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Response to Kesitegile Gobotswang

LEBANG MPOTOKWANE

Initially, I was going to respond instantly to Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang’s opinion piece (Weekend Post, 23 – 29 September 2017) headlined “Mpotokwane, Midwife or Abortionist”.

Then family and friends advised me to ignore Gobotswang’s piece and not dignify it with a response. But in the end, I decided to respond, however belatedly, because the piece not only contained many untruths about me, but was also misleading and obviously intended to discredit me.

For instance, Gobotswang unfairly accused me of wanting “to ensure that the (UDC) project is aborted.” I’ve been involved (with others) in a tireless and often thankless effort to unite Botswana’s opposition parties since March 2003. Why would I now suddenly try “to cause maximum confusion” in the UDC with a view to aborting what I have spent much energy and personal financial resources trying to achieve over so many years?

Gobotswang also accused me of having made “startling allegations that membership of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in the UDC was irregular”. As former conveners of the 2012 negotiations that led to the formation of the three-party UDC, Rre Motlhabane Maphanyane, Dr Cosmos Moenga and I were indeed surprised by the presence of the BCP at the meeting of the UDC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) held on 2 August 2017.

Surprised because the UDC’s initial decision to accept the BCP as a new member following the BCP-UDC negotiations was not the final act on the matter. Hence the party’s subsequent appointment of a Transitional Committee (TC) to recommend terms and conditions (e.g. allocation of UDC positions, documents to be signed, joining fee to be paid by the BCP, the need to amend the constitution to suit an enlarged UDC etc.) on which the formal admission of the BCP would be based.

When the BCP attended the 2 August meeting, the TC had submitted its report at the beginning of June, but the UDC NEC had still not met to consider it. This was the reason for our surprise and concern at the presence of the BCP at a formal UDC NEC meeting. It’s worth noting here that in 2012, the founding members of the UDC (Botswana Movement for Democracy, Botswana National Front and Botswana Peoples Party) themselves went through similar formalities to those listed above. So, why should the BCP not do this?

Let’s also not overlook the possibility (which I hope doesn’t arise) that some of the terms and conditions prescribed for the BCP’s formal membership of the UDC might well prove unacceptable to the BCP. Hence the need for the party to see and accept those terms and conditions before it can be regarded as a full member of the UDC. Lastly, if the BCP really fully joined the UDC at “the Oasis historic announcement in February 2017” (as Gobotswang alleged) why was the party’s letter to the Speaker of the national assembly, re-designating its parliamentarians from BCP to UDC MPs, only dated 3 August 2017 (Mmegi, 8 August 2017) which was just a day after the BCP’s first appearance at a UDC NEC meeting?

Gobotswang further found it necessary to announce in his article that when the 2006 opposition negotiations failed, I “withdrew from the talks leaving Mr Maphanyane alone” to handle the talks between the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) and the BCP, which followed the collapse of the four-party negotiations. This is misleading, for It sounds as though when Maphanyane and I chaired the four-party negotiations, our assignment also included chairing the BAM-BCP talks, which was not so.

I heard of the latter negotiations for the first time from Maphanyane when I had told him I was leaving the meeting room following the collapse of the talks, and he asked whether I wasn’t staying for the BAM-BCP negotiations. My response was that apart from the four-party negotiations, I knew of no others; and feeling tired and frustrated, I didn’t even ask who had told him about the negotiations.

I couldn’t have participated in the BAM-BCP talks anyway, because soon after leaving the meeting room, the leaders of the four parties requested me to brief them on the reasons for the collapse of the negotiations. They then requested Dr Prince Dibeela and me to facilitate their own efforts to resuscitate the collapsed negotiations. Unfortunately, they held only one meeting before the negotiations collapsed again.

Dr Gobotswang also stressed that Maphanyane’s role as convener of the BAM-BCP talks had “ended the day the two parties agreed on a PACT for the 2009 general elections”. He said the parties subsequently merged, retaining the BCP name, and “BAM did not JOIN THE BCP”. He emphasised how, following the merger, the BCP had allocated two senior positions (his own position of vice president, and that of treasurer) to former BAM leaders in recognition of “the level of sacrifice … required to cement relationships between cooperating political parties.” He then concluded: “It is the kind of spirit that is not appreciated by some self-proclaimed conveners”.

I might be wrong, but it appears that in making the above-mentioned comments, Gobotswang was contrasting what happened following the conclusion of the recent BCP-UDC talks, with what happened after the BAM-BCP merger. If so, he was wrong because the two scenarios are very different, as indicated below:

Unlike Maphanyane’s role in the BAM-BCP talks, the roles of the three UDC conveners didn’t end when the UDC talks ended in 2012. Instead, section 28 of the UDC constitution included the conveners among the members of the interim NEC of the party, whose mandate runs until “the first meeting of the National Congress”. This was done at the request of the cooperating parties when the conveners wanted to leave after they completed their work in 2012.

Rather than “merging” with the BCP, BAM in fact joined the latter, hence the retention of the BCP name. Similarly, the BCP is joining the UDC alliance, hence the retention of the UDC name, instead of adopting “UDC+”. This is because when two or more parties merge, they adopt a new name that usually reflects the nature of the merger e.g. the UK’s Liberal Democrats (Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party) and South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (Democratic Party, New National Party, and Federal Alliance).

