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Once Bitten

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

You may have noticed that several of the city’s post offices have had wall-mounted, flat-screen televisions installed recently.  We’ve seen the same thing in most of the bank branches, even the odd doctor’s waiting room and it’s always a worrying sign.

You see, they are clearly put there to keep waiting customers amused and if you need to be kept occupied it’s pretty obvious they expect you to be hanging around for quite some time.  The provision of seating in Post Offices sends out much the same message – once upon a time there was no need to rest your weary bones while waiting to purchase a stamp or indulge in other sundry postal business; you didn’t expect to say there too long so it was fine to stand and there was no need for in-house entertainment to keep your mind off the interminable wait and waste of your valuable time.

That in-house entertainment varies from business to business.  Some of the banks subscribe to the premium DSTV bouquet so you can catch up with breaking news stories or major sporting fixtures, all from the discomfort of standing in a long queue.  Other less profitable places limit themselves to a filched Philibao offering or an entry-level DSTV subscription; thus you might find yourself watching any one f the innumerable reality TV shows which pass for mass entertainment these days; fat people trying to get thin, ugly people trying to be beautiful or  people with more money than sense airing their dirty laundry in public;  television evangelists from Nigeria,  with the gift of the gab and a mean slight of hand, pulling live snakes out of the mouths of their accursed or afflicted followers; or just a bunch of wannabee nobodies sitting in a house and caught on camera 24-7.

But none of this is for Botswana Post.  So far they have limited their output to public service advertising, most notably a short safety film courtesy of Botswana Power Corporation, depicting a few hapless members of the public chancing upon damaged cables and downed power lines or just setting up illegal electricity connections, all of whom end up fried.  I guess they mean well and I daresay there are plenty of people out there who need reminding but here’s where we come to my thought for the week:

There’s a certain irony in BPC advertising on a Botswana Post platform.  The former is arguably the nation’s most-despised utility and the latter is right at the top of the list of parastatals that folks just love to hate and the reason is the same in both instances – poor to miserable service provision. 

Since Eskom’s spectacular fall from grace in 2008 and the subsequent rolling blackouts, load-shedding and power rationing that have affected us on and off ever since, not to mention poor maintenance and old infrastructure which have resulted in frequent and prolonged power cuts in inclement weather, BPC has failed in its clear and simple mandate – providing the nation with a reliable source of electricity. 


It is probably the most despised acronym in the country right now.  Couple that with a postal service which is also failing to deliver, manned as it is by some of the surliest and uncooperative staff of any organisation in the country, bar the uncivil Civil Service and beset by a decade of leadership challenges and dingy, aging offices, the post office is a place you go to only when you must; thus the idea of BPC trumpeting its safety and service messages within the walls of creaking post office buildings crammed with customers who are about to lose the will to live, smacks of an unholy alliance between black kettle and even blacker pot.

Both corporate reputations have long been shot and both should be embarking on a serious programme of damage control and image repair.  Both, in fact, currently claim they are doing just that but public mistrust, like virginity, once lost, is hard or impossible to regain.  And I can only imagine what it must be like for those employees in either organisation who really do want to try and fulfil the promise and deliver a good service. 


Social media is punctuated with occasional reports of employee X or Y who went out of their way to sort a bad situation and leave a customer satisfied but these are a tiny proportion of the tales of woe peppering the sites on a daily basis, making those special few stars the exceptions that prove the rule.  Much the same can be said for WUC.  


A lot of venom is vented against the country’s sole clean water company, not least for the disastrous failure of the Gaborone city dam earlier this year, due in large part to a lack of forward planning and  a complete lack of a Plan B.  Add to that malfunctioning meters, billing issues and unattended pipe bursts and you have another set of acid acronyms.  Again, there are a precious few dedicated staff members who try and rise above the mire that is their employing organisation but their efforts end up like the little boy sticking his finger in the hole in the dyke wall, only to find the water bursting out somewhere else – at times, quite literally.

And it’s not just the national utility companies and large parastatals. Going the same way, are the 2 main cellular network providers, the above-mentioned satellite service provider and  all of the big banks – no exceptions.  All of the above are in the business of service provision and every one of them is getting it horribly wrong and here’s the real rub and reality check.

In between screenings of the shocking BPC safety video, the media company providing the closed circuit coverage optimistically puts out its ow contact details, should any company out there care to utilise the medium with their own advertising message. In case you’re even thinking about it, here’s my advice –  ‘cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent’.  Translated it means ‘he that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas’!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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.

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)


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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