In this article novelist, historian, and poet, Teedzani Thapelo*, investigates the moral dilemmas presented to scholarship by the friendship between late president, Sir Ketumile Masire, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and drawing from the influence of Shula Marks on him as a student, explores the ambiguities of political actions and attitudes in the context of southern African liberation struggles asking the disturbing questions: what tied these men together given their contrasting personalities, principles, and public personas; Mugabe melancholy, choleric, impetuous, and sensually extravagant, and Masire, supposedly, sensible, prudent, frugal, hard-working, and personification of a clown as a genius.
Are we now being called upon to distinguish between what such men do as private citizens, and what they do as great men, as public figures? Are we being asked to distinguish between the purely political, and the psychological in public administration? Masire’s longevity in politics, Thapelo disagrees, gave him time and space in which his political vision, and public personality, could cohere, and inspire generations.
Not many people know Robert Mugabe was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. But that does not mean he is not a Knight of the Garter. I am not sure if, once awarded, this thing can be withdrawn. If that is possible, then it is probable mad Bob has already lost it given his frosty relations with the vanquished colonial master. But that is not my point. What I really want to say is that honours like these do not always say much about the characters of those who get them.
This, of course, is not to say it is not worth the sweat for those most deserving of them. I am still reeling from the shock revelation at the state funeral of Masire that these two men have been the best of friends all along. I cannot think of two more completely different men, two more contrasting political personalities, two more dissimilar public personas. But then in politics things are not always what they appear to be; and that statement, “I feel remorse,” What does it mean? Mugabe is a notorious political brute. I cannot start to even imagine what he meant by this statement, to a Btv interviewer, after the funeral in Kanye. It is probable he explained it further, but that is unlikely. For some reason I will never understand Btv journalists are notorious for their reverence for political authority; sordid or sublime.
This could have been the scoop of the century. Just a little bit more probing, a few more subtly pointed questions, and Mugabe might just have come clean on a host of million political misdeeds that have attendant his Machiavellian, and relentlessly brutal, presidency for more than thirty years. The historical saga that is his entire brutal savagery might have come tumbling out of those trembling lips. But no, the good journalist let him off the hook as if this malicious leviathan was a tiny harmless fish; most extraordinary. Is it possible this man, now one foot in the grave, is beginning to regret his murderous rule? Is the burden of guilt now catching up with his conscience? Is there room for sorrow in his breast, in that cold heart? Is he human after all? Is he willing to surrender himself to the International Criminal Court for proper investigation? Should investigators start drawing up the genocide warrant of arrest? A lot of books have already been written about this man.
NGOs and churches have already compiled frighteningly huge dossiers on crimes against citizens, and humanity. The Roman Catholic Commission opened the floodgates, and, as I write, serious investigative journalists, and academic researchers are busy churning out more reports, but Mugabe remains unfazed; keeping a flat face of undisturbed serenity, in the midst of horrors, and the most unmitigated national political calamity. Every little brutal morsel that comes to light he always waves away, laughing, and accusing everybody who cares to listen of calumny: the assassinations, public violence, the executions, forced exiles and migrations, it’s all nonsense, media fabrication to dent his standing out of place in his brilliancy society.
But, and to return to the substance of this article; what really was the relationship between the late Masire and this man? I look back to that sombre scene and I see the gathering of mourners, and I hear orations by friends and relatives, presenting the late president in the most refined and advantageous light, everything served up like a joint of beef garnished with salad on a hot platter; the most proper celebration of a life well lived. I look back at the same scene, and I hear Mugabe speak, making fine biblical allusions, and I ask myself; how really should ordinary mortals like me decode the actions of what lazy scholars call statesmen? Are we now being called upon to distinguish between what such men do as private citizens, and what they do as great men, as public figures? Are we being asked to distinguish between the purely political, and the psychological in public administration? I doubt even that exacting social theory, sociological imagination, could place such an invitation at the feet of ordinary men like me. It’s just too much to ask. Throughout his tyrannical rule Mugabe’s political actions have consistently blurred the line between private and public, personal and professional, moral and amoral. Political literature is agreed he’s perhaps the most unethical, dishonourable, and unscrupulous African leader in postcolonial history.
