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When the going gets tough….

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

If you were to ask me who were the greatest leader of the 20th century I would surely name Winston Churchill as one of them. My opinion of him was formed from an early age as I grew up in a household who revered him as a model of leadership and an inspirational war hero.  So it was a no-brainer that I rushed to the movies this week to see The Darkest Hour a film about the early days of World War II, when the fate of Western Europe hung on Churchill as the newly-appointed British Prime Minister, faced with a decision to negotiate with Hitler or fight on against incredible odds.

I had not known that before he was appointed Prime Minister and before the war how unpopular he was and in many ways how he was lacking in the interpersonal skills department, so much so that he would probably have been considered unsuitable for leadership in the media-dominated world today, being no diplomat in day-to-day work and life.

But he was a big occasion, big speech politician (‘We will fight them on the beaches’, ‘Never has so much been owed by so many to so few’ etc.) who in a sea of dithering politicians who had already given up before they had even started the battle, stood out and stood up.  So even though Churchill was not a perfect person, it was his oratory and military talent as well as his triumphant effort in leading Britain, at all costs to victory which forever etched him in history as one of Britain’s greatest leaders.

People have said they didn't know what Britain would have done without him during World War 2 yet in my mind it always felt boorish that the British people failed to elect him again after the war, but perhaps the Brits knew that in 1940 he was the right man in the right job at the right time and immediately post-war there were different priorities.

It is interesting to be thinking of great leadership at a time when leadership in our neck of the woods is under the spotlight: In South Africa we anticipate the Zuma must fall campaign to reach its zenith as we await his resignation; the recent change in government in Zimbabwe which may well be much ado about nothing  and at home we are readying for new leadership too, and with it a plethora of expectation born out of, perhaps our own darkest hour. In the quarter of a century which I have lived in Botswana, I have never experienced the amount of negativity, hopelessness and disillusionment that there has been in the past few years.

So, from this backdrop nearly everyone that I talk to seems excited about a Masisi regime. From what I gather he sees the problems of the country for what they are and has an openness about tackling them with a modern and realistic mindset. The economy seems to be playing centre stage – from where everything can change because if he can get that right; more business investment, better education, infrastructure, less unemployment, opportunity and so on can surely follow? 

As someone said to me the other day, if he can deliver on what he promises…. aren’t we, the public,  eternal optimists who can't learn from experience? We want to believe that our politicians will improve our lives. But when post-election reality hits, we forget how unrealistic we were in believing that somehow "this time," the outcome would be different.

Because change is easier said than done and being president is not the type of job that I would want. I look at poor Theresa May doing the job in the UK trying to deliver Brexit to a nation in where half of them don’t want it – it’s a job that nobody else really wants but that doesn’t stop everyone criticising her every move and trying to trip her up every step of the way. Theresa May’s greatest strength must be her grit and determination and her ability to slog on ignoring the shouting around her and in the absence of anyone else in the picture she still looks to be better than any of her alternatives. Only history will tell her what her legacy will be as she tries to shape the future of Britain post Brexit.

What I take from Churchill and May as leaders is there single-minded determination on achieving a goal at all costs. While May focuses on Brexit, Immigration remains a major issue, NHS, Defence, poverty and inequality also refuse to go away but she mostly chooses to avoid this white noise as quite frankly she can’t deliver on everything… Churchill was determined to have Victory at all costs – one of which was the practical bankruptcy of Britain and the weakening of Britain’s international position. But I think good leaders realise that progress comes at a price.

But what about Masisi? He has all the makings of a great leader. He is personable, smart, versatile open-minded and if he can play to these strengths surely, we will move us out of the dark and into a brighter future. But he will need a single-minded goal that he must push through such as the economy or face the danger of getting caught up in the peripheral noise and an agenda that is so big that one would hardly now where to start?

Great leaders do one or two great things to move their countries forward and leave their minions to attend to the admin. Mandela’s was uniting a divided and polarised people, Kaunda’s for his fight against AIDS and assisting the liberation struggle neighbouring countries, Martin Luther King paved the way for racial equality in the United States and Gorbachev led Russia to political and economic freedom.

You will notice that I have picked out only a few names from different times in history and different places in the world, names with which we are all familiar and that is because they all, in big or small ways, made a difference when so many other politicians and leaders faded into obscurity.  They identified the problem, sought a solution and seized the day.  In doing so they all came in for criticism from their detractors, but they held fast and stuck to their guns, in Churchill’s case, almost literally.

As the expression goes, ‘Cometh the moment, cometh the man’, even when that man is a woman!

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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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