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GBV motion: tyranny of majority in Parley

Opposition MP Yandani Boko tabled a motion on urgency about Gender Based Violence (GBV) and requested that the President appoints a Commission of Enquiry in term of the relevant statute, Commissions of Enquiry Act, to investigate its prevalence.

The motion followed Commissioner of Police revelation at the Public Accounts Committee that more than 2200 women were raped within a period of one year or that on average 6 women are raped every day. It also followed a surge in femicide cases across the country. The motion caused an uproar around the country, especially after its urgency was not supported by the Minister responsible.

The motion was moved in terms of Standing Order 50.1.  In terms of the Standing Order “any Member may on any day other than the first day of a Session, at the time appointed in Standing Order No.30 (Daily Routine of Business), rise in his or her place state that he or she asks leave to move the adjournment of the current proceedings of the Assembly for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance”. The mover of the GBV motion relied on this Standing Order and got the nod, albeit reluctantly from the ruling party.

50.1 (A) provides that “Notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 50.1, the Speaker may after assessing the business of the House, appoint a day on which the Member may present his or her motion of urgency”.

The decision by the Speaker under on this matter is final. Most Members who debated argued that GBV issues need urgent attention of the House and that they have to be escalated to the high office of Head of State.

Horrifying stories were told of women and children abuse including rapes and murders. It was the contention of proponents that the government has failed dismally to put in place measures to ensure that GBV abates. According to the Gender Based Violence Indicators Study Botswana, 67% of Botswana women have experienced some form of GBV.

An alarming number of men, 44% admitted to perpetrating violence against women around the period of the survey. The study also suggests that non reported GBV cases could be 24 times higher. The inference is that there are much more GBV incidents and that many women have lost trust in the criminal justice system.

What vexed many Batswana including on social media and other platforms such as broadcast and print media, was that the female minister responsible for gender matters saw no urgency of the motion. She told parliament that whilst she appreciates the importance of the motion, she didn’t see the urgency in it.

Numerous gender activists, commentators and ordinary people rejected her arguments and fervidly criticized her position. Some realized that it wasn’t because the matter had no urgency, but a question of who raised it in the House.

There seems to be a developing culture in Botswana parliament that alternative views from the opposition should not be supported simply because it’ll give their side some mileage. The practice is not entirely new. In the past, it was common but these days it’s becoming preposterous.

Sometimes ideas raised are rejected not because they’re not sound and beneficial but because “the government is already working on it”.  For instance, a decade ago the Freedom of Information law proposal was rejected because the government was ‘bringing it soon”. No such Bill has been presented to this day.

The ruling party is currently opposing the Media Practitioners Repeal Bill because it has been brought by the opposition. Their arguments are that a vacuum would be created and that they are still consulting.

The party is unpersuaded by arguments that the law has been inoperable for 12 years and that there are self-regulatory mechanisms in place. They are not even embarrassed by statements their party and leader made about the need to repeal. It’s all because the opposition has brought the Bill.

Realizing that they are starting to look bad in the public, they quickly u-turned and supported the motion but orchestrated a plan to render it useless. A senior minister invoked Standing Order 47 which permits a Member who has risen to speak on a motion to propose an amendment to that motion as long as the House agrees.

The provision also provides that no amendment to a motion shall be permitted if it introduces a new matter or seeks to achieve a different objective than the original motion. The Minister proposed an amendment that the House should resolve to replace a Commission of Enquiry with an inter-ministerial committee to investigate GBV.

The ruling party majority agreed whilst the opposition rejected the watering down of the proposal. They argued that a proposed committee would fail because it is the same government that has failed in the first place, a failure that needs to be probed.

They pointed that Commissions of Enquiry are usually headed by judges or senior lawyers or persons who are trained to thoroughly pursue enquiries. They also opined that the Commission would be more independent than the all executive ministerial team.

It was contended that the Commission would release a report that can be tabled in Parliament and hold hearings in public. The opposition suggested a compromise of a special Parliament Select Committee. This was also rejected by the majority ruling party.

The opposition sought to disown the watered-down motion. The mover sought to withdraw it.  However, the Speaker invoked Standing Order 48 which provides that “A motion or an amendment may be withdrawn at the request of the mover by leave of the Assembly before the question is fully put thereon if there is no dissenting voice.”

The opposition argued that the amendment distorted the intended objective of the motion, especially the independence aspect of the Commission. They argued that the motion is no longer encapsulating their original intention on an independent inquest and preferred to withdraw it instead. The ruling party disagreed and moved for adoption of the useless motion. The motion stands adopted with that fundamental amendment.

There are serious questions that arise from this ruling by the Speaker. First, the withdrawal wasn’t because there was an agreement on the motion. Second, all motions adopted by the House are captured by Parliament Summary of Meetings and other documents as having been tabled by specific MPs.

Why would a distorted motion bear the names of a Member who disagreed with the amendment? Why would a Member of the Executive amend a motion that seeks to scrutinize him by causing to investigate himself? How does the Speaker find this normal and proper? The answer lies in the Speakership itself.

Speaker and his Deputy are carefully chosen to not be impartial but to serve partisan political objectives. The opposition should explore a review of the decision in Court and or the constitutionality the Speaker’s ruling that the amendment didn’t depart from the original objective.

Alternatively, the right of an MP to withdraw a motion that has been distorted by the majority. The argument by the Speaker that the motion is for and of the House doesn’t make sense. Parliament agrees or disagrees with a specific MP’s proposal.

That is why an individual MP presents a motion, a Bill or asks a question or makes a statement. The Standing Orders are obsolete, unhelpful and unconstitutional in several ways. The ruling by the Speaker means that all opposition motions are susceptible to distortions at the whims and caprices of the ruling party. The ruling has cemented tyranny of the majority in the House.

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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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