In this article novelist, historian and poet, Teedzani Thapelo*, puts a new twist to BDP privatization strategy arguing that a rigged process of private acquisition can only result in harmful actions like asset stripping leading to massive loss of jobs, and that this thing cannot succeed in a political system already grappling with instability of public revenues, an economy in bad shape, and a departing corrupt political class.
Such a process, he says, is hardly an answer to underinvestment at a time when commercial banks are struggling to keep market friendly relations with Batswana, and that only Asian capital can benefit from vastly unfair contractual agreements, that will ultimately seriously erode our political freedoms and prospects for growth in the long-term
In a previous articles I argued against BDP privatization of public sector enterprises like Air Botswana, Botswana Meat Commission, Botswana Railways, and many others. I don’t want to repeat my objections here. My present bone of contention is anchored on several observations. First, BDP can only implement a rigged privatization process designed to maximize the amount of money Ian Khama, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and their cabinet ministers, can appropriate for themselves.
Not even BDP supporters in the rural areas are going to benefit anything from this process. Botswana workers should not even dream of getting a share. Second, no efficiency gains will accrue to the economy since the process is going to benefit individuals, and not the treasury. Third, value chain investment will be relinquished to Indians, Chinese, and other BDP foreign friends. All this, of course, assumes a small dose of economic sense in their privatization project. The worst that can happen, and, knowing these people, is that, the new owners of these privatized firms are not going to use them to expand industry, and create jobs. Instead, they will find a better incentive to strip assets, and destroy our small industrial base.
Furthermore, Batswana must realize that privatization at all costs is going to destroy our fragile economy, and this, surprisingly, is the road BDP proposes to pursue. The first victims of this madness will be Batswana workers, and immediately thereafter, small businesses, and alongside that, the entire economy, and Batswana as a whole. These people want to create another Zimbabwe in Botswana, another Zimbabwe in SADC.
Does this make sense? Should such a thing be allowed to proceed? Privatization is only good if it is designed to be an effective force for economic growth. BDP privatization, on the other hand, is simply going to result in decline. If anything, it is going to be a powerful force for undermining confidence in democratic, and market, institutions, diminishing, in the process, prospects for foreign investment in the economy. Is this what Batswana want? Are we really that stupid?
Let me explain. What are the fault lines in BDP privatization process? First, false assumptions. I want to debunk the orthodoxy that private property rights here are clearly defined, and BDP new owners of privatized corporations will have sufficient incentive to ensure that the assets are efficiently managed. Fact of the matter is Ian Khama has more than compromised the integrity of the judiciary; which is the bedrock of private property, and fundamental freedoms, and individual rights, he has, in fact, destroyed it. We can no longer trust his judicial appointees to safeguard the interests of Batswana. Our judiciary has been turned into a thieving arm of BDP self-interest.
Like in Zimbabwe, they will always do what it takes to please their BDP masters. Mokgweetsi Masisi is going to make sure they play to his flute, the way Khama did. Once we allow this process to take-off we might as well forget about reversing it through the legal process. This is war, pure, and simple. In Zimbabwe at one point things got so tragic, so hilariously ridiculous, that Mugabe appointed a night watchman, one Chimbote, if I remember the name well, to replace the Chief Justice. Batswana must understand that in Africa the law remains a stable public safeguard only so far as primary patriotism is on its side. Once the looters are in control, the law means nothing. The law is an easy instrument to disarm.
We failed to defend our judges, and the judiciary, against Ian Khama. How can we expect to win a war against vested class economic interests, backed by hot Asian, and Arab petro-dollar money? I see now even the Japanese are coming in to assist BDP in this horrible game of thievery. It’s hopeless to think judges who have already been cowed into submission by BDP can take the side of citizens in the future. A compromised judiciary is like a desperate prostitute; it provides service with bad temper, and administers justice in favour of sleaze.
