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Old Age Pensioners Deserve Better

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

BCP Deputy Leader


Non-contributory old age pension is a program that was advocated by the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) for decades.  During that period the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) resisted it using porcupine defensive mechanism.

They only gave in and reluctantly adopted it as a result of mounting political pressure.  For many years the elderly people were subjected to a paltry P300.00 old age pension per month. Clearly its value was far lower than the administrative, opportunity cost to the beneficiaries, and hidden costs.  It would remain a zero-sum game up until today.  Currently the non-contributory old age pension is still as little as around P400 per month which cannot meet the basic needs of the elderly.


In the 2009 elections manifesto Botswana Congress Party (BCP) proposed and vigorously campaigned for the old age pension to be set at P750 per month after a thorough assessment of the socio-economic situation of the target population. The strategy was to align the old age pension with the cost of living at the time.


During the on-going budget session of parliament, the Leader of the Opposition (LOO) advocated for an old age pension of at least P600 per month. Recently a mid-week paper had a full editorial also making a strong case for an improved old age pension.  In addition, Hon Dithapelo Keorapetse who is the Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West is planning to table a motion in parliament calling on government to review non-contributory old age pension scheme considering the high standard of living.


In September 2016 Dikgang Makgelemela who was then an Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration addressed kgotla meetings at Sefhare-Ramokgonami where residents called on government to seriously consider a significant improvement of the old age pension. In his response the Assistant Minister was not averse to the proposal. Specifically he was attracted to the idea of removing double-dipping where former public servants on contributory pensions also benefit from old age pension upon reaching 65 years old.


Currently old age pensioners are estimated to be 5 per cent of the total population which translates into 101 249 people. This number includes the former Presidents, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Chief Executive Officers of parastatal bodies. Removing contributory pensioners from the list of beneficiaries could safe government money to cushion the additional cost of increased non-contributory pension.  


Clearly a middle income country like Botswana can afford an improved old age pension that can restore the much acclaimed dignity. The old age pension should be set at the level where the nutrition and food security of the beneficiary is guaranteed. Using the usual argument of financial constraints must not be allowed to pass.

 

If government can afford P34 million to build a retirement house for President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, P140 million to purchase Electronic Vote (Rigging) Machine (EVM), P570 million constituency campaign fund, and P300 million to purchase spying cameras for law abiding citizens, it should be possible to revise the old age pension upward. Besides, it is a well-known fact that high official corruption bleeds the domestic economy. Ours is a politics of Lazarus where the few live in affluence while the majority survive on crumbs.


Government must commit to fighting corruption in an aggressive manner. This will go a long way in saving money that can be channelled to improve the social wellbeing of Batswana in general and the elderly people in particular. For example an estimated half of the development budget was lost on account of official corruption over the failed Morupule B Power Plant and Palapye Glass Project during National Development Plan 10 (NDP 10).


Government must fast tract the introduction of universal pension system which was adopted by parliament through a motion tabled by Dumelang Saleshando who was then the Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central. This will reduce the number of people who are eligible for non-contributory old age pension in a fundamental way. In the event of a pensioner whose contributory pension is below the non-contributory old age pension government should augment it to avoid situations where some Batswana are disadvantaged.


A close comparative analysis of old age pensions in the region shows that out of the five countries with the highest GDP per capita Botswana pays the lowest non-contributory old age pension.  The country of Namibia with a lower GDP per capita pays an old age pension of more than R1000.00 per month. Surprisingly even countries which are poorer than Botswana such as the Kingdom of Lesotho pay a higher old age pension.  The situation in Botswana is absolutely unacceptable.


If the old age pension was increased to between P750 and P1200 there will be no elderly person scrambling for other social welfare schemes such as Ipelegeng, Poverty eradication and Destitute Programs.  Household food security among families with an elderly person will improve significantly.  The elderly carry the heavy burden of caring for the sick and vulnerable members of the households.  This is particularly true for female elderly persons.  An improved old age pension has the poten

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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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