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Iqbal Ebrahim

Muslims throughout the world will have embarked on a personal ‘journey’ that is designed to lead them on to the path of self-cleansing. This journey will help create within us, a heightened awareness that should lead to a re-awakening and a mind-set change within our hearts, minds and souls. Ramadan offers Muslims the opportunity to bring changes to their habits, attitudes, behaviour, outlook and lifestyles. This opportunity comes during the yearly period of the Holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims have to undertake compulsory fasting.

‘Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgement between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month shall spend it in fasting, but if any one of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. ’ (Quran 2: 185)

This month gives us that opportunity not only to control our intake of food and water but also learning to change our life and to take greater control of it. Therefore we must use this Holy month to change our ways, even if it is just this one element of our makeup.  

The basic purpose of fasting is to infuse into us the quality of Taqwa (piety). The term "taqwa" in the broader Islamic terminology means fear of Allah or God Consciousness and avoidance of our disobedience to Him. It also means total devotion. Thus, through this heightened consciousness, when we, the servants of Allah, submit ourselves to His will by carrying out all obligatory duties with which we have been commanded and abstain from that which Allah has prohibited to us, then those obedient actions have saved us from Allah's punishment.  

In our life’s journey through this world which has become increasingly amoral we need that moral reawakening so that we should shun and avoid those innumerable worldly temptations that come our way by sticking to the path of goodness and righteousness. Taqwa basically combines character development coupled with God-consciousness.

Ramadan is the month of heightened Allah-consciousness, of attaining taqwa (piety), of training ourselves to be the best we can be; a month to initiate improvement of our character and for the cultivation of good habits.

What is the purpose and how does fasting change our lives?

Fasting is not an easy act it because it needs a strong personality to instil and dictate self-control, self-discipline and self-restraint. Fasting develops self-control and helps Muslims overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other of our daily faults. Therefore for Muslims it is an annual training program to refresh and strengthen our resolve in carrying out our duties towards Allah. The hardship of fasting brings the glad tidings that the fasting undertaken for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah is sure to be accepted by the Most Merciful Lord. A person, who can restrain himself, for the love and pleasure of Allah, without doubt such a person will surely be given paradise by Allah as a gift.

In doing it for the pleasure of Allah and to follow His Commands, it guides us in the following ways: It helps us seek Allah’s guidance; to seek deliverance and protection in order to overcome temptations and dedicate ourselves to Him; to strengthen our Faith; to express our love and Worship of Allah by humbling oneself before Him; it helps us become aware of the needs of others.

‘I am indeed close to them; I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.’ (Quran 2: 186)

The Bible also shows the value of fasting: “And, I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting……’ (Daniel 9: 3)

Once we learn to train ourselves to try our best to live by the highest values we will surely become people of principle, integrity and undoubtedly people with a moral conscience. What is morality though?

Morality describes the principles that govern our behaviour and relates to our behaviour at three levels…
How we as individuals ensure that we are honest, just and compassionate.
How we interact with and contribute to society, as asset or liability.
How conscious we are of our accountability to our Creator.

Once we have started on the road to behavioural change we will find piety beginning to set into our lifestyles. Thus we will begin to live with a heightened sense of discipline and consciousness of our obligations to, and to obey the Commands of Allah in carrying out His Laws.

The moral and spiritual climate of fasting during the month of Ramadan further helps the flourishing discipline and consciousness to set in, this in turn leads to a life of goodness, humility, righteousness, love for good and aversion for evil.

Fasting has been made obligatory on Muslims. Why? Allah does not need our hunger, but fasting helps us to develop and focus our minds on what is right and what is wrong, and heightens our sense of love and gratitude for our Creator. Importantly, we are made conscious about the needs and deprivation of those who are more in need than ourselves.

Ramadan also teaches us how to control our animal passions, how to bring them under discipline. Take this one for example, next time lust look around when some of us dish out food served buffet style. Many of us are at times guilty of greedily dishing out ‘more than we can chew’. Our plates will be filled to the brim or even overflowing with food – yet in the end, we will leave so many leftovers in the plate – enough to feed a starving person.

There are countless people around the world who are in dire need of help because they suffer from hunger. Thus a fasting person develops feelings of sympathy for the poor.

Fasting Muslims can really sympathize with the starving people everywhere in the world and see the hardship that they go through every day of their lives. The sense of compassion springs from the feeling of ‘hunger’ during the fasting.  Fasting is a practical means to develop that compassion for other people's sufferings.

I want to wish all Muslims well over the Ramadan fast and pray that this year will bring in positive changes to our lifestyles so that they are in congruence with what our Lord and Creator has Decreed for us. I want to invite my non-Muslim brothers and sisters to try to fast just for one day – go on give it a try, it may be tough but you can slake your hunger and thirst at sunset and get back to your normal routine. Any takers?.

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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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