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This week because of Christmas – I want to take this opportunity to send this message of goodwill to all those who will be celebrating this occasion. Muslims also believe in Jesus (Isa) (pbuh) as one of the great prophets of the Lord. Muslims believe in the Divine Revealed Scriptures of the Torah (Moses) The Zaboor (Psalms of David), the Injeel (Good News to Jesus Christ) and the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon them all).

This weekend our Christian brothers and sisters will be celebrating Christmas. For Christians, this is a season of love, peace and goodwill to mankind, a time for joyous celebration, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh). They will be spending their time and days with their loved ones and families in this season of goodwill.   

The Qur’an says: ‘…..We Muslims believe in Allah, and the Revelations given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them. And we submit to Allah’ (Qur’an 2:136).

So here we are again, many peoples favourite time of year, Christmas… that magical time of Santa, toys, children, trees, tinsel, elves and Rudolph, carols, overflowing plates of food and of course presents. It is the night before Christmas that still sends thrills of delight to children as they wait for Santa to ‘come down the chimney’ with their presents.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas, there is a lesson to be learnt here and it applies to all of us; this lesson is about the spirit of giving and receiving. We know that Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, a time to remember others less fortunate than ourselves, peace in the world, a time for families to end their quarrels and come together, a time to celebrate as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ (pbuh). We know all these things, and we know that this also is the true spirit of Christmas.

Regrettably there are some people who see the Christmas as an open season to overindulge in so many ways. For them the true meaning and spirit of Christmas seems to have been forgotten. What was once the season of peace and goodwill to mankind, a time for joyous celebration, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh); has now become so ‘commercialised’ and it is now about fun and indulgence. Everything now is related to the guy with the big white beard and a red suit arriving from the North Pole carrying a bag of Christmas gifts for us – the more expensive they are the better.

These people must take time to reflect at the Christmas celebrations and the spirit that they represent and celebrate. There are many devout Christians who still respect and follow the true spirit of Christmas, unfortunately in these times there are many who seem to have forgotten it’s true meaning and have turned it into a ‘festival of merry making, drunkenness, fun and anything goes’.

Many people have sumptuous meals with uncontrolled eating, gulping down enormous amounts of liquor and whooping it up for the next few days. Regrettably it is noticeable these days that many people do not even attend church services and prayers marking this special day on the Christian calendar. In the past churches would be overflowing for midnight mass.  

We have to admit that around this time some lose themselves with many undisciplined desires, especially things like overspending in chasing those luxuries, we abandon our manners, over eating, drinking binges and those daily temptations that come their way. Whoever coined the term ‘the silly season’ knew what he was talking about. People get carried away with the festive spirit only to regret it in the New Year.  

Maybe this Christmas people should start looking at life from a slightly different angle – let us pause to look around and see how many people in the world do not have the same blessings as we have been blessed with. Some do not have the basics such as food, shelter or even loved ones to share this time with. There are many orphans in Botswana, think about them and what you can do to make a difference to their lives.  

With the New Year looming ahead many of us will be thinking of making resolutions for the year ahead, The usual ones are; to lose weight / get rid of that pot belly, exercise more, eat healthy food, quit smoking, settle down and start a family or even to spend more time with our family and loved ones; others will have ambitions such as getting higher up the economic and social ladder etc. Very noble of you, but have we ever thought of turning a new leaf within yourself so that you connect more with those around you?

Nothing wrong with making resolutions, at least they make us focus on the weak spots in our daily lives, but let us look a little deeper. Starting with  ourselves why can’t we commit ourselves to be more friendly, kind, humble, sincere, show respect, courtesy and compassion for others, be helpful, honest and truthful or maybe more charitable.

So here is a simple lesson that we could follow to learn from this the month, it concerns your ‘valuable’ time.

1: Ask yourself when you last gave your time to someone you didn't know very well. Ask yourself how it felt, or if you have never done it, ask yourself why.
2: Spend some time reflecting how easy it is to give a Pula for a good cause. Give some thought to how much more difficult it is to give a minute of your time.
3: Each day, when you wake up, no matter how difficult it might be for you, think of someone you know who might be in need of a minute of your time, and call them, or pay them a visit. There are many sad and lonely people out there, wondering where the true spirit of Christmas is your best gift is to show them. This will be a gift for them and a gift for you too.

Our best gift to others, and the best gift we can give to ourselves, is to pay attention, to listen to the voice of God, and to give ourselves to others. Even if it is only for a short amount of time, it is that time again, a time to take time for others. Talk with community members, greet and smile at people, even those you don’t know. It will change many peoples outlook including yours.  

Here are Christmas gift suggestions; to your enemy, forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart, to a customer, service; to all, charity; to every child, a good example; to yourself, respect – Oren Arnold

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better person – Benjamin Franklin

To all readers, may you have a Blessed Christmas, filled with happiness and joy – and the Blessings and mercies of the Almighty Be upon you and your loved ones. Let this be a safe and peaceful Christmas.

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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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