What did Masire see in this man? What was the essential attraction? Was this real friendship or just a matter of diplomatic manoeuvring, on the part of Masire, a subtle form of political appeasement of a troublesome but very unpredictable, and powerful neighbour, a man not even afraid of mobilizing an entire national army for personal benefit as he did in that ludicrous military escapade in DRC, that created millionaires in Zimbabwe, including the strong man himself? This is quiet probably, but I don’t know if Masire was really such an astute politician. The little literature I know on him is not that exhaustive. It is gratifying to hear Bakangwaketse historians, and writers, vow to the nation they will soon start researching his political biography in earnest. We need this information, and knowledge, badly. To this day nobody has seen it fit, and proper, to give us any definitive biography of Seretse Khama. Now the man who started this political journey with him has departed as well, and it remains hard for scholars like me, people who appreciate the minutiae, and nuances of historical interpretation, before they can pass judgement on the actions, and merits, of historical figures, to really figure out who between these leaders did what, when, and how.
Right now it would appear to me the political debts we owe to each of them are constantly mixed up, confused, lumped together; it is really as if Batswana don’t care much to know them well, and understand their politics, and legacies, well. To me this is unacceptable. BDP, and the children of these two great villages; Kanye, and Serowe, must write the histories of these men. They owe this to the nation, and to the departed leaders themselves. Outsiders like me have no resources, and no access to the most pertinent documentation about them; things like family records, personal memoirs, diaries, elders who grew up, and experienced, the march of history with these politicians, and surviving family members. We are also constrained by our poor knowledge of local cultures and languages. I bring up this point because to understand the relationship between Masire, and Mugabe, to poignantly grasp various aspects of political discernment on the part of Masire, one needs to know the true character of the man, and this is something that we clearly don’t know. What we know are historical facts attending to his political career, but these, we all know, rarely speak for themselves.
Mugabe we all know very well; thanks to disciplined, and persistent, Zimbabwean intellectual labour. For example, Batswana tell me both man are great African statesmen. This I do not accept. Further, nobody can force me to change my mind on this score on the basis of simple vehement assertions; rra we ke a go bulelela. That just won’t do. It’s not how we do history. Being a good heretic I have two intellectual scriptures, Miserables, by Victor Hugo, and War and Peace, by Leon Tolstoy; brilliant literature, 1263 pages, and 1392 pages respectively). A few years ago I convinced myself of the necessity to read them every year for ten years. I’m almost there, and soon as arguments about the greatness to Masire, and the call for his political canonization; things that surprised me to the core, I turned to one of my bibles, War and Peace, and found this poetic observation by the great man: “When it comes to events in history, so-called ‘great men’ are nothing but labels attached to events; like real labels, they have the least possible connection with events themselves,” (2006: 671). Amen!
Listening to Batswana speak about Masire I discovered nothing really concrete beyond endless enumeration of political events, and suppositions that certain things happened because Masire organised them, wished them to happen, participated in their executions, was there when they happened, cheered, clapped, and danced, when he realized they had happened, did not prevent them from happening, approved when he heard they had happened, made good jokes about them, signed a check for celebration when they matured, and succeeded, or all these things combined, in one amorphous mass. Come on, is this how historical studies, and analysis, are done? Someone must put a stop to this silliness. I also want to know the differences between the things he actually did, and the things that were actually done by Seretse. What about the things that were done by BDP, as a party, and government? Does he get personal credit for all these things as well? I should think some people are really very lucky, but luck is not an attribute of political greatness. If you want to convince me about the alleged political heroism of this man, it is critical you clearly, and unambiguously, spell his personal merits out, gathering unequivocal, and incontrovertible evidence, to justify his political accomplishments. The second argument is that he was a great patriot, and democrat, but so am I, and my mother, and millions of Batswana throughout the length and breath of this beautiful country.
One thing I agree, he walked a path strewn with roses, and it is obvious, from the historical record, everything came his way the easy way; thanks, in part, to our constitutional arrangements, on one hand, and national temperament on the other. Just about everything he did, thousands of Batswana could have done if placed in his positions. Better still, thousands of Batswana could have done the things he didn’t do, but must have done, had they had been fortunate enough to occupy his political positions. This is the irony of democratic politics, and culture. In fact the opposition exists in a democracy primarily because this magnificent political culture recognises, all the time, that the things being done by those in power, and positions of authority, within ruling political parties, and within governments as civic institutions, can often, be done better by others who at any time find themselves temporarily exiled, or excluded, from these positions. One remarkable thing about Masire, might be he tried his best to preserve the good things that happened around him, or because of his personal advocacy. But this is not the argument I hear from Batswana. Oh, no, to them he did everything, himself, and he did everything right. No sensible man can accept such nonsense. Things just don’t work this way in politics.
