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Few-el Consumption

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

A few months ago, Swedish car giant Volvo announced that after 2019 the company would no longer produce any petrol or diesel vehicles.  This makes it the first mainstream auto brand to call time on the fossil-fuel powered engine.  I’ll just stop there for a moment and let the enormity of that sink in.  

Once having a reputation for making safe, reliable but rather dull vehicles, Volvo cars have undergone a sea change in the last 20 years, entering the high-performance, luxury market with racy sports sedans and luxury saloons, as well as taking their signature SUV range to a new level, so why then pull the plug, or should that be install the electric plug, on the entire range?   

Volvo’s new stated target is to sell one million electric vehicles — either hybrids or those powered solely by battery — by 2025 and it will launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021 — three Volvos and two from Polestar, its high-performance arm.  The implications are huge, as will be the effect and repercussions and it’s worth unpacking what those might be.

Of course, it’s not surprising that it would be Volvo wresting the initiative in this issue.  Sweden is renowned for its green credentials and holier-than-thou attitude to cleaning up their part of the planet and even low-emission modern cars are air pollutants but make no mistake, where Volvo leads, others will follow. All of the major car brands are working on electric or hybrid offerings and it is clear where the trend is leading. 

Now this may be all very well in Europe where petrol stations have already begun installing plug-in charge points for electric vehicles but in a third-world country like Botswana, no such facility exists and it would be a brave eco-warrior who invested in an electric car in our part of the world.  So presumably, the remit of Volvo as a dealership marque will be greatly scaled-back here and elsewhere, reduced to pre-owned vehicle sales and servicing of old-fashioned petrol and diesel models. 

Yet surely, even in Europe, the continent is not yet ready for a complete switchover?  Whilst short-distance, urban driving might not represent too much of a risk, every longer trip would have to be planned with the precision and attention to detail of a military manoeuvre, pre-checking the locations of every charging station en route and mapping out a track which encompassed all those stations; calculating time and distance to a mathematical precision to preclude the disastrous scenario of running out of charge mid-point; selecting a destination not based on personal choice or purpose but solely on the availability of re-charge stations.  It sounds like a logistical and restrictive nightmare.

Now consider the effect on motor servicing businesses.  Garages and service centres everywhere are staffed with skilled technicians who have spent years honing their craft, from apprentice to qualified mechanic, undergoing general and brand-specific training courses to stay current and expand their knowledge.  And each one of them is destined to become redundant in a brave new all-electric world, forced to re-train in an area of electronics in which they might have no interest or aptitude. 

At the same time, their employers will have to completely re-equip their existing service facilities, every tool, every die, every diagnostic machine and if they can’t afford such major revamps they will be forced out of business.  And what of the filling stations? Sure, they will be able to charge for your charge but gradually their core business will drop off, probably forcing many out of business and thus making it hard for the remaining petrol and diesel cars still on the road to find anywhere to fill.

Of course, cars are not only air pollutants but also contribute hugely to noise pollution too.  An increasingly electric motoring world will also be a much quieter world, itself not a bad thing, although an increase in pedestrian accidents may be predicted without the warning engine noise alerting them to imminent danger.  A cleaner, quieter world – it’s easy to see the benefits, it’s just hard to see past the obvious inconveniences and to shake off the vision of city streets clogged up with conked-out electric cars because they got stuck in traffic and exceeded their battery life!

It’s also hard to predict the effect the changeover will have on the Gulf nations, all of which have become rich on the oil deposits buried beneath Arabian desert sands.  True, some have diversified into becoming preferred destinations for business conferences and shopping holidays but it’s difficult to see how they could sustain the national economies with such sources on their own.  Those once oil-rich nations will lose their bargaining power and main source of wealth, though on balance, that’s probably no bad thing.

And here’s the Catch 22, which as Joseph Heller’s character Captain Yosarian admiringly acknowledged, is the best catch of all.  Electric cars need electricity.  This may seem blindingly obvious, but my point is, where does that electricity come from and the answer is that in many parts of the world it still largely comes from fossil-fuel plants such as our very own coal-burning Morupule plant. 

So, the idea that by going electric man is moving away from non-renewable fossil fuels becomes moot.  There is still a lot of public distaste for nuclear power stations and wind farms too are not popular, viewed as visual blots of the landscape.  Just like petrol and diesel, coal is a finite commodity which will one day run out but not to worry.  Since there should still be lots of petroleum deposits yet to be pumped when the last petrol engine finally goes to that great breaker’s yard in the sky, maybe the former coal-burning power stations can switch to fossil fuels –problem solved!

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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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