Water security is a critical national responsibility and is possible if we effectively on large scale harvest storm water and safely store it; if we build properly designed deep dams; if we use excess water for artificially recharging our underground aquifers and if we meaningfully reuse our used water.
The talk of using used water (waste water) has been on going for more than a decade and still there is no visible action on the ground. Some visionary young leader once said, ‘we can do better, much better’ and we can. Without water security our industrial base will remain stagnant, our agriculture and food production will not take root, manufacturing industries will remain poor and our economy will not thrive beyond mediocre levels.
Last week I asked a question; is it really impossible to find more dam sites in Botswana. This was after reading a report in one of the local papers stating that we have exhausted all dam sites in Botswana and that we can no longer aspire to build any more dam in Botswana. I was moved to challenge that assertion as I believe that it is possible to build more dams in Botswana. I am sorry to say that the problem is that some of our experts are lazy thinkers who are not able to challenge the status quo and explore innovative alternatives and advice the ministry appropriately.
I challenged the minister and his ministry to ask more difficult questions and demand solutions for our water woes. I wrote before that I do not think we should be wasting our resources bringing water all the way from Lesotho highlands and the Chobe River to Gaborone. These are solutions for lazy minds. Such solutions have far reaching long-term negative environmental and ecological impacts that must be carefully considered before any such action is taken.
Equally they will also have long term underlying negative economic impacts in that when such systems fail they will inevitably, immediately and significantly affect the whole economy. I maintain that we must find local water for local use; it is possible; we are only limited by our lack of imagination, our lack of innovative thinking and our lack of long term foresight and planning.
I received a lot of feedback locally and internationally that encouraged me to write again on this subject. The feedback says yes it is possible; we can have local water sources and infrastructure that will meet all our water needs locally and nationally. They tell me we have done some work in Botswana and we can build deeper dams, we can harness storm water; we can recharge aquifers and we can make water security a reality in Botswana.
We do not even need government funding, they tell me. We can find investors to help with the designing, the building, the operating and the maintaining of these facilities provided we have a regulator who will ensure that the investment is paid back over time.
This is the feedback I am getting from industry and the real experts in the field of water engineering out there. I used to run water workshops where we gathered experts from all over the world to deliberate on our water challenges and possible solutions, I know we have practical solutions; we just lack the implementation nerve centre.
I am told studies have been done specifically around Gaborone on storm water harvesting. The result is that with our average rainfall storm water from the built areas is more than enough to fill the Gaborone dam leaving excess water that could be used to artificially recharge nearby underground aquifers. The underground water could then be used when our dam levels go down during dry seasons.
I am reliably told that the topography around Lobatse, Moshupa, Kanye areas could be used for building big and deep dams that could feed the whole of the southern regions including farming in the area. I am also reliably told that it is not true that all our underground rocks are porous; yes we have some porous rocks but if you go deeper you will find beautiful granite rocks in some areas that are impermeable which rocks could be used as a base for our deep dams. With modern technology it is not difficult to establish where these underlying granite rocks are and what need to be done to use these underground rocks as basement for building our dams.
If we aspire to be ‘an innovative, productive and prosperous nation’ as espoused by our 2016 national vision, we must as a minimum have adequate water to meet all our developmental needs. We need water to produce enough food for the country and export. We need an agricultural and food processing revolution in this country that will help feed the continent.
This can only happen if we identify local water sources that will meet local agricultural needs. We will need milk production and processing, grain production and processing, horticultural produce and processing, meat products and processing; all these must be done with the mind to meet local as well as continentally and international needs. Storm water harvesting, building local dams (not stopping rivers from flowing) and finding underground aquifers that we can artificially recharge with excess storm and dam water are clear solutions.
Can we be an aspirant innovative, productive and prosperous nation, without the manufacturing industry? Who will come to invest in setting up manufacturing industries here if we have no water security? Forget about the fact that we are land locked; forget about the fact that we have a small population; the world over is our market place. All we need is to have a competitive environment for business to prosper and flourish.
We have Chinese goods all over the world, why can’t we aspire to have our goods all over the world too? We have lots of advantages in this country that should attract any business. We have international good will that we seem to be slowly mortgaging away due to our unfriendly immigration processes, growing corruption and some of our unethical and slow business processes.
We must ensure that we do not continue to lose our sparkle, the sparkle that came with our diamonds and our people. We must build the requisite infrastructure to attract the best entrepreneurs internationally, but we ought to start with the basic infrastructure for water security, energy security as well as a world class health and educational infrastructure, with not only adequate world class facilities but world class staffing at all levels.
The government seems to be painfully slow in taking advantage of available opportunities. There is always a lot of talk with very little action on the ground. Nevertheless, the ministry must go back to the drawing board as regard water security in the country and find new ways of getting things done. They should gather local and international experts on water but must be prepared to be criticised for sloppiness must and be willing to charter a new course for delivery of a practical water security system within ten years.
We are fortunate that we are not talking about breaking new grounds; we are talking about things that are already regionally and internationally available. We just need political will and the nerve to make things happen and happen fast.
I must remind the reader that this article together with the previous one was provoked by a story in one of the local papers that stated that a water expert has confirmed the assertion by the Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Affairs that we have exhausted all the dam sites and that the last dam was the Dikgatlhong dam which the minister described as the largest evaporation pan.
This touched a raw nerve. I therefore publicly challenged that assertion with the hope that something good will emerge out of this discourse. I trust that the minister and ministry will not take this personally but will use it to challenge the relevant authorities to relook at the current water strategies. Let us wear our thinking hats for the sake of developing this, our beautiful land.
Unfortunately like I said last week, we do not have dams already designed and built for us by God. He has given the rain, the rivers, the brains and the resources in abundance to design and build our own water systems. ‘A man shall live by the sweat of his brow’, we must knuckle down just like those in the developed world did to develop their countries.
We must counter our physical limitations with renewed determination. We must not allow fear of the unknown to hinder our innovativeness and creativity. As a nation we must not shy away from challenging the minister, government, our engineers and hydro geologists to think differently. Our topography and the porosity of certain rocks will not change, but we can change and do things differently.
In conclusion let us accept that we can design and built new deeper dams that have more capacity with minimum surface area for reduced evaporative losses. Let us design systems to harvest storm water to fill our dams rather than allow the water to go away to feed the ‘flooding’ seas. We must find more aquifers and artificially recharge them. We must start seeing used water as a new source of water. We must believe that if others can do it we can surely do it and even do it better.
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.