At this point several things occur to my mind. What really should we make of Masire as a) political guardian, b) public servant, c) national patriot, d) political animal, e) economic man, and g) man of letters and world affairs? Hundreds, perhaps, thousands, of books, can be written about him from anyone of these categorical premises. In fact, I would like his people to write them. But before that is done, we must assess his political record using the research evidence available to us now. To my great surprise, Batswana seem not to like this perspective. They distrust intellectuals, and intellectual material, and, at the same time want us to accept their exaltation of Masire as the greatest educationist Botswana ever produced, the man who educated them, and educated them very well. I don’t know what to make of this convoluted rubbish. What would Masire make of it himself? I didn’t know he was an intellectual as Batswana claim, and I am not convinced he was one.
He did hold administrative positions that brought him into contact with our academic institutions, especially the University of Botswana. He did make decisions that impacted our national academic career, but these were collective decisions, made in concert with other Batswana, some of whom, to my knowledge, were men more eminently more educated than Masire; people like Thomas Tlou, and illustrious sons of Africa like Felix Mthali, David Rubari-part of the generation that shined in golden fashion at Makerere University before it was blighted by Amin fascist politics, not to mention a host of other brilliant South African exile intellectuals, men who knew very well the strategic importance of Botswana to regional liberation struggles, and passionately wanted it to rapidly evolve as a strong educational hub. Within BDP itself, and government, he worked with a few but very committed educationists, and the majority of them came from northern Botswana; mostly Serowe, and Bukalanga Country.
Yes, he certainly did teach in Kanye, and I, for one, would have been mighty impressed if his students there subsequently followed the path of the Selma Seven, the first black girls in America whose struggle against segregated education aroused national passion, and revolt; all seven went on to distinguish themselves as internationally acclaimed intellectuals, getting doctorates, and spreading themselves in wide fields of learning throughout the American world of academia, and other fields of learning like medicine. The present leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement are inspired by the educational spirit of these seven girls, and we might add today just about all American universities are dominated, and lead, by female scholars, and we know who their heroines, their role models are. This, to me, is what is called exemplary educational pioneering. Masire had 12 students, what Btv calls the 12 apostles. What, I wonder, happened to these twelve scholars? Where are they today? How did they impact our academic history, and culture of learning?
Let me tell you a story. I grew up in a small village in North East Botswana, Mapoka village. Our parents, the same generation as Masire, valued, and still value, education in a manner so fierce by the time I opened my eyes to the fiery madness of their commitment to scholarship just about every senior secondary school in Botswana had already had an educationist from Mapoka as its school head. We are only a few thousand people, certainly never more than 3000 in my lifetime, but no village throughout this desert country has ever produced, in percentage terms (per its own population) more, and finer, school teachers. That village has contributed more than 30 professors to the national university, in all fields of learning. These men and women have educated their children well. In our village we regard undergraduate degree holders as school drop-outs, and they know it, and work hard to do things the right way. Even five year olds know this very well. In Mapoka village education has always been a right, not a privilege.
Of my generation, the majority of us were sponsored, in many instances, not by their poor parents, but by those who had already acquired education, led, from the front, by the great Chief She Bakwali Habangana; a man who dominated our lives for more than seventy years, and turned a small picturesque African hamlet from a simple traditional setting into an intellectual tower of modern education, and this good man never asked for wings. After his death I quietly preserved his honour, and memory, in a history graduation dissertation; my first piece of work to be deposited into a university library for future reference, and archived in national records. Many years later Prof Ngcongco told me it was only this little miserable dissertation that helped me get admitted into the history department; after the same department had denied me a first class the previous year. This also helped me to enter the University of London on a scholarship but I had had enough of history. When I got there I studied politics, economics and sociology. It was my first detachment from UB. I owe my late chief a great deal of gratitude.
