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It’s not yet Uhuru, but Botswana has done well in fighting COVID-19!

Though the fight has not yet been won, it is worth noting that Botswana has, so far, done well in its fight against COVID-19.

According to Government of Botswana’s website, as at 14th May 2020, 11495 tests had been performed and resulted from which 11471 tested negative; 24 were confirmed cases; there was 1 death; there was no new confirmed case and there were 17 recoveries.

This, in my view, is an epic achievement if regard is had to several factors which we discuss herein. But before that, we give a brief timeline of COVID-19 to put the matter in its proper perspective.

On 31st December 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, reported a cluster of cases of Pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province, in China. On 4th January 2020, WHO reported, through social media, that there was a cluster of Pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in Wuhan, Hubei province.

On 12th January 2020, China publicly shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19. The following day, on 13th January 2020, a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Thailand, the first recorded case outside of China.

On 30th January 2020, WHO declared the novel coronavirus outbreak (2019-nCoV) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). On 11th March 2020, WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

On 13th March 2020, the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund was launched to receive donations from private individuals, corporations and institutions.

Africa’s first COVID-19 case was recorded in Egypt on 14th February 2020. On 21st March 2020, the Government of Botswana declared COVID-19 a public health emergency and introduced a number of precautionary measures in response to the pandemic.

On 30th March 2020, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Lemogang Kwape, announced Botswana’s first three cases of COVID-19. According to Dr. Kwape, the three had travelled to Britain and Thailand.

The following day, on 31st March 2020, His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, declared a State of Public Emergency (SoPE) to deal with (COVID-19) in terms of section 17 of the Constitution of Botswana.

On 2nd April 2020 at midnight, Botswana entered into a lockdown, which is still on, and will, hopefully, end on 20th May 2020. Firstly, Dr. Masisi has to be commended for timeously declaring COVID-19 a public health emergency, something which resulted in the introduction of precautionary measures in response to the pandemic as recommended by WHO.

Of course, one may question why he only made such declaration on 21st March 2020 when WHO had declared it as such as far back as 30th January 2020. In my view, the fact that Africa only recorded its first case, in Egypt, on 14th February 2020, as well as the fact that there was no confirmed case locally warranted the wait and see approach.

In my view, had the declaration been made too early, the lockdown would have been longer something which would have been detrimental because anecdotal evidence suggests that countries which enter into a lockdown to early run the risk of having to lift it at a time that can put the lives of its citizens at risk.

Dr. Masisi must also be commended for not using the SoPE to contravene the Rule of Law and violate human rights as some had feared. For instance, the Legislature and the Judiciary remained functional during the SoPE. Martial law was never applied; those who were charged of offences were taken to the courts, which continued operational.

There have been few reported cases of brutality by members of the armed forces who enforced the lockdown, and when such allegations arose the President spoke strongly against them.

Parliament too remained functional. In fact, all the Emergency Powers Regulations which the President issued were passed by Parliament after intense debates which were televised for all to see. Secondly, Botswana must be commended for containing the virus and saving lives. You will be aware that since the first three cases were confirmed in Botswana on 30th March 2020, we have since had an addition of only 21 cases.

This, in my view, is an epic achievement considering the fact that we share a border with South Africa which is a COVID-19 epicentre in Africa. Not only that, we also share a porous border with Zimbabwe, a country with a multifunctional health system.

Further, since the first confirmed cases, we have had only 1 death and 17 recoveries. Of course, loss of life, even for one person, is regrettable, but the fact that out of 24 confirmed cases, only 1 person has died is quite commendable. This can only be because our screening, testing, quarantining and management system was effective.

Also commendable is the fact that, with the meagre resources at our disposal, we have been able to test 11495 people. Thirdly, government’s messaging with respect to social distancing and hygiene protocols was clear and well-articulated from the beginning.

Commendably, the messages were communicated in various indigenous languages through Botswana Television and Radio Botswana. Not only that. Sign language interpretation was also used to cater for those with hearing disabilities. Hopefully, in future a Braille will be considered for those with both hearing and visual impairments.