It might appear we have an appropriate legal structure to guard against harmful actions like asset stripping, but the reality is that under BDP privatization everything is negotiable, and bribes, and intimidation, speak louder than moral rectitude. Political indignation alone will not be enough to reverse BDP privatization. Only a new government can do that, and even then, it will still take long before new capital, and entrepreneurship, can create new industries, and jobs. This is why I say BDP privatization should not be allowed in the first place. The other problem is BDP ideas to cope with problems of underinvestment are not only economically unsound, but outright politically suspect. In the previous articles I wrote about timing, sequencing, and pacing of the process of privatization, and showed why BDP has no interest in these serious aspects of successful, and long-term beneficial, privatization. Today I want to argue about the foreign element in BDP privatization strategy.
Perhaps, I should start by clarifying one thing. Batswana are now agreed, and the world can easily see, that, within BDP, state enterprises are regarded as modern versions of traditional Tswana cattle posts. For fifty years BDP has used them both to shore up its political fortunes, and create a middle class aligned, sympathetic, and loyal to the ruling party, and its political ideology. As the cattle industry kept on falling behind in development, BDP moved its political cadres, and mostly the bastard, and biological, children of its senior members into parastatals. Lovers, concubines, and loyal foreigners, have also long been strategically placed there to protect BDP economic interests.
It is therefore not surprising to observers like me that at the point of its political departure from public space BDP should try so hard to loot, and destroy, these parastatals. They regard them as part of their economic inheritance; ba tsaya meraka ya bone. They are jealous of a new, different, party, a new political generation, moving into what they consider to be private property. This attitude is typically African; a sickening, and rotten, Tswana mentality, an apparent psychological difficulty to square the imperative exigency of political modernity. Anthropological research has long demonstrated that the simple-minded African always reverts to the niceties of past forms of accumulation the moment he realizes that the new system of politics he has just embraced; in this case, democratic-republican politics, all of a sudden seems to be a threat to his own life, and personal fortunes. Jannong ke mang yo o santseng a dumela go re batho ba madomkrag ba thabologile?
They also worry about the future of their children, and grandchildren, who have up to now, survived on these modern BDP versions of meraka, and other centres of power like Radio Botswana, BTV, and DIS, even certain positions in the military. Finally, there are those within the BDP who are determined not to take the impending road to political oblivion, and a life of poverty, and misery, without looting provisions for that fatal destiny; ba tsaya mofako. Former Gambian leader, Jammeh, is not the only greedy African politician who found it necessary to loot the treasury before running into the political wilderness.
We have in the BDP our own thousands of Jammehs, and if we don’t stop them we should not complain tomorrow when we find our nation destitute. Batswana are now paying a heavy price for allowing this country to be run by cattlemen and their herd boys for such an unconscionable long period of time. But it is not too late. We can still rescue the situation, and make sure Botswana does not revert to past barbarian forms of capital accumulation; that the country continues in the path of democratization of all spheres of public life in our young republic.
The French experience provides refreshing assurance to all our national democratic warriors. Recently elected French president, Emmanuel Macron, has just accomplished an amazing political feat. He managed not only to destabilize, and destroy, the main political parties, in that country-parties that had morphed into daylight corrupt classes enamoured to a culture of dry political emptiness, but also ushered into the French republic, new political personnel, a new diversity of political ideas, a completely new political machine, a new validation of political candidature, and a new political force for France.
What remains to be seen is whether he will now deliver a new interpretation of republican political tools and values, an entirely new political culture, and capital, a new validation of political decisions, and process, and a new sense of French patriotism, and national pride. This young man is only thirty-nine years old. He now leads a parliament whose average age is forty-eight. If young people can do so well in France, the country that gave the whole world democracy, and republicanism, in the first place, why should our own children not do the same here? Come on, don’t disappoint us! You are just as well educated. Like the French, Batswana youth are passionate politicians. Don’t allow your republic, your country, to die. This country is still very rich land, and the future belongs to you. Why are you silent, when BDP has already declared war on society?
Our response to this war by governors should, I think, start with vehement opposition to privatization, and emasculation of labour rights, power, economic security, and constant mobilization, and vigilance, against the depredations of unruly international capital. In recent years the face of international capital in our country has progressively, and disastrously, turned oriental; that is, Indian, Chinese, and Arabian. White South African capital, mostly concentrated in retail and construction for many years, and some few but influential portions of the rural economy; mostly the cattle industry, is retreating home, and BDP, now controlled by Asians, is assisting its departure, through overt intimidation, and outright political pressure. So if we privatize, who is going to finance that process? BDP, and Asians.