Our own primary school was opened in 1900, many years before Masire and Mugabe were born. Three women stand out in the famous footprint of this remarkable school; the Habanganas, Bakaknewman, BakaMorris, and BakaUyapo. On average, these extraordinary women spent over 50 years teaching at that primary school. They witnessed our births in the village. Watched us playing in dirty grass path roads. Taught us how to read, and write. Marvelled at our rise to secondary schools, and beyond. Celebrated the return to the village of young men and women educated in famous American, British, European and African universities; medical doctors, scientists, educationists, nurses, soldiers, technicians, accountants, social scientists, writers, historians, artists, lawyers and journalists. Some of these remarkable children of a small African village have gone on to become cabinet ministers, judges, writers, human rights campaigners, professors, deans of university faculties, heads of university departments, senior civil servants, and, a few, millionaire businessmen and women, and the indomitable three Habangana teachers have witnessed us marry, build homes, have children of our own, and die; circles evolving within circles, the dynamic spirit of education mapping out new vibrant pathways to modern forms of community identity, and individual academic accomplishments carving out geographies to human souls, a brave new world opening up in a small acre of African soil.
Socrates himself would not have minded much living in our village, a beautiful little community of open-minded scholars whose intellectual aestheticism remains difficulty to apprehend. To some this maybe just a mark of Kalanga genius but to me it’s something more profound; a celebration of the rigour of open minds in a free society, the reason why after getting three university degrees I have never worn an academic gown. Why should I? I owe the new craftsmanship of my intellectual mind to native tradition, and humour, only circumstantially immersion in modernity by administrative circumstances. No sensible man wears a dress to celebrate the fact he has finished ploughing his field. Education is that natural; it is life.
In my own case, my mother, Tanyala Thula Thapelo, tilled four acres of land for more than forty years to see us through school, and beginning with not a single penny in the bank, and not a single cow in the kraal, sent her first child to school, and determined none of us would grow up without some respectable form of education. Our father, a scoundrel, like that of Mugabe, had run away, leaving her to bring up seven children. As I write my mom is 86 years. She still lives in the village. From that miraculous number; seven, she has more than 12 twelve children, and grandchildren, who are qualified medical doctors, lawyers, accountants, technicians, teachers, nurses, and, to the best of my knowledge, the only University of Cambridge Rhodes Scholar in the village, perhaps Botswana; my younger brother Sifelani Thapelo, and we, too, continue the tradition of educating our children as though going to school is something no different really than eating your next meal of the day. To me it is such ordinary people, people who did so much, did things so extraordinary, in their lifetime, who qualify to be designated true educational pioneers, and national heroes, and the story of this village predates independence.
Masire does not feature anywhere in this extraordinary story, if anything we know he was party to its deliberate emasculation by abolishing the use of native Ikalanga tongue in primary schools after independence, something our parents never forgave. For the sixteen years I lived in the village the people voted the opposition, and they have never asked for national honours. I think the reader can now understand why I have difficulty accepting a man like Masire, someone who had so much land, so many political resources at his daily disposal for 60 years, so many connections, and so much education, is a man more deserving of national honour than my poor village compatriots who did so much for this country, with so little capital. I look at these lovely villagers, and I see the soul of Botswana, the very spirit of this nation, the moral spirit of our modern age; hard work, commitment to principle, enlightenment, and global civilization.
Whenever I read the novels of Chinua Achebe I see these magnificent villagers in some of his most memorable literary characters, the first Africans who truly grasped the possibilities of human advancement through modernity, and I cry a little bit, knowing, here I am at home, the best world possible for any educated man, and the Masires and Mugabes of Africa do not feature in this picture, in this astonishing portrait of a village. Plato himself would have had a flourishing philosophical career in our village. I might add there are many other such villages in Bukalanga Country, and none has ever asked for national honours. If Masire was a hero, he would, he should have, done much more than this, but it is because of him, and his BDP party, that education is now in a loathsome crisis throughout the republic. Masire, an educationist? No, never. Give the honour to our parents!