Fourth, government established a COVID-19 Relief Fund and put up an investment of Two Billion Pula as seed capital, something which saw foreign governments, banks, companies, parastatals and individuals making donations and contributions to help alleviate the effects of COVID-19 on our people.

To allay the fears that the money in the Fund may be misappropriated, government has made an undertaking that it shall ensure that at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic the Fund will be audited by Independent Auditors.

Fifth, food relief. Government assessed Batswana to identify those who are in distress after which those in need would be given food hampers. It ought to be stated that there have been several complaints that in some instances it took too long to conduct assessments and to distribute the food hampers.

There have also been complaints that even when the hampers were delivered, they were short and had some rotten items. There is no doubt that some of these problems were occasioned by the fact that we do not have enough Social Welfare Officers. Shortage of transport also contributed. That notwithstanding, anecdotal evidence suggests that majority of our people received and continue to receive food hampers.

Sixth, employee protection. When the SoPE and lockdown were announced, there were fears that many employees would lose their jobs through unlawful retrenchments and dismissals.

Government must be commended because it avoided, or at least deferred, this by promulgating Regulations that prohibited the retrenchment and dismissal of employees during the SoPE. It, however, ought to be stated that some employees were retrenched and/or dismissed because it took some time before the Regulations were amended to that effect.

To cater for the companies that could not be able to continue operating because of the financial constraints occasioned by the lockdown, the Regulations permit company closure during the SoPE.

In my view, the Regulations should have also addressed such issues as forced paid leave; forced unpaid leave; reduction of salaries, etc. because they remain a source of conflict between employers and employees and will, no doubt, burden the courts in due course.

Seventh, assistance for businesses. Realising that businesses’ cashflow will be affected by the lockdown, government introduced a wage subsidy to subsidise eligible business in the payment of wages. Also, in an effort to give businesses some cash-flow relief, Government guaranteed loans by commercial banks to businesses affected by COVID-19.

Government also gave eligible businesses affected by COVID-19 access to credit to support ongoing operations in conditions where credit became more difficult to obtain. Government also gave tax concessions to businesses in eligible sectors.

Government also made an undertaking that institutions will pay Government Purchase Orders (GPOs) within five (5) days and parastatals will pay within 24 hours. Government also made an undertaking that it will pay all outstanding arrears for invoices within two (2) weeks and extended the validity period for GPOs. It also undertook to expedite VAT refunds to businesses to assist with cash flow.

The private sector also came to the party. In the financial services industry, Banks agreed to offer restructuring of loan facilities, including owner-occupied residential property mortgages and motor vehicle loans. Commercial banks offered a payment holiday for three (3) months with the option to extend to six (6) months to the affected sectors.

Banks also restructured and rescheduled regular payment obligations including life insurance premium payment, retirement fund contributions and loan instalments for at least three months. Most importantly, Batswana have to be commended for respecting the lockdown and adhering to the social distancing and hygiene protocols for if they had not done so we would have had more infections and deaths.

Our Nurses, Doctors, Social Welfare Officers, the Police and soldiers who were at the forefront of the battle deserve special commendation. Of course, we could have done better in such areas as assessments and delivery of food hampers; expeditious allocation of travel permits and establishment of a rent subsidy, but, on the whole, we did well, especially considering the size of our economy and the fact that we have never faced such a devastating pandemic.

But, the war is not over. As we move towards the lifting of the lockdown on 21st May 2020 as planned, two issues remain of concern to me. The first is the issuance of green permits which will be required for travel across zones from the 21st May 2020.

In my view, the Regulations must be amended to include, among essential travel, travel for medical reasons, travel to be with family and any other travel which the Issuing Officer may, in his or her own discretion, deem fit.

The second is the development of a COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). My prayer is that when the COVID-19 ESP is developed, priority should be given to sustainable programmes as opposed to short term projects designed to gain quick political expediency as was the case in 2016.

*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or anmorima@gmail.com

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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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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