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Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

There is one main conversation in the bars, cafes and shebeens at the moment – anywhere, in fact, where the chattering classes convene to put the world to rights and that is, of course, the elections in Zimbabwe. 

All over the world people are tuning in to radio and television broadcasts, checking their smartphones and accessing online news for up-to-date reports, commentator’s views and on-the-ground reportage.  It’s fair to say that after the eventual toppling of Robert Mugabe in November last year, it was hoped that the overthrow heralded a new dawn in Zimbabwean politics and that the seeds of reparation and new growth might be able to be sown.

 And with the date set for a democratic election, as promised by coup master Emmerson  Mnangagwa it seemed the people would have their say with a clear choice between the ruling ZANU PF party under his ostensibly temporary leadership and opposition party,  Movement for Democratic Change party under Nelson Chamisa. 

Yet as of now, the situation in the country is volatile, hostile and disbelieving as early results appear to show a significant win for ZANU PF and Mnangagwa over the MDC and Chamisa, in spite of pre-election polls which appeared to show both parties more or less neck and neck.  Already there are accusations of vote rigging and election fraud and there have been ugly clashes on Harare’s streets between MDC supporters and the army with soldiers opening fire, three people dead and many more injured. 

 Home e Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu warned that the government “will not tolerate any of the actions that were witnessed today….“The opposition… have perhaps interpreted our understanding to be weak, and I think they are testing our resolve and I think they are making a big mistake.” Not exactly words of diplomacy, peace-keeping and reconciliation.  As the French say ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose’ (the more it changes, the more it’s stays the same)

It’s hard to fathom where this one is going.  It’s reasonable to predict further clashes and more deaths  before the week is out.    Zimbabweans have grown suspicious of politicians, suspicious of elections and with good cause.  Under Mugabe the concept of a free and fair election was laughable, as was the idea that he would ever have tolerated a result which went against him and thus, no vote ever did.  Nonetheless hope springs eternal in the human heart and it was felt that this time it might be different, that this time international observers might actually be free to observe and that the process would be truly transparent and honest. 

And of course, who is to say that this is not the case?  It may be that the results so far do reflect the views of the majority of the people – it just doesn’t feel like that to the many voters who want real change and who were buoyed pre-lection by the promising polls.  The choice, of course, was far deeper than the superficial alternatives of one party and leader against another.  Mnangagwa,  although he effected the coup and coup de grace to Mugabe, was his long-time political ally and at 75 represents the old guard of Zimbabwean politics, with all the negative associations that implies; whilst lawyer Nelson Chamisa, at 40, speaks with a new voice for a new generation of voters and a new era in political thinking.

It is, of course, in sharp contrast to our own recent change of leadership which saw the orderly handover of the premiership from HE Lt. Gen Ian Khama Seretse Khama to incumbent HE Mokgweetsi Masisi in a democratic process in keeping with the prescribed electoral code.    Just the other side of a shared border yet the contrasts between the two countries and how such affairs are conducted couldn’t be starker.  Around the world Botswana rarely makes the headlines, save when a record-breaking large diamond is discovered beneath the Kalahari sands or a member of the British royal family makes one of their regular visits.  No news is good news, as they  say!

As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, we can only wait and watch.  The country is desperately in need of an era of stability in order to begin the long process of economic recovery.  Mugabe raided the national coffers with systematic and ruthless theft and the richer he grew the more his people starved.  He left it both broken and broke and it will take decades to recuperate and re-grow. 

Productivity has been almost non-existent for years, what with the lack of raw materials, scarcity of jobs and a nation of people facing an everyday struggle to find and afford the barest of necessities.  What is needed now is a government of national unity, not one of further division and distrust and reparation can only come about with the help of foreign aid. 

Zimbabwe’s rulers know that the widespread perception overseas that they have rigged an election would block the country’s reintegration into the international community and deny it the huge bailout package needed to avoid economic meltdown but with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling on the country’s  political leaders and people to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence and Colm O Cuanachain, Acting Secretary General of  Amnesty International urging authorities to launch “a prompt and effective” investigation into the deadly military crackdown, it’s not looking  promising from the outside in. “People must be guaranteed their right to protest,”   O Cuanachain said.  That would certainly be a sea change in politically-oppressed Zimbabwe!  Perhaps someone should explain that to the army?

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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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Columns

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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