And where is the money going to come from? Chinese banks, Indian Banks, and petro-dollar Arab Kings, and their spoiled children. Already this is an alarming pattern. The same money that raised Osama Bin Landen and company, incubated, and gave birth to, modern terrorism, and continues to advance the ideology of radical Islamic fundamentalism, is going to be diverted to Botswana to finance privatization, and looting, of our public assets.
Since this process involves so few corrupt people, it is hard to establish if any jobs are going to be created, if the economy is going to grow strong, and if so, how long this is going to take before it busts, leading to a Zimbabwe style tragic economic meltdown, and national ruin. It is hard to figure out what is going to happen to the thousands of Batswana who lose jobs, and social security. It is hard to estimate the economic damage resulting from a rapid influx of hot money into and out of the country.
The only thing that is certain is that such a rigged process of privatization is going to lead to political crisis, and social chaos. The streets are going to be the only places where such issues are discussed, further compounding the crisis. Batswana will lose faith in the political process. Is this what we want? We must remember the unemployed are people, with families, whose lives are affected, sometimes devastated, by continued lack of opportunities, and continued absence of incentives to strive above the bare threshold of survival networks, and that, already we have far too many such people in our country; just what is going to happen to them? A privatization process that benefit Indians and Chinese, is nothing but a murder weapon to all these people.
Our political system is already grappling with instability of public revenues, the economy is in a bad shape, and I just wonder; what is going to happen after these foreigners start packing up their bags, and living this mess to us, the fools who benefitted nothing from such a rigged process of private accumulation. Rich BDP members already own houses in European capitals and Middle East capitals. They are learning Chinese. Most already speak Indian languages. Our Kids still speak Setswana, have a hard time learning English, and no chance in hell of ever owning houses, and homes, in Botswana. Ah, Batswana. Would it not make better sense to make our own children, our own people, the focus of any privatization process?
As I write Asian banks entering our market are already squelching the domestic market. Yes, the banks they find here are not local but we have worked with them for years but now the entrants, awash with hot cash, some of it suspect, are attracting depositors away from these banks. Small businesses, and farmers used to get loans from these banks but now they don’t make much money, and even prospective house buyers have a hard time accessing credit. Bank of Botswana interest rate policy now works against the interests of banks that are struggling to keep market friendly relations with Batswana.
Look at these new banks, and you find BDP members are working there, making money through them, abandoning banks that made this country what it is today. After abandoning banks they will also abandon those Batswana who remain behind. Madomkrag are working hard to be Asians; like Robert Mugabe, Jacob Zuma, and their families, Madomkrag are working for future life in India, China, and the Arab world, eating rice, noodles, and drinking green tea, sitting on Persian rugs. What about us?
I know people out there who do not believe these things are actually happening, people who think BDP is fighting a colossal battle against political corruption, and I have bad news for you. This is baloney, absolute rubbish, hogwash. BDP policy is to overlook grand larceny, and take a strong stand on petty theft. Steal a needle at a government office, and the entire anti-corruption machinery will come tumbling on you like a tonne of bricks, and let a cabinet minister or one of those well-connected to political royalty steal millions, and everybody at Government Enclave will pat the chap on the back, giggle nervously, and start asking where he is thinking of retiring, and how often he intends to start pumping grease on the backsides of poor Batswana girls who need money for schools fees and rent.
In other democracies knowing what government is doing is regarded as an essential part of government accountability. Sadly that’s not the case here. Who knows what government is doing here? Not many people, certainly not more than a thousand people. Yet, knowing what government actually does is a right, and not a favour conferred by government. I share this information to help mature our political system, and public processes. But I know BDP will impugn me. Not that I care much about that, unless of course they kill me, in which case I will even care less.
To stave off a bad, premature, badly managed, privatization, let’s work hard to keep this thing off the political agenda of the BDP now, and throughout the coming elections. Under any circumstances, privatization is a difficult task fraught with risks, enormous risks. Under BDP, and the tutelage of heartless Asian money, privatization can only destroy Botswana. BDP is ready, and prepared, to bear the risks of privatization, to benefit a bunch of well-connected foreign nationals; not even Botswana private investors. Does this make economic sense? They are ready, and prepared, to live up to vastly unfair contractual agreements, with foreign looters, so long as the greasing of bureaucratic wheels-to the great advantage of all other Batswana-goes on smoothly. Have Batswana ever wondered why it is so easy for Indians and Chinese extract special privileges from the BDP government? This practice badly distorts market incentives.
