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Intellectuals and Politics in Botswana

Teedzani Thapelo
 

Institute of International Education Fellowship Award Winner, and runner up national poet to the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, Teedzani Thapelo*, argues that BDP has declared war on intellectuals, students, and workers in the country, noting that the present crisis at the University of Botswana and Selibe-Phikwe are symptomatic of a political culture of distrust and entrenched loathing that has prevailed within BDP for many years, and that should BDP fail to bridge this gulf between it and the national intelligentsia before 2019 then it is clears UDC can, will, harvest more than twenty new constituencies in the coming election. Is, this, he asks, rhetorically, what BDP wants?


BDP has never been a political home for students, youths and intellectuals. This is a historical fact. Bessie Head, Kgalemang Motsete, L. D Raditladi, Kenneth Koma; it alienated and declared its hostility to them all. No wonder they now want to close down the University of Botswana, the national highest institution of learning. The education system has collapsed principally because BDP is a party of business, and not moral, social and intellectual development of society. They do not care about the future of the nation.

 

There is this misconception that if you feed the stomach, and the economy continues to do well, then you are on the right path to development. What a self-delusion. What naiveté! How in the world of God can we create a dynamic and self-sustaining capitalist economy if we declare war on intellectual culture? No country has as yet accomplished economic development by encouraging its people to live in perpetual ignorance; speaking with tongues, and barking like dogs. Economic development requires national cultural growth and intellectual awakening in society.

 

This is how Europe abolished mediaeval society and set on the road to industrialization, how America abandoned barbarian slavery and rose to affluence, how Japan and Russia overthrew feudalism and set on the path to sustainable economic development, and this is how the whole of Africa will eventually rise above disease, poverty and illiteracy to be a part of global historical culture.


But BDP does not understand this process of development. No, they hate culture and intellectuals. The distrust of intellectuals and ideologists is evident in the history and structures of BDP. The reason for this is simple; once the principle of thinking rather than obeying is accepted, the end will have come for the BDP. In BDP obeying is applied as a binding rule.

 

Not even the press is to be trusted. It is a party that does not self-introspect, self-critique, self-evaluate; its conventional conservatism, spearheaded by a rapaciously greedy and conceited senile brigade operate on the principle: if all fails, then God shall provide. Oh, really? You cannot build a modern economy and society on the conception that within a brief time we will somehow find our way back to God and Truth. This is pure political folly. Not even a truly Christian society is constructed this way. I would go further and say even purely barbarian societies like the DRC, for instance, do accept the need for enlightenment.


BDP is the first, the true, the only source of all the vast evils under which we groan today. All the talk about unfavourable external constraints may have a bit of truth in it, in so far as these are momentary and passing, but the real evil in postcolonial modernity is this cavalier acceptance of ignorance as a permitted form of religion in public life.

 

In this I doubt many Batswana will disagree with me. As to whether this shocking refusal to admit argumentation as a fact rooted in human nature makes sense, I leave that to these angels of darkness. What is regrettable is that we are all paying a heavy price for this folly. How we came to be saddled with this obscurantist monstrosity is something I will never understand at all. But what is the relevance of this observation to politics?


Let me explain. Knowledge is the bedrock of modernity. In economic terms we live in a world of striking net improve in the standards of living. In Botswana much of our social development is an offshoot of South African industrialization. Of that there can be no doubt. Without this remarkable economic history down south this country would have been nothing. In social terms we live in equally one of the most striking and disorienting change.

 

The material conditions and habits of people have altered more profoundly and rapidly than ever before, and a mood of puzzled introspection and self-criticism has seized the literate parts of the population. What has happened, what is happening to this country? These are questions that intellectuals grapple with on a daily basis; writers, journalists, academics, artists, priests, teachers, students, and BDP hates and despises them all.


Why, asks BDP, are they concerned with such silly questions? Why can’t they just gobble food and keep quiet the way we and our children do? The critical question is: will eating food, going to the toilet and sleeping solve the problems of modern society? I don’t think so. They certainly don’t think so at the UDC. Here are some simple facts. The life of this country depends on its articulation with global society. The lives of our entrepreneurs depend on profits, and whatever the sources of these profits, they are not at all remarkably healthy.