While it’s easy where party X joins party Y for the latter to “sacrifice” senior positions for the sake of cementing the relationship, this is extremely difficult in an alliance like the UDC, where the holders of the party’s most senior positions are, at the same time, leaders of the autonomous group-members of  the alliance. In such an alliance, it’s risky to assume that it would be easy for a new member to be given a position equal to that of any of the founding leaders of the alliance.

In the case of the BCP, this was made more difficult by the party’s refusal in 2012 to sit down with the others to consider resuscitating the negotiations that had collapsed in 2011. There’s therefore no doubt in my mind that appointing the BCP leader vice president of the UDC alongside the then leader of the BMD was one of the reasons that led to the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP). A similar problem would have arisen had the BCP leader been appointed either co-chairman or co-president of the UDC. The issue is that simple!

Gobotswang went on to congratulate me on the role I played in the negotiations that led to the formation of the UDC in 2012. I thank him for the warm compliment. Unfortunately, another baseless accusation against me followed the compliment, namely, that “It would appear that Mpotokwane prefers any opposition cooperation arrangement as long as it excludes the BCP. Hence his latest rumblings following the success of self-mediated talks post 2014 general elections.”

This, in turn, was followed by a reference to the fact that “there were no conveners” during the recent BCP-UDC talks and, much later in the article, that “it is high time Mpotokwane came to terms with the painful truth that he was not the convener of the 2016 negotiations.” To be fair to Gobotswang, the latter comment has also been made by some senior members of the UDC NEC who, as I’ll show below, ought to have known better.

For Gobotswang to claim that I prefer cooperation arrangements that exclude the BCP is to deny my unquestionable commitment to the cause of opposition cooperation in Botswana in the past 14+ years. There isn’t much I can do about such denialism.  My colleagues and I didn’t participate in the BCP-UDC talks because long before they started, we had informed the UDC NEC that we couldn’t participate in them because of our positions on the UDC NEC since 2012.

In other words, we would have been conflicted had we participated in the talks. In response, President Boko had explained that the talks would not need conveners, which we were all pleased to hear. So, there’s really no “painful truth” that we need to come to terms with regarding not having participated in the talks.

Another of Gobotswang’s baseless accusations against me was that before the BCP-UDC talks started, I was “one of the leading proponents” of the view that, instead of the BCP-UDC talks,  “BCP should have been asked to submit an application to JOIN UDC.” He alleged that those who held this view did so “in the name of frustrating the BCP to exit the negotiations.” The truth, however, is that while this view was indeed expressed at a meeting of the UDC NEC, I was either the first or the second person to oppose it, and the meeting mistakenly supported our view on it. Mistakenly, because the UDC constitution actually provides that, “An organisation intending to apply for membership must….”

I therefore apologise profusely to the UDC NEC member whose legitimate proposal I, together with others, opposed. Incidentally, some of the requirements prescribed for new members under the above-mentioned provision of the UDC constitution are addressed in the report of the UDC’s transitional committee, which has caused so much controversy in the party.

Gobotswang then claimed that for the same reason of “frustrating the BCP to exit the negotiations”, “… Mpotokwane and those who think like him never recognised the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on by elections. They never bothered to attend the signing ceremony held in Sekoma, describing it as a BCP-BNF agreement.” This was also untrue. The reason why many members of the UDC NEC didn’t attend the Sekoma ceremony was that they first heard about the MOA on the news, when it was too late to try to attend. Had there been enough consultation and information about the MOA, many more UDC NEC members would have attended.

In conclusion, I urge Dr Gobotswang and other BCP members to desist from their repeated attempts to discredit my efforts over the years to unite Botswana’s opposition parties. In particular, I caution them that in the 14+ years that I have spent on this important project, I observed some examples of questionable conduct on the part of the BCP or its members. I am, therefore, in a position to make accusations against them that would be far more serious than their feeble attempts to discredit me. 

However, I’ve kept such information to myself so far, and intend to continue to do so going forward. I’ll do so because that’s who I am. But if BCP members continue to make false accusations against me, I reserve the right to reveal whatever I know about them and their party following my interactions with them over the years.

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Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

Ever heard of a 666-type beast known as Fort Detrick?

Located in the US state of Maryland, about 80 km removed from Washington DC, Fort Detrick houses the US army’s top virus research laboratory. It has been identified as “home to the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and  also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research and National Interagency Biodefense Campus”.

The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses.  The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.

Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject   the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out.  In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.

These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!

Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?

THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED

 

About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.

The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations  Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”

All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.

Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory.  The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.

CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION

In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US  Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace  who were certified as having died of influenza  turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.

Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.

But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say.  Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?

THE BENASSIE FACTOR

The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27.  The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”

Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.

Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity.  Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility.   According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC,     Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.

The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory.  “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”

TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS

Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’  drive from Fort Detrick?

That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed   in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.

In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.

The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019.  This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?

Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?

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Opinions

Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.

From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.

Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.

It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.

No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.

In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.

Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.

Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!

Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.

The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.

The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.

The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.

It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.

The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.

It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.

Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.

The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.

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