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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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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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