The recent victory by His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, in which he retained the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairpersonship and his entire lobby list made it into the Central Committee almost secures his position as the next president of the Republic of Botswana.
Having earned the BDP chairpersonship, it seems to me that president Khama has no option but to retain HH Masisi as vice president until he retires in March 2018, constitutionally entitling HH Masisi to automatically succeed him as president and remain in office until the October 2019 general elections. Considering his control of the BDP, barring the BDP’s defeat at the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2019, which is not unlikely, HH Masisi is also assured of the presidency after the October 2019 general elections which will see him remain in office at least until March 2024.
In this article, we discuss the making of Masisi as a president. Though he lost the BDP primary elections for the Moshupa constituency in 2004, he won the 2009 primaries and went on to win the general elections, becoming the constituency’s Member of Parliament (MP). Immediately after becoming an MP he was, in October 2009, appointed Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. In January 2011, a little over a year after being appointed Assistant Minister, he was appointed Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.
Though he led a relatively good poverty eradication campaign while at Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, something which inarguably endeared him to President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, he lost favour especially with trade unions which believed that his poor handling of salary negotiations led to the 2011 public sector strikes.
In April 2014 he was appointed acting Minister of Education and Skills Development. In the run up to the October 2014 general elections the media blamed him for being the architect of government’s decision to starve private media of government advertising. He was also said to be at the centre of BDP’s decision to boycott Gabz Fm constituency debates.
At this time, HH Masisi, whose reputation had further been tainted by a video in which he professed to be a boot licker, i.e. lelope, was public enemy number one. The emergence of a video in which he stated that the BDP should lead Gabz Fm into believing that it will participate in its constituency debates while it (BDP) knows that it won’t did not help the situation.
Despite an onslaught by the media, civil society and trade unions, with Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) including him in its ‘hit list’ for the 2014 general elections, HH Masisi was re-elected with a huge margin as an MP for the Moshupa-Manyana constituency. On 28th October 2014 HH Masisi was appointed as Minister of Education and Skills Development. This gave solace to his detractors who thought that he was out of the race for the vice presidency.
Against expectation, HH Masisi was, on 12th November 2014, elected Vice President after an unexpected nomination by President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. He, however, continued serving as Minister of Education and Skills Development. Despite his ascendance to the vice presidency HH Masisi remained unpopular. Even in his party, the BDP, he faced opposition, with some party stalwarts believing that he got the vice presidency on a silver platter because he was not seasoned in the traditions of the BDP, him having never held a leadership position in the party.
Some in the BDP believe that it is these stalwarts, led by the former Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Margaret Nasha, who led the crusade for elections for the Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly to be by secret ballot hoping that BDP MPs will not vote for HH Masisi. In fact, some in the BDP claimed that president Khama nominated HH Masisi for the vice presidency despite losing the popularity poll conducted by president Khama to determine who would be the best nominee for the vice presidency.
So rife were allegations of his unpopularity that there were rumours that president Khama threatened that if the BDP MPs did not elect HH Masisi as vice president he would dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections. There is, therefore, a view that many BDP MPs voted for HH Masisi not because they wanted to, but because of the fear of fresh elections which they feared they would lose considering the UDC’s remarkable performance and the political atmosphere at the time.
Consequently, president Khama’s efforts to have Masisi unchallenged for the chairmanship position in the 2015 Central Committee elections were futile. In an unprecedented development he was challenged by five candidates, but won with a healthy margin, though his preferred candidate for the Secretary Generalship lost to the then popular Botsalo Ntuane.
HH Masisi was undeterred by Ntuane’s popularity. Just like president Khama did not work with his then popular Secretary General, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi after the July 2009 Central Committee elections, Masisi sidelined Ntuane, choosing instead to work with Communications Chairman, Thapelo Pabalinga.
Perhaps in an effort to prove his detractors wrong, HH Masisi led a recruitment campaign which targeted members from the Opposition. His biggest victim is the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) from which he poached its Youth League President, Lotty Manyepedza, Secretary General, Thato Osupile, and 2014 Nata-Gweta constituency candidate, Ditiro Majadibodu, among others.
Despite him seemingly proving his political astuteness as aforesaid he still faced opposition in the run up to the 2017 Central Committee elections. This time he seemed to be facing an indomitable opponent, Honourable Nonofo Molefhi. Honourable Molefhi seemed to be so unconquerable that there were rumours that president Khama lobbied HH Masisi not to contest the chairpersonship, urging him to give precedence to party unity and his duties as vice president.
So resolute was HH Masisi that he, it is reported, declined president Khama’s proposal. Then came former Secretary General, Jacob Nkate, who, it is reported, after HH Masisi realized he harbored presidential ambitions dropped him from his lobby list as Secretary General and brought in another former Secretary General, Mpho Balopi.
Even when the Molefhi campaign seemed to make headway HH Masisi did not relent. He stood by his campaign team despite reports that it was losing ground. His faith in his team was rewarded when he and his entire lobby list won the Central Committee elections with resounding majorities. So, at the beginning of his political career HH Masisi suffered defeat and fell, but rose up, tried again and emerged victorious the second time around. Since his election by his people he has not neglected them, not even when he was appointed vice president. This is the making of a president.
He has always gone back to his constituency; he meets his people at the people’s parliament-the Kgotla; he gives his people cattle as presents; he speaks his mother tongue with admirable proficiency; he is approachable. This is the making of a president. Throughout his political career he has faced warranted challenge from his fellow BDP colleagues, the media, civil society and trade unions, but has remained steadfast in his beliefs, no matter how wrong and ill-advised they are. This is not the making of a president.
He has contributed to the decline of media freedom; he has been instrumental in the development of such ineffective programmes as the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) and Constituency Funding; and he has contributed to the attrition of labour rights and welfare. This is not the making of a president. As a political deployee he has defended his political party at all costs. This makes a good party president, but does not make a good state president for a good state president should demean the interests of his or her political party to those of the state.
As an appointee of the president he has served him with loyalty and distinction, at least in as far as the president himself is concerned. In order to become a good state president HH Masisi ought to translate this loyalty to loyalty to the Constitution when he assumes the presidency. Yet, even with his iniquities the political journey that HH Masisi has already voyaged is that of the making of a president for he will be president in any event even if it may be for only one year seven months.
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.