Every man has a right to fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs. You might be a voter, a politician, or just a nobody – as some seem to think the rest of us are- but fight you must! I have been observing, for quite a number of years now, how voters and politicians fight for what they believe they are rightfully entitled to, a good salary and impressive conditions of service and living.
What bothers me though, is that, hard as the voter must fight, s/he is always, at the back of her/his mind, hoping that someone else will be backing their fight. I have just about given up on anyone backing my fight or any voter’s fight for that matter. Just recently, I think as recent as 2014, salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament were increased, and I mean massive increase. I am writing this as a “voter”, and a Motswana in Botswana. I am writing this as a man who fights to nurture democracy with his vote, though not enough, it is something.
This vote can either be for the ruling party or for those who oppose; who I vote for is not important in the interest of this article. What is important is my belief that politicians are there to represent the interests of those who voted for them, and of course, in the broader interest of the “country”. You see, the “country” is more important than the voter and the politician and even more important than the self.
There are about two (2) million Batswana. Out of this two (2) million Batswana, pardon me for I do not have the statistics, I can maybe say a million or so are humble men and women who are capable of making choices. Some have made choices I cannot mention here, but there is only a few of those. These men and women have made choices, and humble as Batswana are, I can maybe say the majority of them made those choices in the interest of the “country”.
Some have made choices to serve the “country” as servants of the public (the Public Service) and are under the indirect control of politicians; nothing bad or wrong with that, at least in as far as this write-up is concerned. Some have made choices to serve the public in an indirect manner (the Private Sector). I am not mentioning the Parastatals, as they are public service officers anyway, the only difference between them and the direct public service is the salaries and other pecks that go with having been employed there.
Now, we have some who chose to serve the public as politicians; I have just recently learnt that they are not considered public service officers, though mostly they behave as such. All of these environments (the Public Service, the Private Sector and Politics) under which we have made choices to serve are pretty hostile, that is, in comparison with other countries which we can reasonably compare with. Politicians are the peoples’ representatives and as such are elected, “not hired” (otherwise we (the voters) will “fire” them, even before they complete their term(s))).
They, like the rest of us, have made a deliberate choice to serve their country in that capacity. Like the rest of us, they were not forced. Now it bothers me that they have made the “self” part of their mandate. When they stood for election it was never part of their manifesto to represent the “self”. The recent increase in their salaries and the continued justification for such really boggles my mind; it is all about the self, as oppossed to being about the voter and the country. Is it real, I ask myself, that a man, or woman makes a deliberate choice, fully knowing the conditions under which they are going to serve and, without negotiating with the “boss” (the voter), changes those conditions. Is the voters’ conditions of service and living not imperative anymore, as promised prior to elections?
I want to, as a voter, look through some of the justifications for the massive salaries and allowances increases our representatives put forth.These were carried in some newspaper a some months bak. Justification 1: Some politicians become destitutes after their term of office expires and they are not re-elected
Should this be the tax payer’s problem? If you had watched the movie “Where were you when the lights went out?”, then you already have the answer. First, there is something called “investment”. Our politicians, like the rest of us, must invest their meager earnings, in other words, “make hay while the sun shines”, unless our politicians beleive the sun will shine forever; and for a while it did seem so. This justification on its own should shed light on the kind of people our politicians are.
How does one lead people, in these present times of hardship, and not invest for the future? I believe leaders are in a way like teachers; the rest of the people look up to them for guidance. Now, if our leaders cannot advise themselves … it tells a different story. Should the tax payer be burdened with politicians who fail to invest while they made deliberate choices to enter politics? If politicians believe higher salaries guarantee a life out of destitution after leaving office, then why do they not extend the benefit to the rest of us poor souls who have made choices bereft of self enrichment? If our politicians believe heftier salaries are a guarantee to a life of grandeur after political office, then they are in for a pretty nasty surprise. It is simple Mathematics actually.
If you do not invest while you can, no matter how much money you pump out of the system, you will still be a destitute after office. The advise to our leaders is to start investing now and those who do not know how to invest or what investment is are surely in the wrong place for we need leaders who are wise enough to invest or at least know what investment is so that they can advise us. A high salary is not the answer, it is simple looting of the public coffers, period.
One interesting observation is that politicians are the ones charged with ensuring that there is life after retirement, for every Motswana, not destitution. In other words they are charged with making sure that there are good investment opportunities for the masses and of course themselves. If they cannot coordinate such, then they are in the wrong place and the rest of us poor folks will be left in limbo.
Justification 2: Some politicians work for “Ipelegeng” after their term of office expires and they are not re-elected. Uhu! So Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people? I have all along thought, though not necessarily approving of it, that it was for all Batswana who cannot find reliable and gainful forms of employment. Why should a man who does not know how to invest not work for Ipelegeng? If Ipelegeng is for a certain group of people, then I think those who occupy political office for five years, and even more, and end up destitute belong there.
So, stop worrying, at least you will have a job, or the semblance of one, and start putting aside P50-00 of the P600-00 or so aside for when Ipelegeng ceases, as at least you have learnt a lesson. And remember, politicians are the ones responsible for ensuring good investment opportunities and a comfortable life after retirement. If they cannot work for Ipelegeng, who do they expect to?
