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Fasting – Let The Change Begin

Following last week’s article, as oft repeated, Ramadan offers Muslims the opportunity to bring changes to their habits, attitudes, behaviour, outlook and lifestyles.

Take for example one of our basic normal everyday habits that we have become accustomed to, talking. Our tongues are constantly busy, from sweet talking, saying nice things, idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing, controversy and other gibberish

Watch your tongue.

And say to my worshippers that they should speak with that which is best (in word and tone).” (Chapter 17: 53). Our interaction and communication with others is via talking and most of us, I include myself are guilty of rambling on and on at times with irrelevant and nonsensical talk. We spend a great deal of our time and energies on the long-winded tales, community gossip / news and general balderdash.

The way we interact especially when we speak and talk to others gives an insight to the type of person we are and also an indication of our character and outlook. Therefore it is essential that we cultivate fair communicating skills and the manner in which we talk to and engage with others.

Talking in a mild manner with kindness and respect shown towards others is also considered a virtue. Even then don’t be fooled, because there are some smooth talkers who sound so genuine, but, deep down they harbour enmity, disdain and even hatred towards others. The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has explained: “The faith of a person cannot be straight unless his heart is straight and his heart cannot be straight unless his tongue is straight.”

The Qur’an urges us that when we speak we should say something worthwhile and beneficial so that we accustom our tongues to indulge in that which is good, decent and respectable. Usually what we speak and say gives a clue to our innermost thoughts and feelings of the heart and mind. Therefore good thoughts and feelings result in good speech, whereas, bad and evil thoughts and feelings will result in bad, immoral, vain and vulgar speech.

Good talk / conversation is amongst the desirable virtues / attributes, and the one who adopts this habit is worthy of Divine recognition as well as respect amongst people. Bad speech is hurtful to others and creates animosity and ill-feelings. Sometimes a person may utter vulgar or harsh words to those close to him like family members or friends and this will not only hurt their emotions and feelings but create a strain in the relations.

The Quran declares: “O you who believe! Be conscious of duty to Allah and (always) speak that which is upright (straightforward).” (Ch. 33: 70).“Successful indeed are the Believers who are humble in their prayers and shun vain conversation……………).”(23: 2-3)

We must remember that Satan is ever-present waiting to ambush us, trying to sow seeds of discord, enmity and jealousy amongst us. He wishes that these disputes develop into major feuds and battles so that he destroys the element of good, pure, intelligent speech that could hinder his evil ambitions. ‘Say to My servants that they should (only) say those things that are best: for Satan sows dissensions among them; for Satan is to man an avowed enemy’ (Quran 17:53) “Fear Allah and make your utterance straight forward: That He may make your conduct whole and sound.” (Quran 33:70-71)

We must always take care in all situations and conditions of what we say so that we avoid harmful words that could offend our fellow humans and create discord. Remember that the tongue despite it being soft, pliable and small is a weapon like a ‘firearm’ because once a word is uttered it cannot be retracted.

If used correctly there will be general goodness and if used incorrectly, it can result in discord, enmity, ill-feelings, etc. We are reminded that just as our actions and deeds are recorded, so too are all our words and utterances for which we will have to give account. ‘We shall record what he says….(Quran 19:79). ‘…..Behold, two Angels appointed to record his doings…… Not a word does he utter but there is a watcher by him ready to note it’. (Quran 50:18)

We should also avoid something that many of us are guilty of but enjoy; gossip. We are all prone to talk ill of, say nasty and hurtful things of others behind their backs. We should avoid making disparaging remarks and comments about others because we too would also be hurt if others made remarks about us behind our backs. “Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter….” (Quran 104:1)

We find them everywhere, those loud, arrogant, boorish persons, who are ‘wind bag’ type whose only message is, ‘look at me, look at me, I am better than you’. They brag about themselves; how much they have achieved in this world, what they own, what worldly possessions they have, hoping to dazzle and make others envious or even feel inferior.

Many of us try to keep clear of these people because we get tired of listening to their drivel. ‘…Allah loves not the arrogant, the vainglorious’ (Quran 4:36). ‘And swell not they cheek with pride at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster’. (Quran 31:18)

Therefore we must use this Holy month to change our ways, even if it is just this one element of our makeup. This month gives us that opportunity not only to control our intake of food and water but also learning to control our tongues.

When a person wants to organize his religious thoughts or to contemplate over some important issue, we turn away from the atmosphere of noise and go into some quiet place for contemplation. Silence is recommended in many instances and it helps one to engage in deep reflection as well as in building strength in character and speech. Hence, some people will voluntarily spend the last ten days of this month in ‘seclusion’ at the mosque.

We have to ‘purify’ out speech and what may you ask is the purest of speeches? There is nothing purer than the word of Allah. ‘The believers have been guided to the purest of speeches, they have been guided to the Path of Him Who is worthy of all Praise.’ (Quran 22:24).

Unlike human speak, in God’s word there is no ambiguity, no doubt, no false representation, nothing, but the truth and the Path of guidance and salvation. This makes it incumbent upon us, to live, remind and spread the message of our Lord to the world. Two things to remember about life: Take care of your thoughts when you are alone. Take care of your words when you are with people.

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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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