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The World Turns…..

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Everyone knows that there are 7 days in a week, an average of 30 days in a month and 365 days in the year.   These are not random numbers but are calculated on how long it takes the earth to make a single full rotation (a day and night)  the moon to circle the earth (a month) and the earth to rotate around the sun (365 days). 

These numbers are slightly oversimplified – for example the earth’s rotation round the sun actually takes around 365 ¼ days but that would be extremely inconvenient in terms of carving up our calendar so every 4 years we have a Leap Year where we tag an extra day onto the month of February to even things up.  

What all these astronomical calculations and physical facts mean to us as human beings is that over the years we have adapted our circadian rhythms to conform to these planetary movements.  Most of us wake with the sun and work during daylight hours and sleep when the moon is out and the earth is dark.  This in itself is problematical.  The length of a day and night are not uniform throughout the year, with longer nights in winter and longer hours of daylight in summer. 

Living as we do in southern Africa, this does not affect us too much since the difference between the two for us is very small – only around an hour and a half – but in other parts of the world this can differ hugely, making  seasonal adjustments very difficult; indeed in northern Europe in mid-summer there are places where there is virtually no period of darkness at all which common sense says must play havoc with physical and mental health. 

There are also countries –  specifically the UK and the United States – where they further muddy the waters by adjusting the clock in spring and summer, a means of capturing the maximum productive daylight hours, even though that’s clearly a physical impossibility; in this country an alternative methodology is in place whereby government departments adjust their working hours in summer and winter, though with our near-even annual spread of daylight and night, this can scarcely make a jot of difference!  And of course, there are many service professions, from emergency service workers to transport providers to utility maintenance contractors, who are obliged to work in shifts covering the entire 24-hour day, workers forced to change from night owls to larks as their work schedule dictates.

It’s not ideal.  In our age of fast, global transportation we are now aware of the effects of what is referred to as ‘jet lag’, that body-clock confusion that occurs when we rapidly travel east or west and cross several time zones too fast for our bodies to keep up either physically or mentally.  For this reason, major airlines insist on a lengthy stopover for their pilots before they are permitted to make the return journey as passenger safety would obviously be severely compromised if they were not fully re-adjusted.

And last but not least, everyone has their own particular sleep patterns, some needing more hours of sleep than others, some described as ‘morning people’, bouncing out of bed and greeting the new day almost instantly, others taking much longer to reach their awake-ness and mental alertness peak; yet this is not a factor taken into account when we join a workforce – the hours the business trades are the hours we work.

What all this tells us is that the human body is amazingly adaptable but also that we are not all the same and over the centuries philosophers and scientists have made innumerable studies on the factors that contribute to our cyclical rhythms, though the definitive body clock has never been completely accurately calculated,

In the early 70s, for example, there was a revival of the 19th Century Biorhythm theory which held that three different biorhythm cycles influenced three different general aspects of human behaviours.  The theory purported that there was a 23-day cycle which influenced physical aspects of behaviour, a 28-day cycle influencing emotions and a 33-day cycle influencing intellectual functions. 

These three cycles started at birth and progressed on a mathematical curve, throughout life , completely uninfluenced by environmental or physiological factors.  The Japanese even produced a biorhythm watch to aid with personal, biorhythmic calculations.  This theory has now largely fallen out of favour but no doubt it will be revived again at some point.

And now a new book has come out which purports to identify the best times of the day and best times in our lives to carry out certain tasks.  The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink is based partly on his own research and partly on a compilation of the most complete and credible academic studies.  It is unsurprisingly attracting attention and controversy and here is a sample of some of its conclusions:

The best time to exercise: If you want to lose weight, then morning is best. When we wake, our blood sugar is low, so morning exercise uses stored fat as energy. But if we exercise after eating, we use energy from the food we’ve just consumed. This means that early activity can burn 20 per cent more fat. Morning exercise is also best for weight-training, as levels of the hormone testosterone, which helps to build muscle, peak during the early part of the day. However, there are some benefits to exercising later.

It can help avoid injury — our muscles are more elastic when they are warmed up. Lung function is also highest in the late afternoon, so the circulation system can distribute more oxygen and nutrients. This leads to a disproportionate number of Olympic records, especially in running and swimming, being set in the late afternoon and early evening.

The best time for our first cup of coffee. As soon as we wake, our body starts producing cortisol, a stress hormone that helps kick-start our day. But caffeine interrupts this process, meaning that a cup of coffee first thing barely boosts our wakefulness at all. It’s best to have your first coffee an hour to 90 minutes later, once the cortisol production has peaked. If you’re looking for an afternoon boost, then a coffee between 2pm and 4pm, when cortisol levels begin to dip again, is ideal.

Best time to eat.  Science tells us the opposite: lunch is for high performers. A 2016 study showed that those who don’t eat at their workplace had higher levels of energy and concentration and a greater ability to deal with stress. The ingredients for a successful lunch-break are detachment (leaving the office) and autonomy (you choosing when to take your midday break).

Best time to begin or leave a job. The timing when you begin a new job can have a long-lasting effect on our earnings and career path, according to research by Professor Lisa Kahn at Yale University. She found that people who entered the job market at a time when the economy is weak earned less than those who began in strong economies. Of course, that’s purely common sense. But, interestingly, this advantage persisted for 20 years.

Indeed, the cost of starting in a sluggish period equates to nearly £100,000 (P1.5m) of lost earnings. After three years, you’ve had time to become really good at a job, and if you hand in your notice at that point, your boss is most likely to ask you to stay and offer you a pay rise.  This advice stays true until you’ve been in the job for five years. Leave it any longer, though, and it’s much harder to start in a new role with a different employer.

Best time to strike a deal. Scientists analysing Twitter in 2011 found that people’s moods rose during the morning, plummeted in the afternoon, then climbed again in the evening. Similar findings came in a review of 2,100 public companies, which discovered that when financial results were presented to investors and analysts in the morning, people reacted positively. Conversely, when results were presented in the afternoon, they were more negative. The conclusion is that ‘critical managerial decisions and negotiations should be conducted earlier in the day’.

And lastly, a quirky fact about the best time in your life to run a marathon.  A fascinating 2014 study found that people whose ages end with the number nine (19, 29, 39, etc) are over-represented among first-time marathon runners by 48 per cent. Twenty-nine-year-olds were twice as likely to run a marathon as 28-year-olds or 30-year-olds. For some unexplained reason, nearing the end of a decade seems to quicken a runner’s pace. Twenty-nine-year-olds who had run multiple marathons recorded faster times than they had achieved two years before or after.

Timing, as they say, is everything!

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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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