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The Kamala Selection: Let Africa Take Cue

In Africa, the continent I happen to know best, the choosing of a VP by a sitting President or a running mate by an aspiring President can more often than not be so simplistic and self-seeking, with a bit of dirty wheeling and dealing thrown into the mix.

Edgar Lungu of Zambia opted for Inonge Wina not so much because he was a champion of gender parity, at least with respect to the top two slots, as that he was desperate to placate the obstreperous and even secessionist-bent Lozi tribe of the Western Province, a corner of the copper-rich country that has been a political hot potato since the days of Kenneth Kaunda.

Cyril Ramaphosa settled for the reportedly thuggish and intellectually uninspiring David Mabuza to bolster his chances of keeping the presidential perch well beyond the clutches of the formidable, Msholozi-backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“The Crocodile”, as Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe is affectionately known, did not have to wrack his brains either: General Constance Chiwenga was pivotal in the table-thumping game of brinkmanship that made the otherwise lion-hearted Robert Mugabe cower and at long last cave in. Needless to say, Chiwenga was a given for the No. 2 slot.

As regards our own Ian Khama, I would not vouch for his raison de tre for picking Mokgweetsi Masisi at the expense of his blood brother TK or his obsequiously loyal protégé of many years Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.  But whatever it was, Khama, with the benefit now of hindsight, made the right choice anyway, just as Masisi in turn cleanly nailed it when he roped in the sober, staid, and sagacious Slumber Tsogwane from Boteti for his deputy.

In the US, it is a different ball game altogether. There, folks, choosing a VP is a meticulous, painstaking process that invariably takes months and can be energy-sapping for both the presidential nominee and the candidates on the VP short list.

“I BEAR NO GRUDGES”

On August 11, the US Democratic Party presidential hopeful Joseph Biden announced by way of a gushing tweet that he had picked Senator Kamala Harris for his running mate. The 55-year-old enchantress has gone into the annals of American history as the first black woman and the first Asian-American to cop up such a privilege.

Biden had a reason to sound so ecstatic when he conveyed his decision to an obviously elated Harris by way of Skype. She overnight electrified his campaign, when hitherto Donald Trump, who is notorious for his bare-knuckle verbal jabs, took special delight in calling him “Sleepy Joe”, “Slow Joe”, etc, as a direct dig at his alleged physical and cognitive decline – ironic though that may sound when Trump’s own faculties and intelligibility have  lately been questioned by his compatriots.

Now, to some people, Joe’s choice was a foregone conclusion considering that Kamala had been the odds-on favourite in surveys conducted by many a pollster. To most, however, it was something of a daredevil move and this view was not entirely unfounded.

Kamala, who along with 28 others had thrown her hat into the presidential ring too, was Biden’s most caustic opponent in the self-promotion debates, landing bazookas on him left, right, and centre, notwithstanding the fact that once upon a time, she and Joe’s late eldest son Beau had an abiding collegial rapport.

In the run-up to the primary campaign debates, Kamala had even thrown her weight behind the three or four women who had levelled accusations against Biden to the effect that he had touched and even smooched them with lewd intentions.

Quizzed as to the absurdity and seeming incongruity of his choice by members of the American press corps, Joe said he was not the one to bear grudges, that he always was ready to make bygones be bygones. He had probably plucked a leaf from the Obama book: he himself had dressed down Obama as grossly unworthy of the presidency during the debates but Obama went on to co-opt him in the running anyway.

SHACKLED TO THE NO. 2

That a prospective President should go to the lengths Joe Biden did to choose his running mate makes a great deal of sense. In the US, the President is stuck with his VP in a manner akin to a until-death-do-us-part scenario. This is because according to the constitution, the President has no power to axe his VP.

The only body vested with such power is the Senate, the upper chamber of the US’s bicameral legislature, which in Botswana we call Parliament or the National Assembly but which Americans call Congress.

What should happen is that in the event that  the VP commits a wrong deserving of dismissal (“Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours” according to the constitution), the 435-strong House of Representatives, the lower chamber, votes on impeachment and if the majority gives the matter a thumbs-up, it is referred to the Senate for trial. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate (that is, 66 since there are 100 members) is required for the impeachment to proceed, whereupon the VP is removed from office.

In practice, however, that might be problematic in that the VP is also the President of the Senate, meaning he is supposed to chair the proceedings of his own impeachment! That makes the process somewhat convoluted, with the result that a President would rather endure a disagreeable VP than subject him to a process which for all practical purposes is futile.

The only viable way to get rid of a VP is to eject him from the second-term ticket. This is what Andrew Jackson (President from 1829 to 1837) did in 1833, when he dropped John C Calhoun, who had been a constant thorn in his flesh in the first term, and chose Martin Van Buren  as his running mate.

In any case, a VP would rather resign than face up to the ignominy of the impeachment process as did Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon’s VP, in 1973, the only such case in US history.

BIDEN GETS SET

If two people at the pinnacle of political power in the US were particularly close, it was Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The two so swimmingly jelled that even in public showings, they kept to a matey, first-name-terms etiquette.