Justification 3: Politicians should be paid hefty salaries and allowances beacuse they offer us a clean environment. This is the sentiment of one Councillor in Mochudi. Uhu! Pardon me for having thought that that is part of a politician’s job, providing a clean environment that is. And then again, that might be happening in Mochudi, and I have not been there for quite some time, maybe they have improved. In Selibe-Phikwe at least I know people live with their refuse, what with the dogs, donkeys and cattle opening the gates and tipping over refuse bins while foraging for a meal. Please extend such services to Selibe-Phikwe dear Councillor.
Justification 4: Politicians in other countries are paid handsomely. Now, now, now! Just what countries are we comparing ourselves with? Corrupt countries where politicians loot public coffers? And did our politicians look at other non-political officers’ remuneration, while they were at it? Or did they just look at theirs? I wonder. Why is it that we are so fond of wanting to adopt bad practices. I am confident the countries our politicians are comparing their salaries to offer very unfriendly salaries to the rest of the populace. Why can’t our politicians maybe compare our country with countries like Singapore. In Singapore the Government ensures or at least strives to ensure that; they find jobs for their people
they put a roof over their peoples’ heads (Singapore has one of the world’s highest home ownership at 90-%; we do not see that in Botswana) they raised the GDP from $500 in 1965 to $6500 in 2015 and much, much more .I think our politicians should strive to achieve for us what we yearn for mostly; good jobs, good working conditions, good salaries, affordable housing, affordable medical aid, affordable investment and business opportunities, the list is endless. With a happy people, our politicians can then go ahead and reward themselves, maybe no one will notice, or if they do, they might not think it a bad idea. Go ahead, make us happy, give us good salaries, give us good housing, avail the land, the list is endless; and no one will complain.
Justification 5: Politicians use their money to champion democracy My my my!…pardon me for thinking politicians made deliberate decisions to be politicians. And again I am wondering, why regret such a grand contribution; promoting democracy; and why should anyone complain or want to be paid for doing good? Let me remind our politicians that they are not the only ones championing democracy, or maybe they only think the others only jump onto the wagon when we “celebrate our democracy (vote)”.
No! If you remember our first President’s words “Democracy, like a little plant, does not grow or develop on its own. It must be nursed and nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. It must be believed in and practiced if it is to be appreciated. And it must be fought for and defended if it is to survive”…Sir Seretse Khama…opening of the 5th session of Parliament in 1978. No need to simplify that.
If our politicians want to stake a claim to nurturing democracy at the exclusion of all the others, then we have another think coming. Why, in the name of God would you want to exclude us? The Public Service, the Private Sector and all the other informal sectors out there contributing to championing democracy. Let us have respect for each other and not justify looting of public coffers, in the name of promoting democracy. This country belongs to all of us and each of us, in their own little way, contributes to nurturing our democracy.
The list of justifications is so enormous it cannot be covered in one article, and actually does not need to be. One just needs to look at all these justifications to find just what kind of people we are burdened with. Why should we trust someone who cannot take care of his/herself, to take care of us? Why should we trust people who think they are better than us? Why should we trust people who think they are the only ones responsible for protecting and nurturing our democracy? I think it is time Batswana woke up from their slumber and start advocating for their place in Botswana’ democracy.
Yes we will always have politicians, but we need politicians who will take care of us, not those who think they are better than or deserve better than us. We need politicians who will remove the “self” from serving the people. And yes, we need a strong and vibrant civil society that will keep the politicians in check. Left to themselves, as is the case in Botswana…bad recipe. So Batswana, let us not only “celebrate our democracy (vote)”, let us live it, every day of our lives. Nurturing democracy is every Motswana’s right and responsibility.
Now, the Weekendpost of Saturday 10 – 16 December, 2016 carries another story where MP L. Kablay of Letlhakane/Lephephe is advocating for another salary increase and other special incentives such as constituency vehicles and the like. He is reported to have said that democracy is expensive to justify the demands. Yes, “democracy is expensive, very, very expensive,” but it should not be “wasteful”. Again, democracy is not like beauty, “it does not lie in the eyes of the beholder”, it belongs to the masses. Ao! Ba gaetsho! In the midst of massive job losses.
Nnyaa the betsho. Let us, before we think of ourselves, think of the multitudes of BCL miners and other such who have just lost their jobs. These are people who work theirselves out in very unfavourable and mostly unsafe environments. These are people who dug out copper to make Selibe-Phikwe what it is today, trusting that someone will sell that copper so that they continue surviving…for ours is survival, not living. Let us think of the masses who cannot find jobs and still others who are under-employed. Please, ladies and gentlemen, halt the cry for bigger salaries and think of these people.
You must be in Selibe-Phikwe to appreciate the sad, harsh and inhuman reality we see everyday, where the former miners congregate by Area two gates in this simmering heat, supposedly waiting for “change” from their very little terminal benefits. The situation is tantamount to parading these desperate miners for all to see. Please, please, let us think of these poor souls who are guaranteed a future without jobs, who are guaranteed a futureless future. At the very least, let us excise a little conscience of humanity. And please, remember, you made a deliberate choice to be representatives of the people, please do that. Is there any difficulty in that?
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.