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The Underprivileged and the Needy

Author: Iqbal Ebrahim

In every community and society there those who are in need, be they the destitute, the needy, the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the orphans, the widows and a whole host of others that are in desperate need of help and assistance. Their circumstances and needs may differ, but their suffering is real and we should not remain indifferent to the plight of these sections of our community. Equally every religion stresses upon the need for those who are able to, to assist in alleviating their suffering.

Islam teaches that these people have a kind of a ‘right” on the rest of community and society. After all we are all of the same humankind and experience the same human emotions, and feelings. The Quran highlights and emphasises the need for each and every one whom Allah has bestowed with any of His bounties, to be considerate of and generous towards those who may be less privileged or in a state of need.

The Quran declares “Serve Allah and join not any partners with Him. And be kind and do good to parents, relatives, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are related, neighbours who are strangers, way-farers……”  (Quran 4: 36). ‘It is righteousness that you believe in Allah….to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy……’ (2: 177): “and in their wealth there is an acknowledged portion for the needy and the deprived” (Quran 70: 25)

From the above verse we see that our responsibility ranges from our parents and right down to others in community who have “rights” upon us.


“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9). “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land.” (Deut. 15:11)

In the teachings of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) the importance of respect for the rights of the weaker and poorer sections of society, – the orphans, the widows, the needy, the destitute and downtrodden etc. – has also been stressed.  To care for their needs and look after their well-being is a virtue of the highest order and a reward in the Hereafter.

‘Establish regular prayer and give regular charity; ……..and whatever good you send forth for your souls you shall find it in Allah’s presence, better and greater in reward. (Quran 73:20). The believers, men and women are protectors of one another, they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity …..on them, will Allah pour His mercy.’ (Quran 9:71)


Caring for the orphan  

According to the teachings of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), the best home is the one wherein an orphan is supported and is treated in a loving and affectionate manner, and the worst is that home wherein an orphan lives and is treated badly or cruelly.

He once declared "Whoever supports an orphan from among his own or any other family, he will be as close to me in Heaven as these fingers are close to each other" And: "Whoever caresses the head of an orphan (in affection), solely for the sake of The Almighty (with no ulterior motive), a good deed will be written to his account for every hair over which he passed his hand."

Therefore if one is unable to take full care of an orphan but merely shows love and compassion, he will attain great blessing from The Almighty.

As to the righteous ….they feed for the love of Allah the indigent, the orphan…. (76:8)  ….do not treat the orphan with harshness (93:9). Do you see one who denies the Judgement to come? Then such is one who repulses the orphan with harshness, and does not encourage the feeding of the indigent. (107:2)

The Bible says: “Defend the poor and the fatherless, do justice to the poor and the needy” Psalms 82:3

Attending to the needs of the widow and the needy

The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said "Whoever strives to relieve (the distress of) the widow and the needy, is as one who fasts continuously during the days and spends the nights in prayers (in terms of reward and blessings)"

The act of spending one's days in fasting and nights in prayer is greatly rewardable. These acts of worship are the best in terms of drawing closer to the Almighty and serving Him,   but we are taught that the same is the worth, value and reward of a person who takes pains to assist and comfort the widow or those in need – by any means like spending his wealth on them, simple acts of kindness by way of consoling words or by sincerely trying to draw the attention of others to their problems and difficulties.

Visiting and caring for the sick

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged the faithful by saying: "Feed the hungry, visit the sick and free the captives."  Besides feeding the hungry – which is a deed of compassion and kind heartedness, it goes further to visiting the sick and obtaining the freedom of those who are (unlawfully) held in captivity. 'Visiting the sick' even includes enquiring after one's health but in a broader sense, includes also the caring and arranging of treatment for the sick, if necessary and if one is able to do so.

The rewards and blessing for these deeds is (once again) very great, and enviable indeed is the lot of those who feel for the less fortunate and are willing to help them in any possible manner.

Respect and honour for the elderly and infirm

Your Lord has decreed…….that you be kind to your parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age, say not a word of contempt nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour’. (Quran 17:23),

This treatment of the elders starts at home, once we are able to do this then we will find it easier to respect the elders in our society. It is important that the elderly are always treated with respect and tolerance. This has always been part of our traditional culture and values, but sadly it is slowly being whittled away. This aspect of social conduct, may appear insignificant or ‘old fashioned’ to some people, but it plays an important part in promoting a happy and peaceful life, both at family and community levels.

The Prophet (pbuh) stated that "He is not of us, who is not affectionate to those who are younger than him and is not respectful to those who are older." And: "For the young man who will honour an old person because of his age, The Almighty will appoint men who will honour him in his old age." The reward for showing good manners and respect to one's elders will be in the Hereafter from The Almighty Himself, The Almighty bestows His favours to such people in this world too.

What all this boils down to is that we need to be of a more compassionate, humane, caring and of a charitable nature to alleviate the plight of those who are in desperate need. Some of us may feel that they would love to assist but don’t have the funds to do so. Don’t worry, get involved with a charitable organisation and assist them in their work, or even to pay a visit to a sick family member, a neighbour, or someone in hospital. How about going to one of the child centres or shelters and assist those looking already after them. We could even join the kids in playing football or some games just to occupy their time. Putting a smile on their faces would be an act of charity.


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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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