It must be hard for the UDC+ to deflect charges of political failure, that is to say, past failures by opposition to take power from BDP, and redefine the political landscape of the nation. But that I hardly think is the issue now; not if you take Botswana politics seriously, the way I do. The opposition, it is quite true, has badly failed Botswana in the last fifty years.
The reasons for this failure are many and well known; resource constraints, petty squabbles, regional particularism, ideological idiosyncrasies, bad leadership in some of the partner organisations, lack of political commitment in some quarters of this huge political marquee, structural weaknesses within many past opposition formations, often meaningless political agendas, opportunism, sabotage by the BDP, infiltration by divisive elements; the reasons make for a long list, and interesting reading.
But all this I want to believe is now behind us. As a united front UDC made a sterling showing in the 2014 general election, and there is no telling what they could have achieved had the BCP deemed it their business to harness resources and their strong voice to other opposition parties and square the ruling party. But lost possibilities are not the subject of politics. My point is it would be a terrible mistake for Batswana to view this political grouping as just talk among a group of bad losers.
By the way, even talk of this kind among a group constitutes serious politics. Even talk among a hunting group in the bush constitutes politics. What really matters is how this talk always “feedsback” in some key way making for greater successes and possibilities of more good work in the future. Despise UDC+ at your own peril.
Laugh at them only if you are hundred per cent positive you have them at a terrible disadvantage, only if you are positive you can beat them decisively at the game they are playing; politics. As things stand, I don’t see many in the ruling party laughing right now. 2019 is a year to watch in our political calendar. The world of politics is not a known world, neither is it knowable. The expression anything can happen in politics should never be taken lightly.
Several things will decide the fortunes of UDC+ in 2019, and the political fate of the nation; its assumptions, origins and political significance in the national imagination. For the first time BDP cadres will have a straining, and frightfully exhausting, opportunity to engage in serious politics with rival political elites. This is one election in which considered judgement should direct the nation towards the imperial need for political legitimacy to be made.
The entrenched political monologue of the BDP should now become a thing of the past. 2019 offers Batswana a unique chance to renegotiate not only the contours of political power but also the rationale and policy direction of a new class hegemony. It is an election about the political rebirth of a nation. The desire for knowledgeable governance is in the air and we all can feel it. My own assumption is that the rise of UDC+ is a logical outcome of a unified approach to the study of national problems.
UDC+ offers the country the chance to remove from society the ludicrous standoffishness that has kept men and women of character and commitment to social justice apart in our civilization for fifty years. It offers them the chance to conveniently come together in search of solutions that are capable of contributing to the knowledge needed by the democratic polity to hedge desperate citizens against the endless troubles of the new millennium.
The danger, of course, is that energy may in turn be dissipated on a miscellany of merely topical issues. I hope UDC+ will avoid this treacherous path and in this they will need our support and guidance; the very thing I am doing right now, writing this article. If they do not listen, by all means, let us send them back to the sea where they come from. The fundamental, and often neglected, problems which arise in the adjustment of human beings in society must be addressed, thoroughly.
Postcolonial society cannot survive on a policy vacuum the way Botswana has been doing this past fifty years. It’s time the entire context of postcolonial significant events was made the springboard of all political action and policy choices. Politics should not and cannot be allowed to create more problems for our bewildered citizens.
There is urgent need to increase the knowledge necessary for the improvement of practical democracy; democracy must exist and thrive beyond the ballot box. It is time voting became just a singular day in a contiguous and self-informing march of democratic culture in society. Batswana must learn to live like educated democrats, to eat and drink democratic values and cultures.
As a political system democracy is a watchman. If you don’t pay it much attention it abandons you. Latch it to your heart and it will prosper, leash it to a rotten tree and it will die. We should struggle not only to protect the physical dignity of citizens but also the realization of human dignity in public policy and national politics. It is not democratic for Batswana to go out partying when the entire High Court bench is under political attack from a prodigal and reckless presidency.
It is not democratic for Batswana to go and dance polka in Khawa when Basarwa are dying of illiteracy, hunger and starvation. It is not democratic for Batswana to laugh at hopeless young people who are spawn into dangerous and loathsome streets every year-at a rate of more than eighty thousand per annum for a population of 1.2 million people-poorly educated, and facing no prospect of landing good jobs with good pay in their lives.
In a democratic society you do not differentiate between public duty and personal conscience, and if you err you always do so on the side of justice. This is what Martin Luther King taught us. This is what Nelson Mandela taught us. This is what Rosa Parks taught us. If we do not learn these things from our own black people who will be our teachers? I do believe the UDC+ wants to teach us these things. Most of these people have sacrificed lucrative careers in law and academia to pursue these democratic ideals.
Who are we to give them deaf ears? Who are we to turn our backs on them? Who are we to give them cold shoulders? Who are we to march in the opposite direction? UDC+ emerges in our country at a time when we are living in a world of an ever-deepening shadow. The threat to democratic values is real enough. If it does not come from climate change and political violence, it easily manifests in religious mania and terrorism, and worse, nuclear winter.
