The clock has ticked and we have left 2019 behind and we have welcomed 2020. With the festive season becoming a fading memory we are back at work or to whatever we do in life.
Many will have come back recharged and full of zeal ready to face 2020 – yet some of us may still be feeling rather ‘fragile’ and looking on at the new year with a great deal of trepidation, anxiety and apprehension; we will moan, groan and feel sorry for ourselves – well this is as real as it gets.
For those of the Christian faith, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ (PBUH); sadly over the years society has so commercialised and degraded it to such an extent that the holidays have now become an excuse for many to act shamelessly by binge drinking, partying and over indulging in everything. Today, it is that fat man, Santa Claus, in the red suit trimmed with white, with a beard, saying ‘ho, ho, ho’, bringing gifts by sleigh from the North Pole that has taken over this sacred of Christian celebrations.
Up to recently many people would go for midnight Mass to church and spend the time with family and friends. Fast forward to today, very few people go to the Mass but instead spend their time inebriated at parties, waiting for Santa Claus to ‘bring’ gifts at midnight. It is now time for a reality check so that we are ready to face the New Year with positivity, hope and vigour. It may be difficult because some of us were swept away by ‘silly’ season and may have over stretched ourselves – financially or otherwise.
It’s not unusual for this time of the year, that some of us may have over indulged, overspent or got carried away with the ‘festive’ spirit. Now it is back to reality – school fees, books, uniforms, and all the other expenses that the New Year brings. To make matters worse the credit card has been stretched to its limit, and the bank account is looking very miserable
But a new year has dawned, and it is the time of the year that many of us make New Year resolutions laced with good intentions for the year ahead. The most common ones are; to lose weight / get rid of that pot belly, exercise more, eat healthy food, quit smoking, settle down and start a family or to spend more time with our family and loved ones, etc. The more ‘aggressive’ ones amongst us will have resolved to go on that overseas holiday, buy ‘that’ car, and other worldly pursuits like scaling the social and economic ladder to higher levels. So what are your goals and targets for the year?
Most of the resolutions we make are cosmetic lifestyle changes and in making them I wonder how many of us have really thought of taking the plunge and making a real life changing decision of our turning our inner self and our lives towards our Lord and Creator? ‘Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls) (Quran 13:11). Nothing wrong with desires but for any Muslim when making resolutions the most important message is: ‘Nor say of anything, I shall do so and so tomorrow without adding “Insha-Allah” (if Allah so wills)’ (Quran 18:23-24).
Whilst there is nothing wrong with making resolutions it got me thinking ‘why do we wait only for New Year to make resolutions?’ Anyway how long do these resolutions last before running out of steam, a week, a month before we revert back to our old style habits? Surely every day that we wake up is the start of a new year in our lives. Not only that but every day is the beginning of the rest of our lives, and every day is a day closer to the end of life as we know it on this earth.
Sorry, but this is the stark reality and an uncomfortable reminder that this earthly life is temporary and that we all are on that inevitable journey to eternal life that has been promised to everyone regardless of status, colour or religious persuasion. With this in mind is it not time to start making resolutions to do those righteous things that will bring us closer to our Creator?
‘To those who do good, there is good in this world – and the home of the Hereafter is even better excellent indeed is the home of the righteous……enter you the Garden because of the good which you did in the world.( Quran 16: 30-32) Where can we start? The message for Muslims is in the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); ’Take benefit of: your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death.’
Starting with ourselves, let us to do away with personal pride, arrogance, jealousy, greed/ avarice, mischief making, using harsh words and foul language, and all the other daily ‘deadly sins’. Why can’t we try to be more friendly, kind, humble, sincere, show respect, courtesy and compassion for others, be helpful, honest and truthful or maybe more charitable?
Regrettably when one mentions charity some people mistakenly associate it to mean monetary donations that the rich give to the poor. They conclude that since they themselves are not ‘rich’ and don’t have sufficient money how could they give to charity? However charity is not only about making a monetary contribution – it is about doing things that make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate or even doing anything that is of good to others.
A kind word, a smile, a hug, greeting a stranger, visiting the sick, consoling someone going through difficulty, offering a prayer on behalf of someone in need of help, forgiving a person who has hurt us or even removing a harmful object from a pathway – these are simple acts of charity, none of those are headline grabbing acts, but they can bring about a major shift and an attitude change in our lives.
Let us appreciate the great blessing of being alive to see in 2020. We seldom appreciate that at some point – only the Almighty knows – when our life will be taken away from us for good, leaving no second chance, no opportunity to make up for the wrongs we have done, and no turning back time. We should therefore savour every moment and use it to our best advantage in pleasing Allah in order to achieve our goal of Heaven. ‘He Who created life and death, that He may try which of you is the best in deed… (Qur’an 67: 2)
Let us start with the small things first, because, as you sow a thought and you will reap an act, sow an act and you will reap habit, sow a habit and you will reap a character, sow a character and you will reap a destiny…….. Therefore who knows, every good deed or act, no matter how small or insignificant could significantly change our lives. ‘Whoever works righteousness and has faith, verily to him We will give a new life, a life that is good and pure…’ (Quran 16:97) May this year 2020 be a defining year for all of us; let it be a year in which we turn to and find the path of salvation which leads to finding true happiness and peace with our Creator.
The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.
The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent. That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.
Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed
Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.
Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.
The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.
In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.
However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.
The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.
The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.
What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.
Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.
They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.
There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.
The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.
Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.
Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.
Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.
To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.
The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.