It's one of those things we'd like to pretend don't exist. We'd rather not talk about it because it exposes our hypocrisy and shows us the ugliness of our character we'd rather pretend doesn't exist. Unfortunate as that is, humanly speaking, I guess it's understandable. Every person thinks themselves perfect, despite knowing the opposite to be the case. It's human to feign goodness or uprightness.
Even the glaringly morally degenerate protest their innocence, claiming to be misunderstood. My subject matter this week has a long history. In fact, for those who are Bible readers and Bible believers, you'll realize that the subject at hand goes back to just a generation after the Garden of Eden. Yes, it's that old! I'm of course referring to envy and jealousy.
You see, the first instance of envy ever recorded was in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. That is the very first time we see the manifestation of this vice and its ugly consequences when left unchecked. Envy is found in almost every sphere of life. But it tends to read its ugly head particularly in the arena of possessions and wealth.
For instance look at Genesis 26:12-15. It describes Isaac's accumulated wealth and how his neighbors – the Philistines – "envied him." Isaac's possessions are mentioned three times, so we know he had a lot of stuff. This is interesting because the Philistines certainly weren't poor by any means, but they still envied what Isaac had.
You can have a lot and still be jealous. To be fair, though, it's easy to want just a little bit more than we already have whether you're well off or have very little. I've seen established Pastors driving German sedans envious and intimidated by young upstarts still footing it or driving third-hand Japanese imports! Not only can we envy someone else's possessions, but also their power. In the Book of Numbers, we find that Miriam and Aaron were envious of Moses' power and position among the people so they began to criticize him along with his family (Numbers 12:1). We also see that the tribe of Korah fell into the same trap (Numbers 16:1).
In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we read story after story of kings who usurped the power of other kings, often by criminal and traitorous acts; only to have the same things happen to them once they reached the pinnacle of power. History is littered with the ruins of nations whose leaders, motivated by jealousy and envy, led them to war. I believe that – from a purely human motivation – jealousy and envy were the main reasons the Jews had a part in the crucifixion of Jesus and, later on, the reason they persecuted his apostles (Acts 7:54-8:1).
They feared that their own power was eroding. This is still true even today, sad to say. It is disconcerting and disheartening to see Pastors at each others' throats, covertly or overtly, simply because of envy. I'm not bashing Pastors. After all, I'm one of them and I have a very high regard and respect for them. However, the envy that exists amongst them is highly toxic and very destructive.
Out of envy, Pastors connive and conspire against each other daily. Some go out of their way to sabotage each other, frame each other, and plot against the downfall of one another. They gather with another Pastor as their main agenda. Dare I say, some fast and pray to see each other fall! How sad! How shameful! But why? I'll tell you why. It's nothing but the same thing politicians grapple with – Power. Power circles can be a breeding ground for jealousy in the political and business world.
Sadly, the Church is not exempt. Whose Church is biggest? Who's getting the most media attention? Who has the largest staff or the most members? Who has the best conferences? Who invites the best speakers? Who drives the best car? Who has the nicest building? Who preaches better? Who prophesies better? Who has the most influential and affluent members of society? These are the things Pastors fight over. These are the seedlings of envy that persistently plague the Church and retard its effectiveness.
These are the maladies that continue to ensure that the Church is worldly and carnal. These are the reasons why unity, much talked about as it is whenever Pastors meet, can never happen. Then there is the arena of performance. If there is a circle where Christians are most vulnerable, this is high on the list – individually and corporately. Remember the story in the Old Testament regarding Saul and David? David became the young hero in Israel after he defeated the Philistine bully, Goliath. Jealousy and envy began to grow in Saul's heart as he saw the hearts of Israel go out to David, especially the womenfolk as they started to sing songs of adulation in David's honor.
Women will always get you in trouble, son! Believe you me, sometimes Pastors fight over women – women who are not even their wives! But I digress. Saul spent the rest of his life trying to eliminate the object of his jealousy, tracking David all over the Judean wilderness trying to kill him. He remained a captive to his jealousy and envy until the day he died. It is this madness of competition that has resulted in the murk we find ourselves in. Is it any wonder that we hear rumors of Pastors buying "powers" from Ghana, Nigeria, and Durban? Why this craze and obsession with being the best? It's nothing but the spirit of envy! You envy Pastor X because of what he has, so you travel thousands of miles to consult foreign gods so that you can best him! Our local Churches, I am sorry to say, are places where jealousy and envy lurk big time.
The enemy is just waiting for a chance to attack us. Perhaps it is because the Church is a "volunteer" organization. People give their money and "volunteer" their time, and as a result, feel they are entitled to certain things, whether it's roles of leadership, or recognition for special acts of service or giving.