Joe is even on record as having said that Obama offered to financially take care of the then ailing Beau, who Joe feared might not be able to sufficiently sustain both his family and himself in the event that he miraculously fought off his ailment. In his own VP, Joe was looking for a person with whom he could forge the same chemistry and that was quite a tall order indeed.

From the get-go, Joe had made it clear that his sights were set on a female VP. No sooner had he said this than hordes of prominent black activists, lawmakers, and opinion leaders descended on him to plead with him that he choose a woman of colour to accord with a ticket that reflected the diversity of America’s demographics.

But skin colour was far from an end in itself. “A lot of his thought process was about who shared his values, who he could work with, who could help him win and who could be ready on Day 1,” the Biden campaign team’s joint-chairman Cedric Richmond would later disclose to a newspaper in one interview.

“Biden’s focus from the very start was on who would be the best governing partner to help him lead our country out of the chaos created by Donald Trump.”

JOE NARROWS FIELD TO ELEVEN FINALISTS

Biden commissioned a team of four to do the initial vetting of more than 20 candidates who included a disabled Iraq War veteran whose mother was of Thai and Chinese descent.  They were a former senator, a member of the House of Representatives, a Los Angeles mayor, and a former advisor, split evenly between the two sexes to underscore Biden’s penchant for gender equality.

The team in turn used a legion of party activists, interest groups, and other key stakeholders as sounding boards on who could best serve the party and country, in the process logging a total of 120 hours.

It was an extensive and laborious process which involved interview after interview in some cases. All the 20 candidates were subjected to an initial public records review, notably press reports, TV, radio, and online interviews, and mentions in published print and electronic books.

The team then prepared a power-point presentation for Biden and his wife Jill. Where the couple detected critical gaps to fill in, they summoned individual members of the team to furnish further particulars or fine-tune their recommendations.

“He was looking at data and looking at track records and looking at a whole bunch of things,” Richmond said. Biden at long last picked eleven finalists out of the twenty pitched to him.

THE GRILLING PROCESS

In evaluating the finalists, Biden employed a two-prong approach. First, they were subjected to legal vetting by three veterans of the Obama administration comprising of two males and one female.

The legal minds were reinforced by between 12 to 15 attorneys who were acting for the candidates and who ferreted their histories with a tooth comb just in case there was a potentially explosive skeleton in their cupboards that could ruin Biden’s chances of ousting Trump.

The candidates each were handed out an elaborate   questionnaire that left no stone unturned. It sought answers to a total of 160 questions. Said The Washington Post: “The 11 finalists were asked about their past writings, details of arrests or criminal charges, medical records and videos of past speaking engagements.

Elected officials were asked about their campaign donor policies, questions were asked about workplace complaints directed at their spouses and the candidates were told to describe the most controversial matters they had dealt with in the course of their careers.”

One such question wanted to know whether there was “any organisation that would take steps, overtly or covertly, fairly or unfairly, to affect your appointment, including any news organisations”.

Second, Biden engaged a team of political researchers whose brief was to “release information to the public in an effort to complicate their (the candidates’) paths to the nomination”.

This was to ensure that whatever dirty linen they possessed was brought before the full glare of the American populace from the very outset so that no surprise was sprang somewhere along the way when their VP candidacy was a fait accompli.

All the while, Biden did his part in personally promoting the candidates and thus raising their profile. He hosted them on his podcast, at fundraisers, and at virtual town halls, while his staff helped place them on television news programs.

IT’S KAMALA

Finally, the candidates were personally interviewed by Biden, either in person or by way of Skype over nine full days. They were formally and professionally introduced by Celinda Lake, one of Joe’s campaign pollsters, complete with potential new campaign logos and promotional jingles.

Biden’s first question to them in what has been described as typically “jarring” interviews conducted on not one but several  sessions  was, “What would your agenda be?”

Amongst the people whose take Biden repeatedly counted upon in the process of making up his mind were his wife,  his sister Valerie Biden Owens, his long-time friend and adviser Ted Kaufman,  his political strategist Mike Donilon, Congressman James Clyburn,  and of course Barack Obama. “My advice was sought,” Clyburn said. “I talked to Joe over the past several days more than I talked to him all year.”

Biden informed the lucky lady by Skype, exactly 66 days after he won the Democratic Party nomination. “I’m calling you today because I’ve made that first Presidential decision,” a beaming Biden announced. “I’ve decided I’d like you to join this effort to win back the soul of this country and be our nation’s next Vice President.”

On their part, Biden’s four-man committee described Kamala Harris as having “an impressive balance of the presence to take on President Trump and knowledge of the issues,” with her other advantage being “her personal story of having immigrant parents, a mother from India and a father from Jamaica”.

It is my hope and trust that the American model will provide a salutary lesson to our own political parties on the continent of Africa so that they spare us the circus to which we have become accustomed and even inured.

Meanwhile, will Biden’s choice of Kamala really assist his resolve to unseat Trump?

Make a date with me next week for the view from Mana House in this regard.

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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