The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mr. Kenneth Matambo has performed the usual annual ritual of delivering an uninspiring budget speech. Most of the things presented were a recitation of what has been said in previous speeches.
The only significant difference is that this time around the speech was shorter. It was the last but one before President Seretse Khama Ian Khama relocates from the State House to Mosu. As usual the Ministry of Education, Health and Wellness, and Justice Defence and Security got the largest share of the recurrent budget.
The perennial problem in Botswana is not so much the budgetary constraint but misplaced priorities and poor implementation. The other problem that has bled the economy is rampant official corruption. The shortcomings of the budget will become clearer when the Ministerial budgets are presented to parliament in weeks to come.
The Minister confirmed what we long suspected that financial controls of public funds have collapsed under his leadership. Apparently tenders are awarded without “proof of availability of funds”, lease agreements signed outside budget, and funds diverted without following established virement processes that entails approval by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. Unfortunately the biggest culprit is the Office of the President (OP). It is doubtful whether Matambo has the back bone to bring the OP to order.
In respect of the development budget the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services and Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security got the largest budget allocations. Suddenly the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and Wellness are downgraded despite serious backlogs; when you expect District Hospitals to be Referral Hospitals, Primary Hospitals to be District Hospitals, Clinics with Maternity to be Hospitals, and Health Posts to become Clinics with Maternity. In Education there is also a backlog of classrooms and houses for teachers.
When it becomes to the Defence budget, the Minister tried and I doubt if he will succeed to convince the Legislators that government has finally listened to the plight of army personnel concerning deplorable housing conditions. It is an open secret that government intends to spend P22 billion on defence during NDB 11 mainly to purchase jet fighters and other sophisticated weapons. This is meant to deal with external threats that are yet to be explained to Batswana. Members of the security forces currently require highly motivated personnel not jet fighters. Housing and improved working conditions will go a long way to address their immediate needs.
In anticipation of resistance against the defence budget from the Legislators, government occasionally resorts to bogeyman’s threats, dirty tactics and acts of intimidation. In the past we witnessed an unusual increased presence of top army personnel attending parliament when the defence budget was being debated. Defence and security analysts suspect that the recent reports that some military weapons of war were uncovered in Kgatleng is not by coincidence.
It is possibly a fluke meant to drive the point that security threats are real to justify the unrealistic defence budget. We are also reminded of a similar incident when a hand grenade was planted around the government enclave. Legislators must not be deceived by the amateurish DISS tactics and see the defence budget for what it is – a move to trigger an arms race in the sub-region. A self-created threat must be rejected with the contempt it deserves.
According to the budget speech, government has abandoned the policy of economic diversification and have adopted the policy of diversification of revenue sources. While progressive governments aim at putting money in the pockets of citizens to spend on basic commodities Botswana government has resorted to pick pocketing. This will negatively impact on household disposable income that is already under severe stress.
One of biggest challenges that the budget was expected to address is unemployment, underemployment and poverty. On this one government has failed dismally. In fact during the Khama era the economy shed off more jobs than it created. Based on the budget speech there is no reason to expect that the situation will change.
Government continues to preach economic growth without equitable distribution of resources. Economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient determinant of job creation. Traditionally Botswana has had a jobless growth. It is a structural problem that continues today. Even when the economy grew by seven (7) to eight (8) per cent very few jobs were produced.
Although government claims to be pursuing a social democratic program the Minister categorically stated that it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs except to ensure a conducive environment “to facilitate the development of the private sector.” We wish to state that this is where we fundamentally differ with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). In our view Botswana is a developmental state that requires direct state intervention in the economy. The private sector remains undeveloped to fully play any meaningful role. What we have are mainly parasitic tenderpreneurs.
The construction industry is dominated by state owned Chinese companies. Surprisingly government finds it unacceptable to establish state owned construction companies to compete with foreign entities. If we can do it for diamonds, water, and energy sectors it should be possible to do the same in construction, manufacturing and other strategic sectors. Capitalist pretenders would rather be crowded out by foreign state owned companies than state owned local companies. It is worth noting that Mascom and Orange Mobile Networks were never crowded out by BeMobile.
The problem with an economy that is dominated by foreign investors and a liberal system of repatriating profits will remain stunted with a few stinking rich people and the poor majority. There is an urgent need for a law on indigenous economic empowerment.
With respect to foreign direct investment Botswana is doing badly. Part of the reason is that the country has immigration laws that are clearly anti-foreign direct investment. Foreigners in this country are not safe since they are frequently deported without any valid reasons.
In fact the Khama administration has deported more foreigners than all the three previous presidents combined. Deportations have become a norm instead of being an exception. With a well-established and relatively independent judiciary crime suspects must be taken through the justice system and be given a fair trial rather than being deported willy-nilly for reasons that are never disclosed.
Foreigners must not be discriminated against. Efforts to create a conducive environment for the private sector to flourish, is negated by hostile immigration laws. For many years government talked about a one-stop shop to process residence and work permits but nothing has happened up to today.
For some strange reasons foreign investors are taken through a vetting process by the DISS. Such a system means that in Botswana foreign investors are treated as crime suspects while other countries treat them with utmost respect and offer them incentives. It is a well-known fact that DISS exists mainly to protect business interest of the Khama brothers.
Hence it is widely suspected that business people who threaten their business interest are barred from investing in Botswana unless they partner with the powers that be. It is a rotten system that the government of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) must decisively deal with during the first 100 days.
Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.
The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.
A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.
He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.
They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.
Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.
‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.
Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.
He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.
Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.
Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.
Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.
A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.
A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.
His attitude towards his body, mind and soul
The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]
The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.
As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114
The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.
His attitude towards people
The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]
With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.
With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.
The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.
These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?
For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.
“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).
These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.
The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.
But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.
It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.
Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.
We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?
Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.
It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.
So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.
Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)
The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.