 

The lives of our workers depend on their employment and wages, and both are horribly lower than ever before. The lives of our professional classes and intellectuals depend on their employment and scope, and both have declined radically in the last twenty years. The social and political malaise that has become so obvious, leading to the birth of UDC, are certainly due to material discontent and economic hardship. The social and economic landmarks that my own generation took as permanent have been dismantled.

 

Social safety nets have collapsed throughout all social scales. Poverty and unemployment have become the new normal. The proverbial country of morals has become a country of unusually permissive sexuality and venereal damage. The education system has collapsed. A nation that once prided itself on abiding by incorrupt law has become celebrated for the daring and impunity of its robbers, and began to suspect the integrity of its politicians, policemen and judges.

 

What we call the middle classes are really salary earners just about all of whom fall into poverty 3-5 years after retirement. The few rich see themselves as being taxed and oppressed out of existence and, excerpting the thieves that feed with the BDP, most are moving their investments elsewhere. Radical income inequalities have become the norm rather than an exception. We are not by any measure a property-owning democracy. Investment capital continues to elude us.

 

The economy is run by government, and those who fail to adjust to a state-influenced economy suffer. Wealth does not go to the virtues of enterprise and hard work but depends on theft, lies, corruption and immorality. A life of comfort is inconceivable among all workers. Modest easy has already become the limit of middle class aspirations, eroding purchasing power in the economy. The majority of Batswana remain pinching and resentful, a perplexed and angry army of the suburbs and massive supporters of political change at any cost, and the rage of disappointment is spreading to the countryside at an appalling rate-no nation has ever been so angry, no people have ever been so frightfully agitated.


This is the Botswana we live in. This is the Botswana I am writing about. And BDP tells us that old, uneducated men from Serowe are the finest candidates for our political system, and intellectuals can go to hell! Oh, really? Do these illiterates really know what is happening in this country? Can BDP really deal with all these problems? Yes, they do hire consultants, at terribly huge expense, to lecture them on these things, but is that the same thing as solving these modern social problems? I don’t think so.

 

One thing I am certain about; five more years of BDP rule and Batswana will find themselves drinking water from South African boreholes. This is a fact, and BDP does not care. It is all too clear to every Motswana right now that their situation has changed for the worse. We all feel even the possibility of moral annihilation. People who live off wages and salaries feel this sense of ruin.

 

People who live off fees and profits; essentially business and small entrepreneurs, feel the same sense of ruined expectations. People who live off the soil and land; essentially farmers and rural peasants, are on the same boat. Not one person ever dreams of hitting the jackpot of wealth and social recognition in this country. The path to social peaks is so narrow only thieves go through.


You think I am exaggerating? Give me one person, who is not corrupt, who enjoys ample supplies of domestic comfort, excellent education for his children, a sense of being the backbone of the country, and an adequate provision of travel and cultural life that makes him feel a truly living part of global society? There are no such people in this country. Yet, only twenty years ago we took all these things for granted. What happened?

 

People in suburbs are so indebted, and so desperately poor, they use bath tubs to store firewood! Who can blame them? Without electricity and water there is no other alternative. Look at the heavy burden of mortgage, insurance, payments for schools, transport, food, and other corresponding private outlays-like money sent to starving and sick relatives in rural areas; it is hard life; and both wages and salaries have stagnated for donkey years. Middle-class monopoly of domestic comfort has crumbled. In a society in which status is measured by money and the pressure for conspicuous consumption, nothing now remains as a distinctly secure status symbol.


People are terribly depressed. Even entertainment has become ruinous. What is more, sexual intercourse, that biological and social equalizer, is no longer safe to indulge in; even leisure-time wear has disappeared as a status symbol. The only resource remaining to the few who still wear the garb of middle class status is snobbery, and BDP politicians monopolise at it. In brief, an entire way of living is becoming obsolete, and the most reliable way of maintaining a separate style of existence, namely intellectual and cultural activity, is not to the taste of the middle class majority.

 

I want to argue that the malaise of the middle class is due to pauperization and the shifting in the structure of and function of the middle groups in Botswana society. It is a double malaise of those who have not adjusted readily to postcolonial modernity, social innovation, preponderant public corruption, and more significantly, those who have found no adequate and secure place for their talents because of bad policies and a weak and poorly directed educational system. All Batswana must unite to blame BDP for this rotten state of affairs.