It undermines democratic procedure, and process. Why do we allow it? What is so special about these Asians? Their investments do not promote growth. Chinese shoes, Indian loaves of bread…come on! Even Jesus, the Son of Nazareth, could do better than this. Also Asian investments remain stubbornly insensitive to the broader social context. These people abuse, and exploit, Batswana, on a routine, daily basis, with appalling impunity. Why then do we tolerate them so much? Why is BDP sleeping with them? Real incomes in rural Botswana have plummeted because of Asian businesses, and the social costs of this deprivation are huge. In fact we no longer have a middle class in the rural economy. This places an intolerable burden on our small cities. Why do we allow these things to happen?
With incomes and wages falling, and unemployment soaring, aren’t we creating volatile grounds for urban violence? It must be remembered that when government abrogates the social contract, the very thing that binds us together as Batswana, and binds us to the government of the day, then citizens may, out of wounded political consciences, not honour this contract, with each other, and with the government, resulting in chaos. Is this what we want? I don’t think so. But all appearances are that BDP remains unfazed. Nothing disturbs their equanimity. Why are these people so arrogantly self-assured? It is obvious they know something that we don’t. They scoff at our anxieties, and laugh at our misery. Now we are cold lazy people. We don’t know how to steal well. We deserve to be laughed. Time will come when Batswana decide to repay these sordid attitudes in kind, and what then? China is not going to welcome every Motswana carrying BDP membership card. India has long declared war on its own citizens through a marvellous policy of poverty embellishment.
My sociology professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science taught us that part of the social contract entails fairness; that the poor share in the gains of society as it grows, and that the rich share in the pains of society in times of crisis-a simple enough political principle to remember for a lifetime. But here the poor shared nothing in times of prosperity, and now the rich are migrating to China, of all the places in this crazy world, in times of crisis. What is wrong with us! Just two million people, in a frightfully huge, and enormously rich, country, and we can’t live together. Surely, there must be something awfully wrong with our government. That much is self-evident. I will not place any blame on economics.
We all know even under the best circumstances possible, a rising tide does not lift all the boats. No economic policy can ever enrich all the people. But politics can level the playfield, and shield the weak from the strong, the poor from the rich, and that is where we need each other. But madomkrag want to eat alone, and when things get really bad, migrate to Saudi Arabia, and other exotic oriental capitals…well, let them go. But never make the mistake of financing their departure. They have crimes at home to pay for; all in good time. This sordid political game of theirs will end in tears, on their part, and triumph, on the part of those now suffering, and, of course, the common national good.
There is need on our part to despair. Hope, we must never forget, is a political concept; perhaps the only political idea that hedge all suffering humanity against fatalism, and political cowardice that often results in the triumph of evil in society. We have got these people where we want them; the wrong side of the law. Our duty is to exact public revenge, and this is something we must teach our children. It is a moral duty. The strongest political tool available to us is the electoral process, and the numbers are on our side. The youth, who BDP has bruised, brutalized, neglected, humiliated, and thrown to the worst possible economic wilderness, are on our side; a strong enough energy to burn down any house in no time. Victory is certain. But we must know what we are going to do with political power. As Joseph Stigliz, to me the most famous Nobel Economics laureate of the previous century, often argues, in his famous international lectures; ‘the essence of freedom is the right to make a choice-and to accept the responsibility that comes with it.’
Let us not repeat in our country the foolishness of the Russians, who forfeited both political freedom, and economic prosperity, through a ridiculously flawed, and politically rigged, mass privatization experiment. In that country privatization decimated a precariously rising middle class, and implanted a terrifying system of crony and mafia capitalism. The entire emerging democratic culture was devastated. Press freedom was destroyed, and the rights of revolting citizens trampled upon to such an extent the country is now not at all different from the Stalinist totalitarianism of the past. Authoritarian political excesses have become a norm in that ill-fated country. Incomes have deteriorated, drastically. Poverty remains a haunting spectre in the lives of citizens.