Under these circumstances it makes sense we use our far too limited intellectual resources for the defence and extension of our democratic values. UDC+ symbolizes a creative rearrangement of, and enlargement of, a political map that defines these problems as perceived by all concerned citizens.
Their political diversity is essential for one thing: the obliteration of lust for power just for its sake-a terrible disease in African politics. A united front is far better at dealing with the endless problems that plague us on a daily basis than a driven personality. We have had enough of this nonsense from the BDP. We cannot heal the polity by pandering to the egos of megalomaniac individuals.
Right now Botswana stands as an unsatisfactory social state. About this we all agree. The question is: what is to be done? How can we, as individuals, best fulfil the requirements of social cooperation in conditions of accelerating economic change and hardships? We all accept, I think, it is institutions, and not the moral and economic individualism of the BDP, that are the necessary conditions of satisfactory social coexistence.
The UDC+ we all can see is such a political institution; diverse, sophisticated and politically committed to social justice. It is an institution in which many diverse individuals and political cultures have come together so they can more effectively grasp how their actions will always involve the regulation of relationships with others, through one impartial instrument; professional collegial judgement in a coalition of equals. Could there be anything more beautiful than this, could there be any political machine more effective, no, more efficient, at running the affairs of a multicultural society in this most troubling moment in national history?
The UDC+ politician is defined by the relationships he has with others so that even an individual is a social system and not some wayward sovereign maverick. This is very important for party discipline and policy delivery. Is it any wonder opportunists and political adventurists are already decamping to the feeding bowl that is BDP? There is no room for corruption here, only selfless public service, and the greedy wolves are already running.Good riddance.
Let them go now when there is still time. But the gatekeepers, those who are totally and irrevocably committed, should not open the doors for a mass stampede; political education has never been more crucial. These people know not what they are doing. They need our help and guidance. Teach them and value their contributions. This is how I see the UDC+ as an outsider, as a political theorist. This is my understanding of this strategic alliance. I might be wrong about all these things.
But the role of a thinker is not to shy away from what his brain tells him. My duty is to debate these issues, not avoid them. I put them in the public domain with an intellectual purpose which is deliberate; perhaps to a certain fault, to test their validity. It’s not the most empirical way to do things. But my purpose is overtly political. This much is obvious to all readers. I am not going to pretend to any element of objectivity. The future of this country is at stake.
And our moral duty as scholars is to protect the country, not the sectional interests of individuals and political parties. If you disagree with me write your own political monograph-I just finished writing two on these very same issues. Meet me squarely in the republic of scholarship. I will answer to your charges pound for pound in the clinical way most profound.
One thing, however, still demands consideration: is it possible the UDC+ may be composed of just a patchwork of individuals and political parties held together by whatever thread appears to be appropriate to the circumstances of the moment? This, in fact, is my greatest fear; that Batswana may be unwittingly nurturing just another unprincipled political monstrosity.
Rarely is political activity a conscious human purpose. As I said, politics is almost always unknowable. There is no point in just playing one bunch of political elites against another if there is no real politics in such a game, if their interests are coterminous and mutually beneficial to the exclusion of all other interests.
It is critical that we carefully assess the emerging nature of our politics. This we must do before Election Day, 2019. We must learn to educate ourselves about the world we live in. It’s the only way to guard against political annihilation in modern society. Is UDC+ who they claim to be? Are they truly concerned with our national problems and the relationship of the BDP to these problems? Are they truly concerned with what the BDP does, and what it does not do, to further the health and wealth of the nation?
Do they have units involved in policy research and development to originate better ideas and policies to combat the problems that continue to bedevil our national life? Are they just a lobby group masquerading as a political movement? Are they just another pressure group for vested class interests? What kinds of policy arenas, fields, communities, and networks are they involved in? Are they genuinely seeking a fundamental alternative to the present government and its way of doing things? What political reality do they share as a political community?
Where do we, ordinary citizens, fit within this vexing political reality? Is this reality problematic enough to effect a radical change in society and affect the lives of citizens positively in the long term? What are the ties that hold these disparate political parties as a political group, and how durable are these ties? How are they going to deal with the problems of convergence and shifting class loyalties when they get into political office?
If UDC+ cannot answer these questions then they have no business in national politics. Politics, we all understand, is human imagination. It involves experiments in thought. Surely these suave men and women should know what they are about? Above everything else politics is self-education. They must know this country well. They must know our problems as a nation. They must have a plan for the future. They must mean business. But do they really know these things? Do they really care?
This is what I mean when I say UDC+ still has a lot of work to do if they are to rally the entire nation behind them and carry the vote in the next election. I am not trying to teach them their business. But if they need my vote they must answer my questions. No Motswana, I am sure, expects less from them.
Teedzani Thapelo* is former Research Associate at the Centre for Economic Policy in Southern Africa, Distinguished Africa Guest Researcher at Nordic Africa Institute, Economic History Lecturer at the University of Botswana, and author of the bestselling three-part series Botswana epic novel, Seasons of Thunder, Vol.1. 11 and 111
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.