The malaise of the workers, on the other hand, is due to economic hardship. I don’t think anyone can say there really are any affluent workers in our society. It would be even a more terrible exaggeration to say the majority of them are free from the struggle for elementary daily necessities and the fear of unemployment. Add to this the fear of old age, with its combination of poverty and emptiness and you truly come face to face with the wretchedness of the Botswana workers.

 

The very insecurity of their already low-paying jobs is a reflection of their social isolation. Botswana workers are pariahs of both economics and politics. They are totally ignored by business, industry and commerce, which supply their wants. The contracts between workers, and the largest employer, government, are so shabby they amount to patronizing attitudes BDP politicians typically reserve for prostitutes, and most private sector employers treat Batswana workers exactly the same way. The attitude is: you are selling your stupid body, not your labour value, so just take what I offer and shut that foul mouth!


This is how workers are treated by the BDP and friends in the private sector. In fact most institutions of the working-class world remain separate and created within it. Even movements from mixed street to single-class suburbs are a rarity. Townships in all cities and towns have intensified this class division in the last couple of years, and the 2008 depression has welded all those who live in their immediate shadow, in Gaborone, for instance, Old Naledi and Mogoditshane, even, Tlokweng, and parts of GamaLete, together into a grim bloc.

 

This partially explains why UDC made such swift gains in all areas around Gaborone in 2014. They are bound to do the same in 2019, and not only in Gaborone. Francistown, Lobatse and Selibe-Phikwe are going the same way. A new class consciousness and sense of exploitation on one side, and fear of an uncertain future, for both families and children, on the other, is being strongly felt throughout Botswana, more specially around urban centres, and it is not surprising Batswana are already waking up to the devastation brought into their lives and homes by an uncaring BDP in the last fifty years.

 

A collapsing education system and a shaking economy are increasingly confining workers and their children to their own world. Go to Tutume, Molepolole, Tswapong, and Bobonong, and you will find parents expostulating angrily against these things, and their children learning to weep for missed opportunities in life. It is a most sad picture. UDC can, and will, easily harvest twenty new constituencies in 2019 if they want to. I repeat, if they want to. Political organization is the only thing that now matters. Much of the mobilization has already been done for them by the BDP-through appalling political failure.


I find it hilariously cynical for BDP to recommend that business take over the task of filling the worker’s world. At this point in time? With the world economy doing so badly, and poverty refusing to slacken its grip on the national population? What’s really to diminish the constant collective battle against unemployment and want?

 

Does BDP really think it can absorb the strongest organ of working-class separatism, the labour movement, into its political routine this way? Isn’t this pure madness! Whatever they say and think about workers in their comfortable private homes, BDP must accept the reality their policies continue to treat workers as outsiders. I know they have tried to enmesh the labour movement in the web of business and government but this still remains, at best, a theoretical proposition.


The reality is that the labour movement, in alliance with UDC, already sees itself as an alternative government. All that remains is for UDC to demonstrate a political willingness to work with it, to adopt a modern and progressive ideology of labour, and the path to political victory is theirs for the taking. Workers will help it decampaign stupid and arrogant BDP loyalists from within government careerist structures; former permanent secretaries, directors, soldiers and many others. T

 

hey have already shown they can do this if they want to, and I think they do; badly. Truth of the matter is BDP treats the labour movement as children, bana ba goromente; as stupid old-style civil service associations. And this rankles, badly. Strike is always associated with unofficial action. Some handpicked labour leaders still regard calls for strikes as signs of rank-and-file revolt. Wage rises are still dependent on the whim of wickedly arrogant senior officials and politicians. Membership to workers unions is not even automatic. In fact there is a marked sagging in workers’ unions, a terrible trend in the face of increasing economic hardships.


This is not the time for the fires in the labour movement to flick out. Workers must be allowed to organise, mobilize and influence the public agenda of the political system; not simply depend on elegies by young intellectuals to survive. What is more serious is the fact Batswana must realize that rapid economic change has eroded, and continues to radically eat at, the foundation of the working-class as traditionally understood, that is the men and women who get their hands dirty at work, mainly in mines, factories, or working with or around engines.

 

It is hard to even talk seriously of industry these days in Botswana. Both manufacturing and commerce are stubbornly refusing to take off throughout the economy thanks to misguided BDP policies and administrative ineptitude. What we see is a slow movement of workers towards tertiary employments like distribution, transport and various services, and there worker mobilization is facing serious problems. Manual labour, always exploited, is declining within government and the private sector.