More than twenty years later this damage stubbornly refuses to be repaired. Political and social instability are on the rise. The future remains cloudy, bleak, and uncertain, and poor Russia has no way of running a controlled experiment, going back in time to try an alternative strategy. This is the sort of disastrous, and frightfully, political cocktail that BDP madness is hell-bent on visiting upon us in this country. What Batswana must understand is that certain political and economic judgement calls have already been made, and these being survivalist strategies, BDP cannot reverse them. The evil they intend doing must see the light of day. They are fully committed to mortgaging this country to foreigners. Never mind what they say in public.
We live on land that is being auctioned on a daily basis. Most of these things are already now in the open; for those like me who want to see. Other Batswana may choose to bury their heads in the sand, and hope evil will not triumph but this is not going to stop the vultures from feeding on the carcass that is dying Botswana. BDP is going to ignore the advice of scholars knowledgeable in our history, economics, and society. They are going to circumvent what laws are in force, if not break them outright, just so they can put into private hands a whole array of major industries. There is already a radical change in how economic decisions are made. The nation, and the people, no longer matter.
We must expect an enormous reallocation, and redeployment, of resources, from certain sectors to areas where financial leakage is possible, and difficult, to detect; especially the mining and energy sectors. Already certain types of public professionals are being weeded out through arbitrary registration. This is a grand, secretive, strategy, to create a BDP-Asians dominated parallel economy, a black market that will benefit select BDP tycoons, and their families, after 2019. BDP simply intends to replace government monopoly of public assets with a cabal of select, and highly favoured, private monopoly. Forget all the twaddle about promoting a burst of economic output, promoting youth entrepreneurship, and social transformation.
Sure, there is going to be a new kind of entrepreneurship; a kind of entrepreneurship that is good at circumventing government rules and laws, new enterprises that are going to help redeploy resources that had previously been inefficiently used, in the direction of BDP beneficiaries through hook and crook. Give them the vote in 2019, and wholesale auctioning of Botswana will begin in earnest. As I write we know thousands of BDP chaps who are already millionaires, and nobody knows where, and how they got this wealth. But the paper trail is becoming clearer to interested investigators, and serious journalists. The patterns of political corruption are unfolding, and becoming obvious to all. Only fear prevents people from speaking out. But, is fear going to pay your bills? Is fear going to help you educate your children?
Quick privatization is a dangerous thing. It creates a huge number of people interested in capitalism, and if they have a corrupt machine to climb to the top, like the BDP, nobody can stop them from looting like greedy children. This is what is happening in Botswana. There is a difference between creating new industries, and exploiting bad government policies to get rich overnight. No man should become rich without working for his wealth. But at BDP you just join the choir, acquire an addiction for bowel irritating foods, and wallah; you are on the way to affluence. Not even the most heretical economists can approve of this behaviour. Batswana, it is our moral duty to restrain, investigate, and punish, these people; not vote them into political office again.
They are children. No adult, mature, serious, people, can do this to their own country. In Africa only Nigerians and Zimbabweans are professionals in working the hardest they can to destroy their own country, and further impoverish their fellow citizens for generations. Now we have joined them. Where is this wickedness, this satanic demonism, coming from? If other people want to live like savages is it necessary to follow their example, without knowing what motivates them? I finish this article before going to watch what remains of the Sir Ketumile Masire Memorial Service on TV, a man whose politics I strongly disapproved, but could find little to fault in his patriotic affection for his country, and its people. It would help if BDP members took a leaf from the history of this man, and start reflecting just a little, and maybe, just maybe, you mind find it in your dark hearts that there is still something about this beautiful country that is worth cherishing, upholding, nurturing, and preserving for future generations.
Teedzani Thapelo*, is author of the Botswana novel series Seasons of Thunder, Vol. 1(2014), Vol. 2 (2015) and Vol. 3 (2016) and forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: abandonment and revolt, The Argument Against the Botswana Democratic Party: an intellectual inquiry and Khama Presidency and Vanity Fair in Parliament: an African political tragedy, and Sir Ketumile Masire: willow in the limelight and the gathering storm.
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.
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?
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.