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Railing against the weather

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Fans of Country & Western music will be aware that next month marks 2 years since the death of Country & Western legend, Glen Campbell.

This music great had many hit records of his own and wrote many more for other industry stars but perhaps one of his most famous as ‘Wichita Lineman’.  The lineman in question is someone whose job it is to maintain the power lines in his area, checking for potential faults and endeavouring to keep the electrical supply up and running and ostensibly it is a simple song about a difficult job, battling the elements. 

The lyrics reference major weather incidents which might have an adverse effect on structural equipment, telling of how in one season he is ‘searching in the sun for another overload’ and in another ‘if it snows, that stretch down south won’t ever stand the load’.  The weather and the harsh tasks he faces, are in fact a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of life and love and ‘Wichita Lineman’ is at its core, a heartfelt love poem, spoken from the soul of a hard-working man who sees an honest day’s graft as his way of proving his love, with a chorus that reinforces the most important part of his life

‘And I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line’

To some of you, the idea a dedicated utility worker doing his level best to never let the supply fail might seem odd.  Our own power corporation, like many in the region, is a parastatal – i.e. a sole supplier ungoverned by market forces and largely unaccountable to consumers.  In the US, however, utilities are run entirely by the private sector and any company unable to deliver satisfactory service and an uninterrupted supply, severe Acts of God such as tornadoes, blizzards or hurricanes notwithstanding,  would soon find itself replaced by one more competent and committed to the cause.   That means being prepared to work in all climatic conditions, pre-planning and preparedness and a realm where the customer is king (or queen), a philosophy at odds with quasi-governmental monopolies.  

Of course severe and unexpected weather phenomena can catch out any organisation.  Once every decade or so, flights in and out of what is now OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg have to be cancelled due to snow, the airport understandably not being equipped with snow clearing and aircraft de-icing equipment. Closer to home, we’ve been prone to the effects of severe flooding from time to time – hard to reconcile in a country often beset by drought and comprising two thirds The Great Thirst, more commonly known as the Kalahari Desert.

Weather stuff happens and we can’t predict the unpredictable but over in the UK they seem to be constantly surprised by the fact that night follows day and the seasons change.  Pretty much year after year the whole country runs out of salt for the roads in winter, used for gritting and gripping after heavy snowfalls or freezing ice.  Local councils apparently forget to order sufficient quantities of this vital raw material in time, appearing surprised by a predictable annual event. 

Similarly, there is a phenomenon known as ‘leaves on the tracks’ which adversely affect their vital train services every autumn because – yes, you’ve guess it – everybody forgot that that’s when the leaves fall from the trees and inevitably some of them will end up on rail tracks.  Trains are delayed and journeys cancelled because rail staff are too slow out of the blocks to make a plan to clear this natural occurrence and this in a country where hundreds of thousands of commuters use rail as their travel option of choice to get to work.  Perhaps it might help if they referred to ‘autumn’ with the American term ‘Fall’!

Predictably, never being one to miss turning a drama into a crisis, the UK’s rail networks have been sent into a tailspin this week because of what could turn out to be record high temperatures.   As I write today’s high might reach (please don’t laugh) 39c and this, they say, is so hot it will buckle track rails.  All over continental Europe, temperature in the high 30s are normal in the summer months and all of these countries have robust rail networks offering super-efficient services on tracks that cope admirably with hot summers days, cold winter nights and yes, even a few leaf falls from deciduous trees but apparently the UK opted to lay tracks of a far flimsier alloy that is somewhat heat sensitive. 

And thus it is that the rail companies have issued warnings to citizens to only travel if their journeys are absolutely necessary, in echoes of the old World War II posters which asked ‘Is Your Journey Necessary’ at a time of real national crisis when trains were carrying servicemen and women and the coal to fuel the steam engines was in short supply owing to the decrease in civilian manpower.  This is the dire warnings being issued:

Commuters are being warned to stay at home as Britain braces for 39C temperatures on what could be the country’s hottest day on record. Forecasters are predicting temperatures in some parts of the UK on Thursday could top the current record for a July day of 36.7C, set at Heathrow Airport in 2015. Transport bosses have advised against travelling as railway tracks are expected to buckle in the heat. National Rail has warned metal tracks in direct sunshine can exceed 50C, and speed restrictions will be in place to stop the rails buckling.

A number of railway companies will run a significantly reduced service on Thursday with fewer trains – and some could face speed restrictions as slow as 20mph. This could lead to travel chaos as people who do need to travel are packed onto fewer trains. Elsewhere, government agencies are urging people to keep their pets inside their houses, lest they expire in the heat should they be so foolhardy as to venture into the garden, and to check up on elderly neighbours, this latter reminder being advice that should be followed year-round, one might have thought.

The Met Office also chipped in, issuing a severe weather warning for thunderstorms, sparked by the hot weather.  Forecasters warned spray and sudden flooding could cause difficult driving conditions and road closures, as well as delays or cancellations to train and bus services.  There is also a chance of power cuts and flooding caused by lightning, hail or gusts of wind.

Thunderstorms?  Power cuts?  Now that’s something we can definitely relate to but guess what?  They have very severe storms in Wichita too but I guarantee their Linemen make sure the lights stay on!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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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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.

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”


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.”


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.


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)


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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