As a parent and as a citizen I would like to add my voice through my pen to the many voices that have fittingly been so loud as a result of the anger that has engulfed the nation following the sad news that councillor Amon Kemmonye of Sebina has impregnated a minor; a 16 year old school going child in his constituency. The councillor whose job among others should be to raise social awareness on issues of child abuse, HIV and aids, social indiscipline, importance of education and respect of the law.
This is indeed sad, especially when this is accompanied by rumours of efforts to ‘bury the evidence’ by committing further life threatening acts of criminality (abortion) in complicity with the area MP and assistant minister of education. We are told that some investigations are on going to establish the authenticity of the purported incriminating conversation between the councillor and the area MP.
Whether such rumours are true or not, the gravity of the ‘Sebina Saga’ is very serious as it involves a leader and law maker. The very people, who should be fighting this kind of behaviour, is a perpetrator and an accomplice of this evil deed. It is also sad that the political leadership have adopted a happy-go-lucky attitude and failed to take a timely and decisive action to appropriately punish the councillor and MP for this national embarrassment. Having said this, we however need to broaden this anger, this debate and seek to find lasting solutions against child abuse going forward.
As a nation we have been failing our children for many years. We should all be ashamed of ourselves for having allowed such despicable situations to continue year on year under our watch without taking any decisive action as a nation. When we record 407 children from primary to secondary school dropping out of school due to pregnancy in one year, this must assume status of a national disaster demanding a fitting response from the authorities. These are children between 7 and 18 years old whose lives have been permanently impaired.
They will be many more such children who have been violated and abused and whose lives have been ruined for ever; there are those children who did not fall pregnant but could possibly have been infected with the dreaded HIV virus; those children who have failed as a result of this abusive behaviour by adults. We should be concerned not only about the Sebina Saga, Amon Kemmonye and the 407 students but we should be concerned about all the other children who have been violated over many years before. Concerted efforts should be mounted to bring the culprits to account one way or the other and we must enact biting laws that will curb recurrence of such acts.
The ‘women and men against children sexual abuse’ and the ‘hatch tag we shall not forget’ movement have mounted a spirited and admirable campaign to conscientise the nation about child sexual abuse by adults and to mount pressure on the authorities to act boldly without fear or favour against Amon Kemmonye and Fedilis Molao the area member of parliament and assistant minister of education who is accused of having conspired with the councillor to ‘bury the evidence’. While I accept that the truth about the involvement of the area Member of Parliament must be established, the minister must vacate his position voluntarily or must be suspended pending conclusion of the investigations surrounding his involvement. As for the councillor he must resign or summarily be fired.
Yes, it is good and commendable to have ‘the women and men against children sexual abuse’ and ‘hatch tag we shall not forget’ movement demonstrating and demanding answers mainly due to failure by government to take appropriate action. The burning question is how do we solve sexual abuse and defilement of our children? I believe there are many fronts from where we should stand and fight for our children. The immediate ones that come to mind are the following;
The government has full responsibility of safe guarding the safety and well being of the nation. The buck stops with the government of the day. The government through parliament is responsible for enacting laws that should protect our children. The sexual abuse offence perpetrated by an adult on a child should be clearly defined by the law. The definition of a child should also be clearly defined by the law. We seem to have laws that are incoherent and incomprehensive in terms of what the definition of a child is.
The age of consent is said to be 16; the age at which a child can vote and work is 18; the age at which a child can marry is 21. Normally children are at school until the age of 18 before they go for tertiary education or seek employment opportunities. At 18 years the child can work, the child can vote, the child can consent but the child cannot marry?? What does the age of consent then mean? To me it must means the age a child is graduating from childhood to adulthood and must now be held accountable for her or his actions and can thus be prosecuted for wrong doing. Further, the age of consent by definition must mean the child has graduated from childhood and can therefore marry and have a family of her own.
Once we have a clear definition of what a child, we must then have a clear definition of what a child can and cannot do from a legal point of view. The child is not a woman or a man and therefore they should not engage in sexual activities. Sex must be taboo for children. Any adult who engages in sexual activity with a child must be severely punished by the law. Such laws must come from parliament and must be stringent. The ruling party has the majority in parliament and can pass any law any time. Therefore those who say the Sebina Saga is not political and should not be politicised are mistaken. This is a problem that requires political intervention and political oversight from government in general and ministry of education in particular. We must demand accountability from our government whom we have entrusted to make laws to protect us and our children.
The role of the parents
The parents have a supreme parental role to play and guide the children on matters of sexuality and how they should protect themselves against possible paedophiles. This will come only if parents can openly discuss issues of sexuality with their children. Our culture here needs to be challenged. The children must be conformable to talk to their parents on issues of sexuality especially if anything that looks or feels like sexual advance is made by the opposite sex. Our culture that says we cannot discuss sexual matters with our children is no longer relevant in this day and age of television and social media. We have to empower our children more to counter the negative impacts of television, social media and the ‘sick’ people in our society.
The role of the community
The community must be drilled through Kgotla meetings and social gathering that children are children and should be treated as such. They cannot be treated as women or men.
The old culture that used to exist in our country where a child was a child of all the adult community members must be restored for the sake of our children and our dignity as a nation. Our culture here must be upheld and enhanced. We used to have traditional schools for girls and boys. These traditional schools were for children graduating from childhood to adulthood. The children used to spend time in the bush with the adults being drilled on what adulthood mean. These schools were called ‘bojale’ and ‘bogwera’ for girls and boys respectfully. Some tribes still practice these very important rituals but they have lost their original meaning in many respects. This is the culture that we should modernise to take into account legal and health issues, practise it and possibly sell it to the world as a national product.
The role of schools
This is where our children spend most of their time. The teachers have perhaps the biggest influence on our children, in many cases more influence than that of their parents.
Most of our children have deep respect for their teachers, so our teachers are role models of our children. They must be moral upright and endevour to teach our children not only book knowledge but life skills and moral education. Our teachers must be empowered and incentivised to be more than just classroom teachers. Many children if not all hold teachers in the highest esteem, I still do even after many years. Hence the behaviour of teachers is very important as it could influence our children positively or negatively.
The school environment should be used to mould our children into God fearing, moral upright and responsible people who are being groomed for future leadership that will not only take our country to higher levels of prosperity put also to higher pedestals internationally.
In conclusion we must use the Sebina Saga to concientise our people young and old, our politicians of all colours and persuasions that the status quo must be reversed immediately. We need to use this sad saga to come out better as a nation. Parliament and government must lead the way by immediately coming up with appropriate legislation to protect our children.
As a nation we need to revisit our cultures and modernise what we can to cement who we real are as a nation. As we prepare to celebrate our 50 years of self rule we must seek to define what we have collectively achieved as a nation. What have we, as Batswana done to build a Botswana brand? What is it that we are proud of that we can call our very own? Our cultures have unique components that we can build on to protect our children and be proud.
As for Amon, he must go immediately. This gesture although belated would be a fitting apology to the nation; otherwise he will continue to embarrass himself and his party. As for Fedilis, he must do the honourable thing and resign or be suspended; otherwise he will be an ineffective minister devoid of any respect associated with that office.
E mail; HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel; 71751440
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.