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Decline in religious belief?


In a very recent article in this column asked the question; ‘Are You a Believer?’ this was because there appears to be a worldwide decline in moral behaviour and the manner in which people lead and live their lives.  

Unfortunately in this day and age mankind because of its ‘enlightened knowledge which at times leads to ignorance’ has degenerated, degraded and sunk to such a low moral point that there are some doubting Thomas’ who are asking if religion still has relevance or a place in this new world that we live in. Nowadays some people hold the view and think that religion is outmoded and antiquated, literally ‘old fashioned’.  Without doubt there appears to be a ‘religious and moral vacuum’ in our societies.

Every major religion has its fair share of those who have a nonchalant and indifferent attitude and take religion in jest and brush it aside, forgetting that one day we all have to die and will be called to account for our actions and unbelief. ‘……as to those who reject faith, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe’. (Quran 2:6)

Regrettably many of us are hypnotized and mesmerized by the achievements of this fast changing world in science, technology and materialism and it is evident that there are some in this ‘educated’ society of ours who are facing, shall I say ‘A moral and religious crises’ because of an erosion of religious belief leading to a loss in moral values.

In Islam the Almighty Allah declares in the Holy Qur’an: “O mankind, worship your Lord who has created you and those before you, that you may become righteous.  It is He who has made the earth a resting-place for you and the sky a canopy, and has sent down water from the sky and thereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance.  Do not, then, claim that there is any power that could rival God, when you know.” (Quran 2: 21-22)

In this verse is the basic commandment of the Holy Quran, The Almighty speaks of the futility of worshipping others besides Him.  He addresses humanity to direct all acts of worship to Him alone. He is their Creator, Lord and overseer. Allah is the One who created us into being out of nothingness, giving us life in this world.

As humans we have been blessed with the power of reason and thought which distinguishes us from animals; thus many societies have grown up with moral values and a traditional upbringing that is people centred and corresponds with their religious beliefs. Regrettably  in our haste to become modernized and dare I say ‘westernized’ we have become so obsessed with this material world and its trappings that our religious beliefs, teachings and our morality has, literally been put aside.

We have separated and compartmentalized our daily lives away from our faith and it has become increasingly difficult to live by our religious and moral values. ‘Miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls, in that what they deny the revelation which God has sent down…and humiliating is the punishment of those who reject faith’ (Quran 2:90)

There is a vacuum in our societies because we seem to have lost our moral values somewhere along the line. The world is full of evil, violence, strife, war, poverty, immorality, broken homes, abuse of women and children, rape, adultery, alcoholism and drug/ substance abuse, self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ of dubious credentials and the other evils so common in our society today.

‘As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help’ (Quran 3: 56). ‘Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls) – (Quran 13:11)
Religion is not only based on a set of rituals and performing certain duties, but it is an all-embracing system that Muslims take as a way of life. It means that our intentions, deeds and actions must be based on firm belief, good intentions and the constant mindfulness that the Almighty Lord is ever-present. For this we are promised and ‘Heavenly Kingdom’ in the Hereafter.

‘Allah has promised to the believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in Gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of Allah’ (Quran 9; 72). and; ‘Give glad tidings to the believers who work deeds of righteousness, they shall have a magnificent reward.’ (Quran 17; 9)

Muslims are to offer five times daily prayers but some of us mistakenly think that our regular attendance of the once a week Friday (Jummah) prayers is sufficient to fulfil our obligation and duty as a good Muslim – let alone live by the other injunctions and instructions of the Quran. It seems that across the broad religious spectrum be it Muslim or Christian, we have the weak in faith and belief who believe that their once a week or even less attendance is obligation enough to their Creator. While some people wonder how we can go to the mosque or even pray at home five times a day.

As previously covered the time for compulsory prayers are as follows; just before sunrise (Fajar), lunch time (Zohar); late afternoon around 5 pm (Asr); as the sun sets (maghrieb); and around 8pm (eesha). Think about it: at sunrise to thank the Almighty for another day in this world; the lunch time one to remember the Almighty during our daily work chores; the late afternoon as we ‘leave’ work to go back home; the sun set prayer at the end of the day – in Islam the day ends and the new day begins at sunset; unlike the timing of the world calendar where the new day starts at midnight. Finally the night time prayer when we begin to ‘shut down’ the day and getting ready to sleep and hopefully wake up to perform the early morning prayers.

It is very simple the compulsory (faraz) prayers take on an average five minutes each – that means roughly half an hour a day to perform the 5 times daily prayers. If we cannot give the Almighty Allah half an hour from our daily 24 hours we need to introspect. I was chatting with a friend of mine (who is a Christian) who asked me if it was true that we offer our prayers five times a day, when I confirmed it he expressed surprise, then in his own unique style of mischievous sense of humour he said ‘that’s nothing some of my mates go to church three times’; thereafter bursting into laughter he said, ‘first, upon their baptism, then, when they get married and finally for the funeral service when they die’.

This world is but a passing phase we therefore have to change our lifestyles and bring God back into our lives, failure to do so will bring us eternal damnation ….’and if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear them no fruit in this life and the Hereafter; they will be the companions of the fire and will abide therein’. (Quran 2:217).

It is the duty of a believer to make every effort to guide people to the right path by reminding them of their duty to their Creator; by spreading the ‘good word’ but more especially leading by example. We should remove the new ‘false gods’ that this life is imposing upon us.

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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

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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