-3)

We will need to start with the small teetering steps towards gaining a foothold to perfection, but we have to ensure that there is sincerity in all that we do. This includes a change of mind-set, habits, behaviour and attitudes in our actions.   Habits are usually the driving force towards any change because habits are either virtues or vices,

A virtuous character is built on the foundations of good habits and good habits flow into our actions thereby assisting us to resist negative temptations. Good habits, unfortunately for most of us seem so much easier to give up than bad habits.

There is a saying that captures that essence:" First we make our habits then our habits make us". Thinking in a particular pattern creates a mental path, the mental path affects our attitude and our behaviour, and these reflect our personality and character. In other words, our thoughts affect our attitudes, which affect our actions, which determine our habits, which reflect our character which could determine our destiny.  So our habits eventually become our character.

We should therefore try to live by the highest values of sincerity and integrity because these build moral conscience. But for that moral conscience to exist we need to be sincere in all that we do. Sincerity has many different aspects to it: we have to ensure that:

There is sincerity in our belief in and placing our trust in Allah
There is sincerity in our Intentions
Sincerity in our regular Worship
Sincerity in what we say and in our actions.
Sincerity in our character

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘the practice of faith will not be correct unless actions are correct and actions will not be considered correct unless the heart is correct.’

‘Call to mind the special favour which I bestowed unto you, and fulfil your covenant with Me…. And fear none but Me. And believe in what I reveal …and be not the first to reject my signs, nor sell my My Signs for a miserable price; and fear me and me alone. Cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when you know what it is. And be steadfast in Prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down in worship. Do you enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget to practise it yourselves, and yet you study the Scripture?….Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer…who bear in mind the certainty that they are to meet their Lord, and that they are to return to Him.’ (Quran 2: 40-46)

That is the starting block. On your mark……..

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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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