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19 OR 22?

Do you ever feel like you are missing something? You know that feeling when things do not add up, something feels off and you simply don’t have the answers? This is probably how doctors felt before they discovered the link between washing hands and spreading germs.

Today you have probably internalised the message that the best way to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash your hands. While that’s now common-sense it  wasn’t until the mid-19th century that doctors began to wash their hands before examining patients—and even then, only in certain cases.

Up until this time there was no germ theory – the idea that certain diseases and infections are caused by micro-organisms invisible to the naked eye.  Doctors were unknowingly going about their duties sometimes from the operating theatre to patients in other wards without hand washing, thereby spreading disease which ultimately caused many deaths.   So much for ‘First do no harm’!

When this pandemic started I was glued to the TV and other report feeds for information to feed my insatiable hunger for news – worldometers/coronavirus, SKY news, CNN, newspapers anything to monitor the apocalypse day after day, in some instances hour by hour.

Being based in France at the height of its crisis I took to the balcony each night at 8 to rattle pots and pans and applaud to acknowledge healthcare workers’ efforts and show solidarity in such difficult times. I lorded the visionary leadership of Macron, Ramaphosa, Masisi and even thought at one instant that this might be the making of Boris Johnson – there is nothing like a crisis to make your mark. ‘Cometh the moment,  cometh the man’ and all that.

It is but natural for the us citizens to expect our leaders, whether business, political, or social to rise to the occasion of a crisis and “do something”  so that we can rest assured we are in “safe hands”. But after a while there are questions, in this instance more than answers and a niggling thought ‘what if we are getting it wrong?’.

Like the doctors who didn’t realise the importance of clean hands there is much we still don’t know about Covid-19 such as how many people have been infected globally?, where precisely it came from?, the role children play in spreading it, will there be a seasonal effect?, why symptoms are more severe in some people?, is immunity possible?, will there be a second wave?…certainly more questions than answers.

Another thing we don’t know is how deadly it really is. What do we know however is that as I write this there are 423,846 reported deaths globally. The median age of people killed by the coronavirus is roughly 80 to 82 (median represents the halfway point – half of all people are older and half younger).

For example, as of end May in Italy, one of the worst affected countries, of the 32k killed by the virus about 60% of these were over 80 years of age. In England and Wales as of the middle of May, about 75% of the 41,000 deaths were people over 75. We can conclude that most people who die after becoming infected with Coronavirus are old and reportedly had additional, underlying health issues.

Please don’t think that I am any kind of researcher or epidemiologist – I’m just an enthusiastic armchair commentator adding my tuppence worth, but having a metaphorical foot in both continents and watching with interest, I observe the dramatic differences in the impact on the two continents and I wonder why?  Comparatively, Africa is a very young continent.

More than 98% of the population is under the age of 65 where in Europe the population skews older, so that may explain part of it. Early on I opined that maybe it had something to do with the environment, maybe we are just more hardy in Africa and have more resistance to viruses?

It is well documented that most African countries acted quickly to stop the spread but you can’t help question how we have been spared in a continent where there is poorer healthcare, lower levels of sanitation, public health system shortfalls etc. While I think we may attribute some of this to inaccurate reporting, at the end of the day if the infection was higher – at least those that result in death – we would be seeing or feeling it more.

Or can it be that reporting is off in other countries? In the US for example and as reported in ‘Unreported truths about COVID-19 and lockdowns’ many reporting states assume that anyone with a positive coronavirus test has died from the disease, no matter the actual cause of death.

So “if you were in hospice and already been give a few weeks to live and then you were found to have COVID that would go down as a COVID death. The fact that so many coronavirus deaths happen in nursing homes where  people are frail certainly suggests…and when you start looking at the figures this way and that possible 2/3 of the people would have died anyway the figures start to look quite different.

I watched India with great interest thinking of the sheer volume of the population and how many in India, as in African, live in very close quarters where social distancing is logistically impossible. Add in poor sanitation, rugged living conditions and so on and for some reason, Coronovirus has failed to show up with India having one of the lowest number of deaths per population.

Our entire response to COVID-19 is about flattening the curve, because if too many people become critically ill, the health system will be overwhelmed – even in Botswana it was something that President Masisi alluded to when he announced the state of emergency; but as  a UN World Food Program representative in South Africa said “I don’t know what ‘flattening the curve’ really means in this part of the world, because there is not necessarily the same level of health care services or infrastructure to even overwhelm”, and anyway how can you flatten what is not there?

We have had only one death in Botswana, yet we have taken draconian measures, putting our economy under great strain and threat, not to mention the inconvenience of life at the moment – queuing, masking, registering, distancing…you know how it goes. So here are the questions.

Did we have to?  Was the risk too great not to do anything? What happens if it comes back or do we think we are comparing apples and oranges with 1st World and 3rd World?  Is it in fact something completely different?  Or are we missing the most important question of all…WHAT ARE WE MISSING?  Is it yet so simple that we’re missing it because we’re looking too hard?  That’s it’s just another seasonal bug, we’ll all become partially immune and when it comes back it will be as innocuous as catching a cold?  Or is it like the eponymous ‘Catch 22’ which the novel’s hero, Yossarian,  stated was ‘the best catch of all’, because of course it never stayed the same?

Come to think of it, that’s exactly what the scientists are saying about Covid so looking for an answer to this one might not be the solution to the next one.  So for now, all I have is ‘Que sera, sera’  – what will be, will be.   That’s an answer but probably not to the right question!

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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.

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”


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.”


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.


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)


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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