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Slanging Match

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Most of us enjoy following a sport whether we compete ourselves on an amateur basis or we’re just armchair fans, preferring to watch the professionals.  It might be footie – amazing how many there are out there who follow the English Premiere League, despite the fact that we’re thousands of miles away from its UK home!  Rugby is also hugely popular, with lots of locally-based Springbok supporters; cricket too and of course tennis.  For lots of people Wimbledon fortnight is the highlight of your year and you are glued to the television for every match and there are plenty of amateur club and school tennis fixtures for keen amateurs.

Whatever your passion what I wanted to ask is where do you stand on sportsmanship?  The sporting code, if you like, the idea of fair play and a fair fight.  All sports have their rules and codes of conduct but equally all sports have code violations, even at the highest level.  Oddly enough, though it’s mainly played by burly men built like brick outhouses,  and it’s about as rough a contact ball sport as it can possibly get, rugby probably ranks highest among good player behaviours. 

On the rugby pitch the referees are king;  one blast of a whistle and a raised hand for a rule infraction and the offending player slinks off to the sin bin without a protest.  Cricket too is famous for its sporting attitudes, hence the phrase ‘;just not cricket’.  Players defer to the on-field umpires at all times and histrionics would be unthinkable.

Even boxing, a combat sport, is famous for its adherence to the Marquis of Queensbury Rules, drawn up in the nineteenth century to dictate that every fight is a fair fight, gloves on and no hitting ‘below the belt’ – there’s another sporting phrase which has crept into the English language to refer to conduct or speech which is considered unfair or uncalled for.

So what is about tennis, particularly when played at the highest level, that seems to induce on-court rages from top players from time to time?  The latest example is, of course, the  temper tantrum and tirade of vituperation towards the umpire exhibited by Serena Williams at the US Open Women’s Final last week.  In case it has passed you by, the facts were thus:  Williams was playing Japanese player Naomi Osaka, the No. 7 seed and a name not familiar to the world at large, in front of a very partisan crowd of home supporters for Williams in the women’s final at the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York.

This flashpoint came in response to the game penalty, which was the result of a third code violation during the match. The first had been handed out for coaching, after Ramos spotted Patrick Mouratoglou making hand signals from the Williams player’s box. When the original violation was announced, Williams immediately charged up to Ramos to insist that she never takes coaching, and never cheats. The argument seemed to end there. But then, when she smashed a racket on being broken back for 3-3 in the second set, Ramos went by the book and gave her a point penalty.

Now Williams lost her temper – something that has happened twice before at the US Open. During the 2011 final, she accused chair umpire Eva Asderaki of being “a hater” and “ugly inside”. And even before that, in 2009, her semi-final against Kim Clijsters ended in another point penalty after she told a lineswoman “If I could, I would take this —-ing ball and shove it down your —-ing throat.”

Last weekend the major argument began with a reference to those earlier incidents. "Unbelievable, every time I play here, I have problems,” said Williams. “I did not get coaching, I don't cheat. You need to make an announcement. I have a daughter and I stand for what's right for her. You owe me an apology.

“For you to attack my character is something that is wrong,” Williams continued. “You will never ever, ever be in another final. You are a liar.” Then, when she called Ramos a “thief” for taking away a point from her, he gave her a code violation for verbal abuse, resulting in the game penalty that carried Osaka to 5-3 in the second set. Later, Mouratoglou confirmed that he had been coaching, but insisted that everyone does it.  “I was coaching but I don’t think she looked at me,”

The saddest part of this ugly incident was that Osaka had just become the first major-winner from Japan, closing out a 6-2, 6-4 victory in just 79 minutes. But it will be the verbal set-to, not the 2 sets, shared by Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos that most people will remember from this tempestuous final,  Poor Osaka herself was denied her moment of what should have been joy and jubilation and even wound up apologising for having beaten the crowd’s favourite in scenes that surely have little precedent in this or any other sport

All in all, what seemed to me to be a nasty case of ‘sore loser’.  Not the way to end a stellar career, Serena, and very far from serene! Of course this is not the first tennis temper tantrum and it probably won’t be the last.   I give you these classic examples courtesy of CNN, most of which are available on YouTube and make for amusing, if mildly shocking viewing.

At last year's French Open, Djokovic was docked a first serve and later given a warning for unsportsmanlike behavior for telling the same umpire "you're losing your mind," after a call Ramos made that infuriated the Serb. American Jeff Tarango, unable to stop himself from responding to goading from the crowd during his 1995 Wimbledon match with German Alexander Mronz looked over at the stands and said: "Oh, shut up," earning him a code violation for an audible obscenity.

He argued with the umpire that his words couldn't be considered to be obscene, called for a supervisor to intervene, while telling the umpire: "You are the most corrupt official in the game and you can't do that." After another code violation for verbal abuse, Tarango lost the match and stormed off the court. During one US Open, Andre Agassi got a warning for an audible obscenity for something he was about to say as he approached the umpire, but thought better of it and started to walk away. After hearing the umpire penalize him,  he called him a "son of a bitch." Play went on however, with no further remonstration from the chair.

Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis achieved eternal internet fame for an  epic racket smash during the 2012 Australian Open. During a break he smashed four rackets in under a minute. He went on to lose the match and pay a $1,250 fine.Argentinian David Nalbandian was disqualified from the final of the Aegon Championship in 2005 after he kicked an advertising board which broke apart and injured the shin of a line judge. Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Supervisor Tom Barnes said he had little choice but to "declare an immediate default."

One of the most notable tennis players to ever default a match was John McEnroe. At the 1990 Australian Open he got his first warning for intimidating a lineswoman who called his ball out. He stood in front of her, bouncing a ball on his racket and staring her down. Later, after losing a point, he hurled his racket to the ground and a loud crack echoed through the court, earning him another code violation.

After insisting to the umpire and tournament officials that he would continue to play with the damaged racket McEnroe slung insults over his shoulder as he walked away. That earned him another violation — this one for verbal abuse — and the entire match went to his opponent, Swede Mikael Pernfors.

Definitely gloves off!
 

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

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The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

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Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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