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SPEDU has failed Batswana!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

EAGLE WATCH

According to Mmegi’s online edition of 27th October 2016 “…the Deputy Mayor of Selebi-Phikwe, Pilane Molefi, has defended SPEDU after some residents slammed the Organisation for failing to introduce economic diversification initiatives in the area…”

Reportedly, Molefi made such defence during a meeting addressed by the Member of Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe West, Honourable Dithapelo Keorapetse, at Kagiso Kgotla. Molefi is said to have argued that “…SPEDU has not failed anyone, they are mandated to coordinate projects not to provide any funding for the implementation of those projects. Pointing fingers at this moment is not going to help us address the situation we are in…”


Molefi’s assertions cannot be correct. They were motivated more by political expediency than facts. According to government’s press statement of 1st June 2010 SPEDU, a unit under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, was set up to “… spearhead the implementation of the economic regeneration programme for Selebi Phikwe and surrounding regions.”


The said statement continues to say “…SPEDU has been set up to secure a long term survival of Selebi Phikwe and the surrounding regions beyond the closure of the BCL mine and smelter through actions and initiatives which may bring sustainable new employment and investment to the region and hence broaden and underpin its economic and social base…”


From government’s own press statement aforesaid, SPEDU’s key mandate has always been implementation of projects and/or programmes for the economic regeneration programme for Selebi Phikwe and surrounding regions. Its role has never been mere coordination as Molefi purports.


It is common for organisations to, in an attempt to absolve themselves of blame, claim that their role is coordination or facilitation. Asking people to accept the situation as it is and to look for ways of diversifying and restoring the town’s economy and to support SPEDU as Molefi is reported to have said is tantamount to pacifying the people.

The same applies to Molefi’s claim that “… pointing fingers at this moment is not going to help us address the situation we are in…” Our people are more intelligent than that. They know that they have a duty to highlight SPEDU’s failures with the hope that it will learn from such criticism. They believe in the Setswana proverb which says molemo wa kgang ke go buiwa.

It is easy to ask ordinary people to look for ways of diversifying and restoring the town’s economy. The reality is that ordinary people cannot succeed if organisations established to assist them fail in the manner SPEDU failed.

It is disingenuous for Molefi to call upon the people to support SPEDU as if they did not support it for the past ten years. SPEDU has always been supported by both the ordinary people and business yet it failed to execute the mandate given to it by government. Regrettably, government failed to intervene timeously.    


SPEDU’s mandate included, inter alia, furthering economic development and regeneration of the Selebi Phikwe region; promoting business efficiency and competitiveness in the region; and promoting inward investment and trade facilitation.
The mandate also included promoting employment and enhancing the development and application of skills relevant to employment in the region. In my view, SPEDU, despite having highly paid personnel and enjoying sufficient support from government, failed in all these.


It is incontrovertible that SPEDU failed to turn Selebi Phikwe into a stopover destination for travellers en route to the wildlife parks and an accommodation base for day trips to surrounding attractions as had been envisaged.
SPEDU also failed to leverage from the opportunity availed by the Dikgatlhong dam to extend the route to the northern areas via Selebi Phikwe past the Letsibogo Dam and onwards to Francistown. Put simply, SPEDU failed to harness the ‘funnel’ nature of the region by making it a ‘tourist corridor’ that would link the region with the tourism attractions and products further north.


More glaring is SPEDU’s failure to ring fence the substantial non-core assets owned by BCL as strategic business units so as to enhance the industrial potential of the region. In its ten years of existence SPEDU has not facilitated viable industrial development in Selibe Phikwe and the region.


Pula Steel, a company formed to diversify the region’s economy, failed, resulting in employee retrenchments. No wonder Selibe Phikwe residents are reported to have ridiculed it, saying it has failed the residents, as it did not benefit them in anyway.  
SPEDU failed to make the region the bread basket of the country despite the abundance of water and fertile soil resources in the region. Contrary to recommendations, SPEDU failed to pursue such projects as a washing, sorting and a packaging plant.


Also contrary to recommendations SPEDU failed to pursue the prospects of establishing a processing plant for vegetables which would have enabled our country to add value by producing such value added products as tomato sauce and related products.


SPEDU failed to implement its own strategy, the six year Regional Economic Development Strategy (REDS), whose aim was to improve the economic performance of the region; enhance the region’s competitiveness and address market failures that prevent sustainable economic development, regeneration and business growth in the region.


Consequently, REDS’s strategic priorities, namely Business and Enterprise Support; Investment and Trade Facilitation; Economic Renewal; Promotion of Employment; Land and Development; Infrastructure and Economic Inclusion were never meaningfully pursued.


Because of SPEDU’s failures the about 5,000 people who will lose their jobs as a result of the closure of the BCL mine will not be absorbed by the town and region’s economy. The economy has simply not been diversified enough to absorb them.
What then has SPEDU been doing over the last ten years if it has failed to diversify the region’s economy to absorb a mere 5,000 people? Have the millions of Pula spent on SPEDU’s administrative costs been worth it? In my view it has not. If these millions of Pula were invested in an Unemployment Benefit Scheme to assist mine employees post the mine’s closure it would have been worth it because they would be guaranteed of income albeit reduced.


If government really wants to salvage what is left of Selibe Phikwe and the region it has to do away with SPEDU and replace it with a fully-fledged parastatal with the efficiency of such well-run organisations as the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS). Running it as a Unit under a government department cannot earn returns.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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.

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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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