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UDC needs a rebirth!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

There is no doubt that this year’s electoral results in terms of which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) lost four seats in Parliament, with its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, losing his seat, calls for its rebirth.

This, because Botswana, like all democracies, need a strong opposition if the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is to be put on check, lest it becomes complacent to the detriment of our democracy. When the UDC was born just before the 2014 general elections, it raised hope among hundreds of thousands of Batswana who voted for it in large numbers, giving it 17 seats in Parliament. In fact, as some opine, were it not for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which selfishly decided to contest outside the UDC, the UDC would have won the elections or at least caused a hung Parliament.

So real was the possibility of the UDC attaining state power that the BDP developed strategies which included endearing itself to trade unions and the media, especially after His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, came to office. It was because of the UDC’s potency that the BDP itself went through a rebirth, something which paid dividends because were it not for the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), the BDP would have won forty-one of the fifty-seven Parliamentary seats on offer.

On the contrary, the UDC dug its own grave, something which was bound to result in the dismal performance it suffered at the hands of the BDP this year. The UDC failed to timeously intervene in the conflicts bedeviling its member, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), claiming that it had no right to intervene since the BMD is a separate legal entity. For about three years, the UDC did nothing when the BMD was self-destructing, the result being the infamous Bobonong congresses, whose bloody confrontations resulted in a split which resulted in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

Even after this, the BMD continued to be marred by conflict, but the UDC stood idle only to act decisively in 2018 by expelling the BMD. But, it was too late for then began a protracted mudslinging battle from which the UDC never recovered. The court case which ensued from BMD’s expulsion did not help the situation for it created in many Batswana’s minds the impression that the UDC is an unstable political party which can not be trusted with state power.

This is perhaps the reason why the Botswana Federation of Public Service Organizations (BOFEPUSU) did not endorse it this year, something which was read by some as a vote of no confidence. Meanwhile, the BDP under H.E Dr. Masisi was on the rise with its new found ‘CAVA’ brand and charm offensive on trade unions, public servants, the media, et cetera unparalleled.

H.E Dr. Masisi’s public relations machinery, both at Tsholetsa house and at Government enclave, presented him as though he was the progenitor of consultation or therisano. This worked in the minds of many Batswana who were yearning for that after ten years of what many regard as autocratic rule by former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

On the eve of the elections, a debate for political party presidential candidates, which was expected by many to boost the UDC’s prospects of winning the elections, turned into a nightmare for the UDC when there was an outcry at the verbal and non-verbal communication used by Advocate Boko, which many regarded as uncouth. When, on 24th October, the electoral results were announced, not only did the UDC emerge as the greatest loser, its leader, Advocate Boko, lost his seat. So too did the leader of the AP, Ndaba Gaolathe.

Of course, the UDC cried foul, claiming there was wide spread electoral fraud and rigging by the BDP. If this is true, it is yet to be proven before the courts of law. Almost immediately after the results, some voices of dissent began emerging from the UDC and the Botswana National Front (BNF). One such was Advocate Boko’s deputy at the BNF, Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, who blamed Advocate Boko for UDC’s loss.

This is understandable considering the extent to which the BNF lost Parliamentary seats compared to its coalition partner, the BCP. While the BNF won a mere five seats, the BCP won a whopping eleven seats. This is impressive for a party which won only three seats in 2014.  Also, to add salt to injury for the BNF, its leader, Advocate Boko, who has been the Leader of the Opposition (LoO) in Parliament, lost his Parliamentary seat. On the other hand, the BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, won his seat and is likely to be the LoO in Parliament when this Parliament resumes business.  

Among the allegations Rev. Dr. Dibeela levelled against Advocate Boko are that he neglected his own party, the BNF, resulting in the collapse of its structures, hence its dismal performance compared to the BCP. Rev. Dr. Dibeela also blamed Advocate Boko for being an authoritarian who makes decisions to the exclusion of the party and coalition’s leadership and/or overrules the majority’s decisions as he pleases. He gave Advocate Boko’s refusal to expel Advocate Sidney Pilane from the BMD, something which resulted in the BMD debacle getting out of hand.   

You would recall that long before the elections, the BNF Veterans’ League expressed misgivings about Advocate Boko’s leadership, citing almost the same reasons as the ones proffered by Rev. Dr. Dibeela. There was a time when there were rumors that the UDC leadership, including Advocate Boko’s deputy at the UDC, who is also BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, were not privy to the coalition’s funding sources. While one may not ascertain the allegations against Advocate Boko, it is clear that the UDC needs a rebirth.

If it is true that Advocate Boko has acted as he is alleged to have acted, there is something wrong with the UDC and the BNF. It is not understandable how one person can run the show and lead the whole movement to such an abyss? Is it not because the rank and file abdicated their constitutional responsibilities? For instance, one wonders where such vanguards of the movement as the Youth League and the Women’s League were when the movement lost direction, allegedly because of one man.

As a coalition of leftist political parties who believe in democratic centralism, one would have expected the UDC and BNF to prevail on Advocate Boko and bring him to line in as far as the bottom-up approach to leadership is concerned. Perhaps one lesson the UDC and the BNF need to learn is that personality cultism in terms of which the leader is treated like a deity and becomes bigger than the collective is to be shunned at all costs because it invariably produces autocrats.

Fundamental to such leftist movements as the UDC and the BNF is the concept of self-criticism and self-correction. Clearly, this virtue has been relegated to obscurity. Without suggesting that the African National Congress (ANC) has done better in that regard, one may nevertheless urge the UDC and the BNF to borrow a leaf from the ANC’s ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ pamphlet for if it did it would have self-corrected in time to avoid the abyss it fell into.

Self-correction would have enabled the UDC and the BNF to deal with the BMD saga and the Advocate Boko issue in time to avoid costing the whole movement as it just did. In order to facilitate its rebirth, the UDC needs to convene a National Congress as soon as possible whereat self-criticism would prevail, the preferred result being a change in not only the movement’s strategy and tactics, but also in the movement’s leadership.

Perhaps one reason why the UDC performed so badly this year is that since it was formed it has never conducted a democratic election of its leadership. The leadership positions were attained and/or assigned by compromise. In my view, Advocate Boko has to take a dignified bow from the leadership of both the UDC and the BNF. By so doing, he would give way to someone who may give a breath of fresh air to the movements, thereby strategically placing them for the 2024 elections.

No doubt, from an intellectual point of view Advocate Boko has what it takes to take any movement to the greatest of heights, but he has lost too much political credibility and capital that he can only remain at the movements’ helm at the masses’ expense. The leadership of the Youth League and Women’s League too have to take a bow for they failed to play their vanguard role when the leadership led the movement astray. The UDC and the BNF also have to revert to the situation where the party is mainly funded by the members, not by anonymous individuals and/or organizations who often high jack the leadership in order to further their own interest.

 

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

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.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

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.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“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.

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