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The Ups and Downs of Life



Life is very unpredictable and it has its ups and downs. We all belong to the wheel of life as such our lives can be compared to that of a wheel: just as a wheel turns, one moment we are on top but soon we are at the bottom; but we may not remain there for long because as it turns we will be up there again, and so it goes. Like it or not, life has its ups and downs.

Just like we recently had Christmas and New Year – now we have to wait for the wheel to turn again for those ‘times’ to come again. These ups and downs in life are very important to keep us going, because any doctor will tell you that a straight line in an E.C.G. means we are not alive.

Despite us having our individual hopes, dreams and ambitions for the future, life is not easy nor is it predictable, however there is one thing that is predictable and that is we will all have to face the tests of life; the path of life can be smooth one moment, but filled with pot holes, diversions and an array of ‘traffic’ signals, stop, go, caution……. But that is the way life goes.

‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, “we believe”, and they will not be tested?’ (Quran 29: 2) ‘You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves…………’ (Quran 3: 186) 

Each one of us will on some days be tested in different ways. These challenges will either make us or break us. Some of us cannot stand the pressures, stresses and other challenges that these bring to us, but we need to learn how to cope with and respond to them. Remember: We may not be responsible for falling down. But we are responsible for getting up. Life must go on. We need to take a broad outlook in life and most importantly we have to recognize that many of these are tests.

Working and striving for a living in this worldly existence of ours is an important part of our daily life and practice. Islam teaches us and encourages us to work for and earn a living for ourselves and also by improving our standards of living be it by possessing homes, cars, land and other needs. But it does require a Muslim to keep a proper perspective so that things of this life do not become the main objective of his existence. Unfortunately many of us have become slaves to the modern lifestyles based on a culture of greed and gathering of wealth.

‘Alluring to men is the love of the things they covet – women, sons, hoarded treasures of gold and silver, highly bred horses, cattle and land. This is the provision of this world’s life. Yet with Allah is a better Abode’ (Qur’an 3:14)
 

There is nothing against people building a prosperous life, buying the things that make life easier, and improving their status in this world nor is it wrong to have these things but we must not allow greed for these possessions to become our sole objective in life. What is meant here is that the things we now live our lives for, are supposed to be “tools” to help us live our life in a way that is meaningful before Allah. We must not lose sight of the meaning and of our purpose in this life.

Apart from our lives as individuals, let us look at ourselves as a nation. We must admit that we as a nation are currently on the upper rungs of the wheel of life.  Despite the myriad of problems we face in Botswana we are truly Blessed. We do not suffer the pains of grinding poverty, instability, war, strife, killings and all the other human sufferings that are the scourge of many nations. For this, we must truly be grateful to our Lord because since Independence, 50 years ago, we have lived in a state of peace, prosperity and the countless other blessings that are the envy of many nations.

For these favours and blessings, let us not forget: “If you were to count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them” (Quran 14:34). And: ‘If you count the favours of Allah, never would you be able to number them’ (Quran 16: 18)
 

Let me attempt to illustrate just a tiny fraction of those blessings: think about it, how many countries are fortunate enough and can boast of access to virtually free education from Primary school to University level? Not only that, it is a known fact that some of the students are also given monthly allowances for their immediate needs.

We also have virtually free access to medical facilities and treatment. This includes free medication, hospitalisation and any surgery if necessary. Going even further, those who suffer the scourge of AIDS can access ARV’s and they are available to them without charge, they even have free follow up visits for their blood tests to ascertain their CD 4 cell counts.

There is no doubt about that we have many poverty stricken people amongst us who suffer daily to find their sustenance. But if we compare them to other people around the world we will see that the scale and the depth of absolute poverty are not as widespread. Make no mistake I am in no way suggesting that that all is well and am trying to downplay their suffering. No doubt there are people in our communities that endure this daily suffering. What is being said is that the situation is not as dire as it is other parts of the world. We are also fortunate to have programmes, some may argue that they are inadequate, but they are there to assist the poor and needy.

Throughout Chapter 55 of the Quran, Allah continually asks: ‘Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’
 

It is human nature for us to take these blessings and favours for granted however it can create in our minds various negative traits and characteristics and false perceptions that can lead to a culture of dependency and expectation wherein we think is our ‘right’ to these things. We could even develop a streak of arrogance within ourselves whereby we think we are better than other people because of what we have been blessed with.  

Remember the wheel of life will turn one day and it will be our turn to be at the bottom and others will be above us. Are we prepared for that Day?

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

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.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

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.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

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.

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