Throughout his UB Chancellorship in the eighties this man stamped an authoritarian imprimatur on academic administration, and student academic freedom, imposing incompetent BDP sympathiser administrators on university admiration, and stupidly interfering in professorial appointments in favour of BDP members; a thing that forever undermined the culture of research, and serious scholarship at UB, as brilliant scholars felt alienated, and stupefied, by the rise of nauseating imbecile mediocrity, and even became contemptuous of UB itself as a centre of high learning, and left in disgust, never to return. His actions radicalized campus politics to such a frightening level students often lived in fear for their lives, and security, on campus. I see BDP has decided to honour him by renaming the UB medical hospital. I wonder if students, and the professoriate, have been adequately consulted. But that does not matter, the moment research work on this man starts doing its serious work, and worms, and skeletons, start coming out, intellectual consciousness will, no doubt, correct this anomaly.
This happened to Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, and I would not be surprised if an incensed radical student population reversed this rush political decision in the future. Batswana, of course, will already have long forgotten about him. In my opinion whatever educational credentials Masire could have claimed these were annulled by his senseless refusal to spare the life of his own fellow tribesman, Clement Gofhamodimo, whose controversial hanging for a poorly investigated, and prosecuted, murder case, led to riots in American universities and great international indignation. This brilliant young man had already made his name in American academia, and remains, in many ways, a pioneer of Botswana diaspora intellectualism, but he was suspected of killing a white man, a man with friends in certain rich mining companies, and for that reason he had to die. Why did Masire not exercise the prerogative of clemency? I respect other man’s opinions but draw the line where such opinions disrespect human existence, and the possibility of human redemption, things that constitute the moral foundation of educational philosophy. Masire was neither a scholar nor an outstanding educationist.
I bed the University of Botswana to rescind government decision to rename its medical hospital in honour of this man. One other aspect about this debate I must address; the contrast between Mugabe and Masire, the former at once melancholy, choleric, impetuous, and sensually extravagant, and the other supposedly, and this I doubt very much, sensible, prudent, frugal, hard-working, and personification of a clown as a genius. I do not agree Masire’s longevity in politics gave him time and space in which his political vision, and public personality, could cohere, and inspire generations. I agree he once earned his bitter, meagre bread, as a farmer, but once De Beers/Debswana and National Development Bank started financing his farming enterprise, including forgiven loans, everything became so subsidised that his wealth accumulated exponentially. Other farmers were not so lucky, they had no cash cows to milk, and farm at will. This does not square with the imagery of a lonely hard-working farmer working his way to the top by the bare exertion of his power, under every disadvantage of person and fortune. Nor does it tell the story of his alleged frustrated ambition, and resentful drudgery that made him think deeply of life in politics and public administration that would benefit the nation, and the poor.
In fact this man never really had to lodge a petition against his conditions. Fate, and history, worked on his side, but this is not the same thing as self-application to the pinnacle of national fame. There may be some truth about his much vaunted manifesto in defence of Setswana language, but Setswana is a lingo I know nothing about, and while I doubt not the testimony his personal character was suffused with humour, I find what I read of it in social media coarse, uncultured and insensitivity to the reality of poverty in postcolonial society. The man was nothing but an uncouth, arrant boor. Let us not forget throughout his rule poverty stubbornly stayed around 40% of the population while Botswana experienced the fastest and highest, rates of rapid growth in the world, and his government departments routinely returned unspent development funds to their boss. What really happened to all that money in all those eighteen years? Doesn’t this contradict the Anglican tradition that all good men walk by the same path? Masire, I am told, was lay preacher. Is he really the individual, who by his shining of light rendered this path more plain, and pleasant? Was he a paragon of virtue? Did he possess human nature generous with feeling? Was he capable of apprehending the world of real affairs? I really don’t think so, and it is painfully difficult to vouchsafe for the moral integrity of such a highly conflicted man, even though he may have president of your republic.
Position in society alone does not necessarily qualify for heroism. That much we all know. Neither is heroism simply a matter of some range of formal concerns. Heroism is about exceptional personal deeds in the service of humanity, and it is an important part of clearly articulated political vision, and the struggle to make sure as we walk through trials in life, and discover that happiness and what truths we may grasp as we journey lie in the knowledge that all things good, and proper, flourish at home, and in the human breast. The Masire presidency left thousands of Batswana hungering, and without homes; their human breasts overflowing with great sorrow, and despair. Had Masire had the opportunity to bid us farewell he too, and like his friend Mugabe, would have had little to say but, ‘I feel remorse,’ and this epithet to undistinguished public service does not become the political hero I have in mind.
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.