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The COVID-19 Task Force should beware of knee jerk lockdowns!

When one’s nation is faced with a pandemic of such proportions as COVID-19, one has to be as supportive as possible to all efforts geared towards fighting such an enemy.

This does not, however, mean that where there are shortfalls such should not be brought to the fore. Recently, I wrote an article through which I argued that though the war against COVID-19 has not yet been won, Botswana should be commended for the fight it has thus far waged against COVID-19.

Among the successes I stated were the  timely declaration of COVID-19 as a public health emergency; the timely declaration of a national lockdown; the establishment of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund; the establishment of such relief measures as food hampers, wage subsidies, tax deferment, etc.

Perhaps most importantly, Botswana has managed to contain the pandemic, having very few local transmissions, high recoveries and only one death to date.

As at 17th June 2020, after about seven months since the COVID-19 outbreak, Botswana had 79 confirmed cases; 49 transferred out; 25 recoveries; 4 active cases and one death. This is indeed commendable for a country of such humble means as ours.

After the said article, I feared that I may have blown the trumpet too soon when it appeared we had no clear and deliberate strategy to deal with the risk that was posed by those coming into the country or transiting through the country, especially truck drivers mostly from South Africa.

Following a reported stand-off between some truck drivers and our officials at our borders, and threats that the truck drivers would stop any truck from entering into Botswana, there were fears that we would run short of food, fuel and other goods because we get most of our supplies from South Africa.

Reportedly, the stand-off was because the truck-drivers were aggrieved by the sanitary conditions at the border, the long wait while awaiting the COVID-19 results, and the fact that once they had gained entry into the country they were escorted by the Police and not allowed to stop and rest until they had transited the country.

However, once again the COVID-19 Task Force came to the party, and the stand-off was resolved speedily and amicably.

Following this success, the country lifted its lockdown on 21st May 2020 after it ran since 2nd April 2020. It is worth noting that prior to the national lockdown, the people had, on 31st May 2020, been given notice of the impending lockdown.

Also, though the national lockdown was later extended to 21st May 2020, it was initially scheduled to end on 31st April 2020, allowing people to make plans.

As a result of the two-day notice and the definite time frame given for the national lockdown, though many Batswana were aggrieved by the national lockdown and the State of Public Emergency (SoPE), they were somewhat prepared for the national lockdown since they had occasion to stock pile on such essentials as food.

Companies and businesses were able to make arrangements with respect to continuing operations at home, albeit in a limited manner. For instance, some took such equipment as computers and printers to their homes for business continuity.

Of course, when the national lockdown ended on 21st May 2020 many rejoiced and thought the worst was over. Such celebration was nearly short lived when following reports of possible infections in Mogoditshane, there was fear of a lockdown, at least for the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone. But that was not to be.

Then came Friday, 12th June 2020, 8:30 pm, when, without notice, a lockdown was declared for the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone, reportedly because there were cases detected by a private hospital in Gaborone.

Unlike the national lockdown, the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone lock down was done without notice, late at night and for an indefinite period of time. It was to effect at 12 midnight, only three hours thirty minutes from the time of the announcement.

People had no time to prepare themselves by buying such necessities as food and medication in case the lock down lasted longer. Farmers, for instance, had no time to buy medication for their livestock; buy food for their herd boys or buy oil and lubricants for their boreholes.

Businesses had no time to make arrangements for working at home. Unlike with the national lockdown, they had not taken any equipment home; they had not made any arrangements with their employees.

On Monday, 15th June 2020, again at 8:30 pm, after two days of emotional stress and anxiety, the COVID-19 Task Force announced that the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone lock down will be lifted at 12 midnight that very day.

Suddenly, people had to start preparing themselves to go back to work the following day. The few business people who had managed to take some equipment home could not take it back to the office until after 12 midnight.

Those in the food and catering industry had no time to buy the ingredients they need to prepare meals for the following day. To them, that the lockdown was lifted that night was of no consequence because they would still lose the next day’s business in any case.

Remember, these had also suffered a loss on 12th June when the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone lock down was announced late at night because some of them had already prepared meals for sale for the following day and they could not sell them to anyone because of the lockdown.

Granted, people were aggrieved by the short notice as well as the fact that the lockdown was for an indefinite period of time, but they became even more aggrieved when they were informed that the cases that necessitated the lock down were probable cases.

As if this was not enough, a day or two later, the COVID-19 Task Force announced that a second test for the cases that had necessitated the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone lock down  returned a negative result.

In its defence, the COVID-19 Task Force argued that it would rather have erred on the side of caution, arguing that the lockdown was necessary since some of the contacts for the probable cases had left the hospital, with some having left the Greater Gaborone COVID-19 zone.

But when the national lockdown was declared on 2nd April, we were informed that that was to allow the health sector to enhance its preparedness, for instance through procuring ventilators, PPE and increasing hospital beds.

It was the people’s understanding that the national lockdown was lifted because such readiness had been attained, at least to a large measure. In fact, the COVID-19 Task Force never took the country into its confidence regarding the exact extent of the country’s preparedness. They only mentioned, in passing, that we have not been able to procure all we need because of global demand.

Of course, the COVID-19 Task Force warned us that depending on the extent of the pandemic, a lockdown, either nationally or zonally, remains an option.

But people did not think that anytime there are reported new cases the country would revert to a lockdown. I think what the COVID-19 Task Force failed to do was to tell Batswana the criteria it would use (e.g. the number of new cases) to decide on whether or not to invoke a lockdown.

It is needless to state that COVID-19 is yet to remain among us; that we will continue to have new cases, even deaths. What we need, as a country, is a clear plan known by our people of how we will respond in the face of new cases.

Otherwise, our people will always live in the fear that every time new cases are detected there may be a lockdown. This cannot be good for our people’s wellbeing, nor can it be good for our economy.

There is no doubt that saving our people’s lives through prevention, detection and isolation should be everyone’s priority. Yet, these people need food, clothing, shelter, education, etc, none of which is assured if our economy collapses because of such knee jerk reactions as ill-timed and disproportionate interventions.

This is all the more the reason why Economists should be well represented and listed to in the COVID-19 Task Force lest we give disproportionate attention to the health argument at the expense of the economic argument, for instance.

One last thing, while we should, no doubt, learn from the lessons of fighting the cattle lung disease that nearly decimated our cattle herd, we should not wholly use, in people, the measures we use in animals.

We should, as we declare lock downs and set restrictions, leave room for human decision making and intuition, things that are lacking in animals. At the end of the day, COVID-19 will be defeated not only because of government interventions, but by the choices people make as they learn to live with COVID-19.

*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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