 

Out in rural Botswana there remains huge demand, mostly piecemeal and seasonal, for both men and women without any qualifications except strength and willingness and these people suffer terrible hardships. The tertiary sector is increasingly becoming a refuge for unqualified labour, particularly in self-service stores and supermarkets like Choppies, and these poor people remained largely ununionized.


Of late BDP has been calling for technical training, by which I hope they mean high specialization requiring a certain amount of training, intelligence, and above all, prior formal education; but for all we know they might be talking of bringing zombies in the fledgling labour market. Fact of the matter is professionals like engineers, chemists, and artisans have throughout history been the vanguard of the labour movement, effectively managing to bring labour right into parliament through strenuous struggles in countries like Britain. Labour must move out of government and organize as a force to contend with in the private sector where real struggles of workers begin and end.


We really have a long way to go in Botswana as far as the labour movement is concerned. UDC has a big role to play here. BDP government, with good reason, regards workers as enemies of the state. UDC must embrace them as colleagues in the struggle for freedom. This is a national duty. It is a crying scandal that our workers continue to face considerable disadvantage in intellectual and semi-intellectual regions.

 

This is not acceptable. There is a terrible anti-egalitarian bias in our education system. The children of workers are caught up in a vicious circle that gives them a worse chance of education, and progressively cuts down their capacities to benefit from what education is available. Education determines access to mostly highly paid wage-work, that is salaried posts, and indeed to most positions of social respect and authority.


Just how many kids and toddlers has BDP thrown off the education system still illiterate in the last ten years alone? Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. And these people are voters. All of them know they have deliberately been debarred from ambition. UDC must mobilize these poor citizens, people who in reality have lost their moral citizenship through political neglect.

 

The youth of this country have no future under the BDP government, and they now know this to be a fact. Many tell me so everywhere I go in the country. It is a sad story. These marginalized youths know that even their children will not do better than them in life; not if BDP remains in power. Like their mothers and fathers these children’s fate will be casually and carelessly determined before puberty.


They may expect better wages than their parents; forgive the optimism of youth and inexperience, but the reality is if they ever get good wages, even with low living costs, almost as soon as they leave school, marriage and their own children will in turn reduce their standard of living again. This has happened before, and it will happen again. It is a terrible circle.

 

Even the youths whose education has continued will not do much better. I am one of them. I know this for a fact. Nothing good ever lasts in this Godforsaken country, and it is BDP that has turned the country into a toxic dump. Born in this country you sign up for the badge of permanent social inferiority at a pretty young age, and this BDP calls democracy. It is the way to go. The best the country can ever do.


But is this what Batswana want? I don’t think so. I think we can do better. But first we must get the major national obstacle, BDP, out of the way. UDC has a lot of work to do. Intellectuals must also play their part. This social group is small, smart, and largely disinterested. They are distinct by their lack of involvement in management and government. For the most part engineers, lawyers, academics, writers, artists, priests and journalists, they lack traditional status.

 

These are the people who declared war on the BDP right from its birth. It is not necessary they focus their political dissidence in universities only. They must work with society, particularly workers, peasants, youths and alliance movements like UDC. Batswana must learn never to underestimate the capacity of brilliant men and women to radically effect change in society.


I don’t know how many people realize this but students in this country are already a political force to reckon with. Ignore them at your peril. The youth, another recognisable group, largely through their poverty and social exclusion from public life; and more than half the population of the entire nation, are the political market that will determine the 2019 electoral outcome.

 

Rapid and unprepared change in the general pattern of society has widened the divide between them as a generation and all other national social classes combined. They are angry, articulate and most want nothing but the ultimate prize: government. Who between UDC and BDP will win their political loyalty? Who between UDC and BDP has a political programme robust enough to carry their political aspirations? Who between the UDC and BDP has the political will to concretise their vision of tomorrow? Who between UDC and BDP can tame the passions of these roaring lions and lionesses?


In their brains this social group carries the fire of life, in their hearts the burden of hope, and in their hands that decisive factor, the voting card, and the future of this blighted country. My message to both organizations is simple. Ignore workers, the youth, students, and intellectuals at your own peril.


Novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo*, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London. He is author of the forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, and Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: abandonment and revolt.

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Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinions

The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED

 

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

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

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

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

CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION

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

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

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

THE BENASSIE FACTOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinions

Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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