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Great Expectations

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I am a great fan of Whitney Houston. Like many I was swept up by her beauty, persona and incredible voice. I even had the privilege to watch her perform in South Africa. At that stage she was still relatively clean, from a PR perspective at least, but as the years passed and with internet footage her beauty, personality and voice were all put in to question. 

Rumours of drug abuse reared their ugly head, along with some sordid tales of personal relationships; the dream was shattered and the good the bad and the ugly had been captured for the world to see. Whitney Houston’s song “Didn’t we almost have it all” could have been a premonition and it rings in my ears and as I think this thought I am angry, as though I had been personally let down by my former idol: My faith had been misplaced.

Talking of internet footage, I have been spending some spare time watching one of my early spiritual gurus on YouTube. Where once you experienced them on the lines of a written page or preaching to the masses from a mountain top, nowadays they can be heard and viewed online from the comfort of your home, train or even at the beach.

Sometimes they are presented perfectly, filmed with soft angle lenses -for those in need of a finer hue for their wrinkled face, or captured as they administer their message in a convention hall to eager followers who have paid a fortune to hear the message (in the US annual membership to Ted talks is over P100k – clearly only the very wealthy can experience their guru live). But your sage can also be caught in real time, at their worst. Like the camera that YouTube is, it can work for you or work against you.

The other night I came across a clip of one of my spiritual gurus which left me cringing and calling into question my thoughts on her. Let me come clean here – this was not a chance discovery as I had been purposely digging around looking for dirt and voilà after I had Googled her name, along with the word  “exposed” I found a piece of evidence to corroborate my niggling suspicion. I felt vindicated – I searched for what I wanted to find and presto it was delivered as efficiently as a Big Mac at a drive through.

Sometimes I have been blown away watching her and at other times I feel uneasy seeing her do her stuff. For a while I have felt conflicted by the behaviour of this person, sometimes feeling that she is totally authentic while at others feeling she is manipulative and fake. So with the clip I feel justified but I also feel betrayed and with that thought I feel sad.  Another false idol has let me down.

I can be just as gullible as the next person. If I see something written I am more likely to believe it to be true. If something is commended from people who I think are credible it moves higher up the accepted list. It makes me worry for myself …do I trust myself and my gut or do I look to others to see what they trust? 

Anything can be proven if you want. Look for 101 reasons why eating meat is bad for you and for every empirical study to support this claim I will show you an equal study that empirically refutes this. It comes back to our thoughts, my thoughts…if I think in a certain way it doesn’t make it true, but how I think it lends a certain truth to it. It reminds me of the legend about a wise man who was sitting outside his village which goes something like;

A traveller came up and asked him, “What kind of people live in this village,
because I am looking to move from my present one?” The wise man asked, “What kind of people live where you want to move from?” The man said, “They are mean, cruel, and rude.” The wise man replied, “The same kind of people live in this village too.” After some time another traveller came by and asked the same question and the wise man asked him, “What kind of people live where you want to move from?”
And the traveller replied, “The people are very kind, courteous, polite and good.” The wise man said, “You will find the same kind of people here too.”

If you were to ask me what is one of my most powerful realisations which I have had in my quest for personal enlightenment it would be comprehending that I am not my thoughts; thoughts are not real and thoughts are preoccupied with past and the future – In the words of the Buddha “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

As I write this I realise that perhaps my biggest road to Damascus experience is not this awareness that thoughts aren’t reality but that they are malleable depending on what you watch, see or chose to inject into your reality. What is important is that you simply check the validity of these thoughts. The need to categorize things and put people into pigeon holes – good or bad singer, good or bad guru, is an unhelpful thought. There is no box for people,  just ‘what is’ there at that time.

It’s interesting that the guru I have been referring to is Byron Katie and her work is all about enquiry into your thoughts.  In the words of Byron herself “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.”

There are many powerful lessons which I have taken from Byron Katie, and yet I find myself searching for proof of the charlatan she might be. Regardless of one bad clip from Byron or a poor performance from Whitney, when I have enjoyed so much of her music,  when I examine the thoughts that I hold I find them occupied with the past and future.  Whitney was…Whitney could have been….Byron was…Byron could be…

They are simply thoughts.  Now I know the ego might have a hard time with that because it wants to argue…but together with acceptance, something else I have been realizing… let me reiterate what one personal development guru Jim Rohn said "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Someone asks, 'Why?' and Jim says “I wouldn't spend too much time on that." "It just IS."

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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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