This week, we are concluding the series through which we considered whether or not His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, is delivering on his inaugural speech promises, commitments and undertakings.
Last week dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi’s assurance to Batswana that through such programmes as Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD) and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID), his government will continue to strive for and intensify the commercialisation of the agricultural sector.
We also dealt with his promise that his government will continue to monitor adherence to the Tourism Regulations of 1996 to accommodate the reservation of some license category for citizens which will subsequently increase their participation in tourism. We also dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi undertaking that his government will, additionally, rejuvenate the capacity of citizens to participate more meaningfully in the tourism sector, stating that steps will be taken to ensure that game farming, as an enterprise, is promoted so that it becomes attractive and profitable.
We also dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to table, before Parliament, specific legislation on declaration of assets and liabilities. We also dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi’s reaffirmation that government will continue the HIV and AIDS interventions by combining treatment, care and support, stating that a rejuvenated attention on the major determinants of our national health practices including the manner of response to HIV and AIDS will be given.
This week, we deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise that, in line with the National Spatial Plan 2036, government will accelerate the function of spatial planning and access to land in order to give meaning to the aspirations of Batswana, especially the youth, stating that government will continue giving priority to the Youth when allocating land for agriculture and business purposes. We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s affirmation that Botswana will continue upholding the principles of the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature.
We also deal with his promise to maintain a neutral, apolitical and professional public service as one of the elements that Botswana prides herself with, urging all Batswana to be vigilant in order to maintain the peace and security that this country has enjoyed for more than five decades. We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to be steadfast in the fight against corruption, stating that that is imperative if we are to safeguard the hopes and dreams of all Batswana for current and future generations.
We also deal with his undertaking to continue strengthening oversight institutions and exacting the full might of the law to ensure that the fight against corruption in all its forms and manifestations is won. We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment that though Botswana is a small country, in terms of population, he will ensure that she continues to play an important role in the promotion of such global issues as respect for human rights, democracy, good governance, the rule of law, as well as the maintenance of international peace and security.
We also deal with his commitment to ensure that the conduct of Botswana’s foreign relations contributes to national development and the improvement of the living standards of our people, promising that, under his leadership, our relations with other countries will be enhanced for the benefit of Botswana and her economy.
We also deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise that Botswana will continue contributing to regional efforts aimed at consolidating democracy, peace and security in the SADC region and beyond, stating that he will do his utmost to continually grow confidence in and of governance through a combination of new legislation, ethical codes and demonstrable and efficacious behaviours.
First, his promise that, in line with the National Spatial Plan 2036, government will accelerate the function of spatial planning and access to land in order to give meaning to the aspirations of Batswana. This is one area that H.E Dr. Masisi must prioritise if he is to have a lasting legacy for thousands of Batswana fail to realize their dreams because of lack of land. As it is, only the middle class and the rich are able to buy land since thousands are still on the Land Board’s waiting lists.
Second, his affirmation that Botswana will continue upholding the principles of the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and separation of powers. Thankfully, since rising to power H.E Dr. Masisi has not conducted himself or his government in a manner that is offensive to the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and separation of powers.
Third, his promise to maintain a neutral, apolitical and professional public service. While Botswana’s public service is largely apolitical, especially at the lower echelons, the same cannot be said about it at the Permanent Secretary level. The Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP), Carter Morupisi, for instance, is a known BDP sympathiser. Naturally, those serving under him align with the BDP in order to gain his favour.
On the contrary, those not sympathetic the BDP, especially trade union activists and leaders have suffered victimisation through unwarranted transfers and non-promotions, something which has led to some of them aligning with the BDP in order to gain favour. Fourth, his promise to be steadfast in the fight against corruption. Though he has not acceded to calls for a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the National Petroleum Fund and Pension Fund scandals, since he assumed office a number of high-profile prosecutions involving a High Court judge and former cabinet minister have been commenced.
Also, though no charges have yet been preferred against him in relation to his alleged corrupt activities, the arrest, detention and search of former Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence & Security Services (DISS), Colonel Isaac Kgosi, have made many believe in H.E Dr. Masisi’s promise to fight corruption without fear or favour. Yet, some have been cautious in applauding him, fearing that he may be using the fight against corruption as a pretext to fight political battles in his party, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
This view became fortified when, during the build up to the BDP presidential elections, some BDP functionaries, mainly in the faction that supported Masisi’s challenger, Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, were reported to be under investigation by either the DISS, Botswana Unified Revenue Service(BURS) or the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime(DCEC).
Fifth, his promise to ensure that Botswana continues to play an important role in the promotion of such global issues as respect for human rights, democracy, good governance, the rule of law, as well as the maintenance of international peace and security. Even under Masisi’s rule, Botswana continues to be a beacon in as far as the aforesaid tenets of democracy are concerned. It is, however, disconcerting that, in terms of the 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), she is deteriorating in good governance.
On the Rule of Law, overall, she scored 89.1%, scooping position 4, but considering the 10-year average of 2008 to 2017 she had an increasing deterioration of -5.7. On Rights, overall, she scored 54.9%, taking position 14, but considering the 10-year average of 2008 to 2017 she had an increasing deterioration of -3.4.
Of course, this is a record which H.E Dr. Masisi inherited from his predecessor, but he was part of Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s government, in which he served as Vice President for about five years, during which time Botswana experienced the aforesaid deterioration. Sixth, his commitment to ensure that the conduct of Botswana’s foreign relations contributes to national development and the improvement of the living standards of our people.
If there is one thing that H.E Dr. Masisi has done well in the one year that he has been in office, it is repairing the damage that Dr. Khama had caused to our international relations and diplomacy. His reprioritisation of our relations with Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states means we can better leverage from the SADC Free Trade Area Agreement and the SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement. The affable relations he has reestablished with the African Union (AU) means we can better leverage from Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
H.E Dr. Masisi has relaunched Botswana into the world stage, potentially taking us back to the glory days of Dr. Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae and the late Sir Ketumile Masire in as far as international relations is concerned. Consequently, our chances of making maximum benefit from such international agreements as the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement and the United States sponsored African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) have become enhanced.
Since assuming office, H.E Dr. Masisi has worked tirelessly to mend bilateral relations which had soured during the Khama regime, for instance with the Peoples’ Republic of China, a relationship which, if properly nurtured, may create thousands of jobs for our people.
Not only that. H.E Dr. Masisi has travelled the globe, nurturing already existing bilateral relations and creating new ones. His recent visit to Qatar is likely to bring dividends to such sectors as agriculture, beef imports, hotels, and ICT, which Ambassador Manyepedza P Lesetedi says the Qataris are interested in.
Seventh, his promise that Botswana will continue contributing to regional efforts aimed at consolidating democracy, peace and security in the SADC region and beyond. One hopes that as H.E Dr. Masisi travels the world he, behind closed doors, urges his counterparts to uphold the democratic ideal as a prerequisite for the maintenance of peace and security. Botswana’s recent statement that she is going back to the days of silent diplomacy is, however, concerning. Her silence in the face of human rights vilations by some countries, for instance, may be interpreted as approval of such.
Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.
The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.
A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.
He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.
They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.
Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.
‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.
Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.
He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.
Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.
Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.
Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.
A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.
A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.
His attitude towards his body, mind and soul
The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]
The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.
As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114
The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.
His attitude towards people
The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]
With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.
With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.
With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.
In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.
The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.
These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?
For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.
“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).
These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.
The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.
But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.
It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.
Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.
We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?
Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.
It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.
So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.
In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.” Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.
Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)
The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.