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let us change 5 – mind your tongue

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

If you think about it there is something that we have in our mouths that is about 100 mm long, pink, soft, flexible tissue that is even more dangerous and mightier and can cause even more hurt and damage than a ‘weapon’ – it is called the human tongue.

We may not believe or realise it but the tongue is so powerful that it can inflict much hurt and damage through the use of harsh, hurtful, rude and insensitive words that they can penetrate into the very fibre of our body and soul. The wounds of a sword can and may heal over time, but the hurt and anger of words can and also remain within the hearts and minds of some of us for a long time – even to our graves. That is the raw power of the tongue. Yet how many of us are mindful of what we say?

There is a saying that was common some years ago; ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. But let us remember that those hurtful words may not break our bones but they may penetrate into our hearts and minds and remain there for a long time. Without doubt some of us still carry the hurt within us of something that someone has said to us or about us.

 Another saying was that; ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’; meaning that what is written may be more hurtful than a sword. Just like spoken words what is written can also squeeze and wedge into our hearts and in our minds. Nowadays the ‘written’ may not be by pen, but with the new technology that has social media and platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook etc. and if some of the things posted therein erroneously or deliberately can be emotional and hurtful.    

Think about it on a daily basis how many of us are guilty of the doing the following things related to our tongue? Telling lies, back biting, slander, foul language, making fun of and teasing and mocking other people thereby hurting their feelings, idle talk, talking back in a rude manner to one’s parents, breaking some one’s heart…and so many more. That is why one of the important virtues of being a Muslim is guarding his tongue. The Prophet (PBUH) said:” Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say what is good or be silent.”

In Islam mindful, kind and gentleness of speech is a righteous virtue whereas rudeness is a sin. The Quran declares ‘treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need and speak fair to people’ (Quran: 2: 83) Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said ‘to speak politely is piety and a kind of charity’ and ‘to indulge in intemperate language and harsh behaviour is to perpetrate an injustice, and the home of injustice is Hell’.

The way we speak to people, minding what we say, how we say it and in what tone it is said, ‘speaks’ volumes of our character and the inner person that we are. If we speak to people in a polite, genuine, sincere and respectable manner over time it brings about within us many noble and virtuous qualities, some of those qualities are good manners, self-restraint, trust, discipline, humility and sincerity of heart. Whilst these qualities form the basis of religious teaching they are also a given for every parent in the moral upbringing of their children.

The ability to speak and express ourselves is a separation point between us as humans and from animals. The proper use of this great gift or its absence is what further separates us humans from one another.  Anyone of us can be immodest by being explicit, rude, crude and vulgar in speech, but it does take an effort to guard our tongue. More often than not those of us that tend to be loud, boisterous and reckless with the use of words often suffer from or have a low self-esteem and are actually looking for some form of recognition.

These values and qualities are not only confined to any particular religion or faith but also espoused in the values of most cultures. For example in the Bible: ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger’ (Proverbs 15:1)
In African culture, Eastern culture and to a lesser degree in the ‘west’, from observation, children from a young and tender age are taught the values of respect the use of ‘kind’ words and even keeping their voices ‘low’.

Regrettably these are in short supply in today’s society because in our quest to become ‘modernised /westernised’ we are forgetting our upbringing based on the traditional values of ‘Botho’. More so under the mistaken guise of ‘freedom of speech’ some of us tend to take that as a carte blanche licence or a blank cheque to say whatever nonsense, balderdash or drivel that we want to, simply because we take it is our right to do so thereby making a ‘freedom square’ out of our speech.

But in Islam we have to remember that our parents, elders, kith and kin, neighbours and even strangers and the society at large, have certain rights over us – among those rights are the right to be treated with respect including that of being spoken to with dignity. Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Giving a good word is a type of remembrance of Allah, telling the truth, guarding one's own tongue against slandering of others are good deeds.’

The Quran straight forwardly and beautifully describes such people, in chapter 31 verse 19 when it says; ‘And be moderate in thy pace, and lower your voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is that of the braying of the ass.’  Yes we have all heard the sound of a donkey braying. Islam reminds us that a person’s greatness lies not in how powerful he is in the use of words but rather in how careful he is in their use.

However we should remember that on the other hand it does not automatically mean that when someone talks in a soft and mild manner that there is sincerity in his heart, after all diplomacy has been described as – the art of telling a person to go to hell in such a nice manner that he even looks forward to the journey. Just a thought: we go to school to learn to read, write and speak a language, but seldom are we taught how to tame and control the raw power of these words or speech – to use it for promoting truth and not falsehood; spreading virtue and not evil.  

Remember: Always keep your words soft and sweet – just in case you have to swallow them. Also remember: be careful of your thoughts when you are alone, and take care of your words when you are with people. So let us learn to control our thoughts and guard our tongues so that we ourselves do not begin to sound like those braying asses mentioned above. What better way than to keep the tongue moist and busy with the remembrance of Allah?

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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