Almost a week gone and Muslims are into their month of fasting. One may ask, why fast? The Quran says: ‘O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint’. (Quran 2: 183). We fast in order to fulfil the Command of our Lord.
This is a month in which on a physical level we abstain from all food, drink, smoking and fulfilling our marital carnal desires from sunrise to sunset. In addition on a behavioural level we refrain from bad vices like jealousy, vain talk, anger, gossip, and other everyday human traits. It is also a time forgiveness – we should forgive those whom we think have hurt us or done something against us. How can we expect the Lord to forgive us when we don’t forgive our fellow human beings?
During this time we can fulfil our obligations to our Lord and Creator and at the same time to purge and cleanse the mind, the body and souls of the bad vices we have succumbed to. Think about it, throughout the year many of us fall into such bad habits as gorging down our food and overeating thus stressing out our bodies and our internal systems. Fasting gives the body that much needed chance and time to reinvigorate and cleanse itself. Doctors are now discovering the physical benefits of fasting have a wonderful cleansing effect on the body. Many impurities are burned up within the body, thus clearing, cleansing and healing the body.
So, this is the month for Muslims to abandon their bad habits and turn around their lives – as the saying goes; ‘We first make our habits, and then our habits make us’. This is an opportune time to work towards bringing the good habits and practices back into our lives. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.’
As often made reference to, fasting is not only limited to Islam but also is a practice common to many other religions, maybe not as pronounced and specified as in Islam, but it is there in the Scriptures and teachings. The Bible refers to fasting in a number of instances. Fasting is prescribed in almost all religions. The Jews and Christians also fast. Jewish law order a yearly fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I read an item sometime back that said that Orthodox Jews require the bride and groom to fast on the day before their wedding. Many Christians fast during Lent, the period of 40 days that Jesus (pbuh) spent fasting in the wilderness. People of the Buddhist and Hindu faith also fast.
Among the verses in the Bible: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights….. (Matthew 4: 1-4). And: “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1: 4)
For Muslims this month also has a great significance: ‘Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide to mankind and as a clear evidence for guidance and judgement between right and wrong. So whoever among you witnesses this month, let him spend it in fasting….’ (Quran 2: 183 – 185)
For all Muslims from the age of puberty upwards the month long fasting is obligatory and it includes intensive devotional activities. However if one is ill, on a journey or for some reason unable to fast during this month, they can make up for it later. For those who cannot do so for other reasons for example, the regular intake of medicines, they have to make penance or make up for it by feeding the indigent and needy.
Fasting constitutes the third obligatory pillar of faith and worship in Islam and the first lesson fasting brings to us, is that of obedience: we have to learn to cultivate obedience to the orders of Allah. Without this obedience there is little hope of ever changing our inner self to gain piety. This is not about picking and choosing, not about what to obey and what to leave out, but about total submission to Allah. Islam is to submit.
Neither is it only about ‘starvation’ from all food and drink throughout the daylight hours, but it is more than this. With the intensity of the fasting it brings about the opportunity to take stock of our lives, to reflect on what we have been, what we are doing, and what we should have been doing. This should bring into focus an inner reflection of the conduct of our lives.
Muslims also engage in increased devotional activities during this month; in addition to the five times daily prayers, additional prayers are added to the evening prayer. During these additional congregational prayers, the Imaam leads them by reciting (from memory) the entire Quran, from first chapter to the final chapter, spaced over the month. In addition to this many Muslims increase their devotional activities even by reading / reciting the entire Quran at home on their own during this month.
These actions teach us self-discipline, self-control, steadfastness and resilience as they train us to be flexible and adaptable in our habits and thus capable of enduring hardships. For example, throughout the year we can eat and drink anytime all day long but not so during the fasting month. During our fasting month we cannot do so from sunrise to sunset, so we begin to realise that indeed food and drink are precious gifts not to be taken for granted.
This in turn brings about a consciousness of the plight of the poor and needy who constantly experience this state of hunger, from this we learn to appreciate the daily bounties from our Lord that we usually take for granted. This brings about active compassion and the spirit of charity towards the poor and needy.
The intensity of our devotional activities during this month should trigger off in us a deep reflection and a soul searching to identify those weak spots in our spiritual goals and values. This then becomes a unique opportunity to utilize to move and devote ourselves to our spiritual development.
As mentioned earlier amongst other things we should avoid vain talk, gossip, learn to control our temper; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting)". Further: 'Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze’. And: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is fasting he should neither indulge in obscene language, nor should he raise his voice in anger. If someone verbally attacks or insults him, let him say: "I am fasting!"
To Muslims the world over the message is, Ramadan Mubarak and may you gain the maximum benefits from your actions during this auspicious month.
Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.
This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.
The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.
On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members. The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.
The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed. The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.
The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.
If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.
So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.
The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption. Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.
The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus. So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS. They demand a start from a clean slate.
The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.
Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.
Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.
In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.
Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.
The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.
There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.
But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.
There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.
He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.
The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.
For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way.
I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However, the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’. Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.
No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.
I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century. Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?
The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.
In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”
The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.
Nothing happens until something moves
The secret of getting ahead is getting started
Act or be acted upon
All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD! This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.
To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts: *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide. What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.
As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.
JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated. Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”
2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.
.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.
Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!