The beginning of a new year is generally a time of reflection and resolution making. Usually, resolutions are about changing negative behaviors, adopting positive ones, achieving goals, etc. many of us have already drawn up our resolutions for the year ahead – mapping out all that we want to achieve this year. But while drawing up our resolutions this year, how many of us thought to include the following resolution – “this year I pledge to be a better road user – not only to protect myself but the lives of other road users on our roads?”
I know its probably not one of the most exciting new year's resolution to take this year but think about this, if your life is ruined by a road crash, if you are seriously injured, disabled or even killed then how will you tick off all the other resolutions this year? This year, as Society of road safety ambassadors (SORSA), we pledge towards reaching citizens across the country, both young and old in a bid to not only drive awareness around responsible road behavior but to use this awareness to drive change on our roads. ).
We are also committed to looking at partnering with the government, private sector and church, to ensure we can drive broader awareness and continued focus on creating safer roads for all. Reflecting upon the past year, I am most struck about the number of road crashes we had. The news and social media has been awash with reports of such road crashes across our roads in Botswana. Last time I checked, we had already lost 446 lives on the road as of end of year; an increase from the 2015 figures of 411 fatalities and 377 fatalities in 2014.
This increase in number of fatalities is a tragedy. After achieving the lowest fatalities on record in 2015 and 2014, we have now seen increases for two years in a row. (The 2016 road crash fatality statistics are preliminary at this stage and may change as a result of police investigations. The final statistics will be able to be confirmed later in the year.).
Mind you, It’s not about the numbers, it’s about individual people – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, neighbors, colleagues and friends, who needlessly lose their lives, creating a lifetime of sorrow and grieving for those left behind. I extend my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered life changing injuries. Every death is tragic and will have brought enormous suffering to families, friends and communities.
It’s a fact that some families and communities across Botswana are starting a new year coping with the loss of loved ones killed in road accidents. For others involved in serious collisions, it can mean coping with life changing injuries requiring substantial medical care which can be very costly. They sometimes lose limbs and are often left with chronic pain, impaired mobility, and a reduced ability to function independently. This maiming can have a huge negative impact on one’s quality of life and well-being- both physically and mentally. Crash victims can experience anxiety, sleeplessness, post-traumatic stress, difficulty maintaining relationships, etc.
While we watch heartbreaking stories of people losing their precious lives, hoping it never involves our own families It’s time to make that New Year resolution to improve our driving. Those statistics have shown, once again, that we all need to pledge towards being more responsible road users to address this. Yes, an opportunity is looming to turn those statistics around by making a New Year resolution about our driving patterns and playing a personal part in helping to reduce this road trauma.
This just the right time to make changes for the better and some simple shifts in your driving that could make a huge difference to you and those around you. Making the roads a safer and less stressful place could be the easiest resolution you can make – and keep. The following bad habits should be left off: Driving too close to other vehicles, skipping the red light, driving too slowly, driving too fast, using the road under the influence of drugs and alcohol, road rage and driving without a license.
In my opinion, the problematic behavior at the root of most of these issues is the same one- a lack of obedience and empathy and that is something that must be tackled head on, by all Batswana. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand the feelings of another; to put yourself in another person’s shoes, so to speak. Empathy and obedience are key to a healthy and well functioning society- otherwise chaos and strife will rule.
Sadly, it is clear in which direction the pendulum has swung in Botswana today.Road safety- or the lack thereof- is one clear illustration of this lack of obedience and empathy. When one drives recklessly, at an excessive speed, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are endangering not just themselves but everyone in their path- passengers in their vehicle, pedestrians, bicyclists, and all others on the road.
The killing of otherwise healthy people by drunk and reckless drivers is a blow to society as well as their families. Statistics show that the majority of traffic fatalities are working-age individuals. These individuals are often key salary earners and contributors to their families, and their untimely deaths represent a substantial loss to the economy.
Cultivating greater empathy for one another needs to be at the forefront of all efforts. Every driver needs to think about other road users as people with lives and loved ones, dreams and goals just like them, not just someone “in their way” or to be outrun. They need to realize that driving recklessly or when impaired has seriously consequences. Stiff penalties can play a key role in deterrence. Young people need serious drivers’ education and corrupt practices such as the purchasing of licenses, must be eliminated.
Peer pressure/support also has a crucial role to play in behavior change. Relationships with people who are supportive of behavior change, and who can suggest alternatives and reinforce positive change are essential. It is not necessary to consume alcohol or drugs in order to have fun. Friends and family members should pay attention to the behavior of their loved ones, and be alert to signs of alcohol/drug abuse or impairment.
Just a little bit of planning ahead- deciding on a designated driver, or putting aside money for taxi fare- can mean the difference between life and death. In terms of speeding, passengers in public transportation must not be afraid to raise their voices and concerns to the drivers of the vehicles. Statistics also shows that most traffic fatalities are pedestrians. This is where empathy comes into play again. Going slower and sharing the road with others can only add years to one’s life; impaired and reckless driving is a sure recipe for disaster.
This carnage on our roads can be contained. The change starts with each of us. We are all road users. Let us all therefore commit to playing our part on the road to zero road deaths. Note- I am deliberately not using the term ‘accident’ to describe these deaths. An accident is something that happens without warning, unexpectedly. Things that can be prevented are not accidents. The lives snuffed out due to reckless and impaired driving are loses that could have been prevented, not ‘accidental’ deaths.
Therefore this new year, let us resolve to be more responsible and safer drivers. Let’s stop accepting death and serious injury as just part and parcel of using our roads. We need to work together – the NGOs, government, the community, police and businesses and importantly every road user to reduce the number of deaths on our roads. Parents have a very significant role to play in helping their children to stay safe on the road. The best possible advice for any parent is to be a good role model.
Don’t be the parent to take that quick phone call when driving or to have a couple drinks before getting behind the wheel. How you drive as a parent will set the standard for the young upcoming drivers. The Police need more breathalysers and radar guns to apprehend speeders and drunk drivers. They also need to stop taking bribes to look the other way and let perpetrators go free.
There needs to be better enforcement and consistent application of the law, with all law breakers being equally penalized, instead of different standards for those with more economic, social, or political power. Official flouting of the laws- by Police as well as other ‘big ones’ in society- are a massive part of the problem for their behaviour sends a message to others that these crimes are not serious and that they too can act with impunity.
As citizens, we need to call for greater accountability and better service from all the public officials who, as servants of the people, are mandated to protect and serve all equally. Increased lighting and other physical safety measures must also be implemented, drivers better educated, and bars and other establishments selling alcohol engaged in the campaign.
We have to avoid another year tarnished by road trauma and together we can do this starting with early by making a pledge to be quality road users this year. This new year, let us resolve to cultivate more obedience and empathy for others, especially those sharing the roads with us. Let us resolve to be more responsible and safer drivers. This, along with greater accountability and proper, fair implementation of the laws is key to improving road safety in Botswana.
Together we can all play our part in radically reducing the road toll and making 2017 a year to remember for all the right safe reasons. With that said – how will YOU contribute towards safer roads this year?
Maatla Otsogile is Coordinator – Society of road safety ambassadors Email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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.