Botswana’s president, His Excellency Leitenenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama was recently quoted in The Patriot on Sunday newspaper’s online edition of 27th June 2016 as having said Botswana has nothing to learn from the British.
According to the report, “… President Khama attacked the British on the outcome of the recent referendum where they voted to pull out of the European Union (EU).” He is reported to have said “…what is shocking is that some cabinet ministers decided to vote with the Opposition on the referendum instead of pushing the agenda of the Prime Minister.”
In this article, I argue that contrary to President Khama’s view Botswana has a lot to learn from the British, especially in the areas of respect for the will of the people, separation of powers, good governance and democracy generally.
Firstly, the British know that in a democratic state the will of the people has to be given effect. It is commendable for the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to have taken the issue of membership of the EU to the voters after it became clear that a significant number of people were calling for it. He did this despite the risk to his political career.
It is even more commendable for David Cameron to have immediately accepted the results of the referendum despite the marginal majority of two percent, stating that he is not even considering a second referendum since the British people have spoken and their will should be given effect.
It is regrettable for President Khama to admonish the British for expressing their will through a democratic process. Does President Khama want to tell us that he knows what is best for the British people? Can he be right and fifty two percent of the British be wrong?
In a democracy, the will of the people should be respected however unpleasant or inconvenient it may be. Anyone who questions it is a threat to democracy since it shows that if he or she had the means he or she would overturn it.
In this our country, Botswana, seemingly incompetent people, even in President Khama’s BDP, have been and continue to be elected to Councils and Parliament and their election is respected because it expresses the people’s will. Challenging it would be tantamount to dictatorship.
In Botswana, many people have called for such reforms as political party funding; abolition of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Specially Nominated Councillors; using the hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past the Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS), e.t.c.
Many have also called for the independence of such institutions as Parliament, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman; introduction of direct presidential elections; and decentralization of power to Local Authorities.
Despite these calls government refused to consider them or at least subject them to a referendum. In so doing, government defied the very essence of democracy, i.e. ‘government by the people and for the people’. On the contrary, the British government, in holding the EU referendum, not only lived this principle but also exalted the sovereignty of the voters.
With respect to the issue of Specially Elected Members of Parliament, for example, government seems to be poised to increase them from four to six without even seeking the people’s mandate through a referendum. Consulting such institutions as Ntlo ya Dikgosi is clearly not enough.
This is despite the fact that several Batswana have complained that the dispensation does not serve any purpose other than increasing the BDP’s majority in Parliament. Contrary to government’s claims, people with disabilities, those from minority groups and tribes, women and youth have not benefited from the dispensation. No person with disability, Mosarwa, Moyeyi or Mumbukushu, for example, has been elected as Specially Elected Member of Parliament since independence.
What is even more lamentable is that despite the fact that there are many useful reforms that many Batswana have yearned for, the BDP government has not implemented any of them. It is rather increasing Specially Elected Members of Parliament, obviously to increase its Parliamentary majority especially for 2019 when its majority may be at risk.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s Deputy President, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, is right in asserting that Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Specially Nominated Councillors have been “… used by the ruling BDP to neutralise or reverse the mandate given to the opposition parties by the voters.”
He also assets, in the Weekend Post’s online edition of 27th June 2016, that “… most of the specially elected MPs are individuals who have lost elections against a member of the opposition. Out of the four specially elected MPs three had lost elections in 2014. Since independence all specially elected MPs were members of the ruling BDP. Currently 119 specially elected councillors are from the BDP while less than five (5) are from the opposition parties.”
After the 2014 general elections, for example, Honorables Dr. Unity Dow, Kitso Mokaila and Eric Molale, who had all lost elections, were not only elected as Specially Elected Members of Parliament, but were also appointed as cabinet ministers.
The last time the ruling BDP government made meaningful democratic reforms was in 1995 when it, following its 1995 Sebele Extra-Ordinary Congress, introduced the two-term presidential term limit; reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years; introduced external balloting and established the IEC.
What is incontrovertible is that in enacting the aforesaid constitutional reforms after years of refusing them the BDP government’s intention was not to give effect to the people’s will per se, but to avert defeat at the next general elections.
Secondly, considering the significance of the issue, at the commencement of the campaigns leading to the EU referendum, the British government lifted the doctrine of collective responsibility that ordinarily obliges members of the Executive, for example, to be bound by the decision of the collective.
This allowed members of the Executive to express their views on this momentous issue. Denying them this right and allowing only the Prime Minister’s views to be heared would have been undemocratic since other views, potentially beneficial to the people, would have been unduly suppressed.
Contrary to President Khama’s views the EU referendum vote was not about the Opposition and the ruling party. It was about the British people as a whole. It transcended political party divisions. No wonder the opposition Labour Party supported the ruling Conservative Party in voting against the secession from the EU.
I could not help but marvel at the beauty of democracy when members of the political parties, including cabinet ministers spoke freely about their position on the issue. These people were neither victimized nor dismissed from their respective political parties or positions. Their views were respected. This is real democracy which gives effect to the Setswana proverb ‘Mmualebe o bua la gagwe…”
If President Khama thinks that the EU referendum vote was about pushing the agenda of the Prime Minister he is wrong. The vote was about pushing the agenda of the British people not an individual’s agenda. It was about the British not David Cameron; it was about the British not the British Labour Party or the British Conservative Party.
Thirdly, after losing the EU referendum vote, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister. He resigned because he knows that in a democracy if a leader fails to get the support of the majority in such a decisive issue it shows that the people have lost confidence in him. This, we should certainly learn from the British or David Cameron.
In Botswana, as is the case in most African and Latin American countries, a leader refuses to resign even after committing a scandal or being charged with a criminal offence. They hide behind the saying that ‘everyone is innocent until proven guilty.’
This saying is inarguably true, but it should not apply in situations where a leader’s integrity is in doubt. Leaders’ integrity should be impeccable and beyond reproach and if any circumstance arises that has the potential, not actuality, of tarnishing their integrity or diminishing the people’s confidence in them they should step down, at least until proven innocent.
Therefore, if nothing else, Botswana can learn from the British that the will of the people should always be respected; divergence of views does not necessarily mean lack of patriotism; a democracy is not about following a leader’s path, but about the people’s pursuit of their own interests and dreams and that that when a leader no longer enjoys the confidence of his or her people he or she should resign.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
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.