People easily become jealous of one another across the board – people jealous of other people and their God-given abilities and even spiritual gifts. Parents are envious of other parents and even of the other parents' children. Women jealous of the Pastor's wife. Choir members fighting to lead songs. Sons trying to out-preach and out-prophesy their Pastors. Women elbowing one another in an attempt to catch the attentions of single brothers or single Pastors.
There is an ever-so-subtle but constant striving in our midst. It's total madness! How shrewd and sinister the enemy is so as to stir up jealousy and envy in our midst. But even worse, how naïve we are to give in to it! The Church of Jesus Christ is the last place the bane of jealousy and envy should ever find a home because grace and love can infect us, making us impervious to envy's attacks.
The seed of all this chaos begins with comparisons. Comparison is the root of all envy. Whenever you start comparing yourself, you’re in a no-win situation. If you compare yourself with someone who is more effective than you, you’ll be full of envy. If you are more effective than they are, you’ll be full of arrogance and pride.
Either way, comparisons will take you down. Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, keeping us from realizing our full potential, and ultimately leading us into destructive behaviors. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. Once envy takes a hold of you, you soon act out of character.
Envy starts with desire. We all want things we don't have: a lot of money, a big Church, a pretty wife, an expensive car, a magnetic personality, a nice figure, a better home, or more clothes. We long for a happy marriage, successful children, a secure, pleasurable job. There's nothing wrong with these desires as long as we are realistic, recognizing that they do not bestow value on our lives, nor does their absence make us lesser human beings.
However, if and when these things become essential to us and are viewed as the benchmarks of success, we will look with the green eyes of envy at everyone who has what we want. We'll keep working harder and more desperately to reach our goals without ever being content. Eventually, we will be under the full-time control of envy, a brutal taskmaster. John D. Rockefeller, believed to be the wealthiest American who has ever lived, said when he was asked how much money is enough, "Just one more dollar," was his sage reply.
There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition for our achievements. But at times that craving can become a competitive spirit that has to outdo everyone else. When that happens, you can be sure envy is at the root. Today's society values people for their appearance or their achievements. It is very difficult not to be envious of the woman with a beautiful figure when you struggle daily to not gain a kilo. It's hard to feel good about ourselves when we've been driving the same car for ten years while others are enjoying this year's luxury models.
We don't feel accomplished flying economy while the person down the street is posting pictures of themselves daily on social media flying first and business class to exotic destinations. We don't accept ourselves as we are; we are unable to recognize our own strengths. Instead, we compare our weaknesses with others' strengths, and consequently we feel envious. We tend to compare ourselves to our peers. Athletes compare themselves with other athletes.
Lawyers compare themselves with other lawyers. Pastors compare themselves with other Pastors. And we compare ourselves with the ones closest to us. The successful Pastor across the country doesn’t bother us – but the one across the street does. F.B. Meyer was Pastor at Christ Church in London, England late in the 19th Century when Charles Spurgeon came to town.
Spurgeon’s crowds at Metropolitan Tabernacle grew larger and larger. The young story-telling preacher was so popular that his weekly sermons were printed in the paper on Mondays. Meyer became envious, which is a common problem amongst the Pastors I know. Meyer prayed, “God bless me. God fill my pews. God send a revival to my church,” but still he was jealous and competitive toward Spurgeon and other Pastors in London. Then he learned to overcome envy by praying for the success of his “big brother” Pastors on his right and left.
In time he found that his own Church grew from the effects of Spurgeon’s powerful ministry! Similarly, Jack Hayford, a Pastor in Southern California in more recent times, has the same testimony of overcoming envy by praying for the success of other Pastor. When his Church on the Way in Van Nuys was small and getting started there was a large Church down the street called First Baptist.
He prayed for God to bless and prosper that Church. It ended up that Church on the Way grew so much that it used First Baptist’s old building for overflow. That's the way to kill this monster – prayer. Until we can learn to pray for those who intimidate us and wish them well, we'll continue to suffer under the yoke of envy and jealousy.
And, let's not forget that these are not just character flaws or weaknesses – these are sins to be repented of! These are the parents of witchcraft! Back in the villages we hail from, we knew that witchcraft was begotten by envy. Those who were successful in life were often the targets of witchcraft simply because they had something, and the poorer village folks couldn't stand them and therefore resorted to witchcraft so as to halt their rise.
And it wasn't even like they had anything to warrant witchcraft spells! Such folks would be having maybe a small general dealer or a small bakkie! But the village witches would be up in arms! Well, it seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The witches of yesteryear in the village who wore hobo garb and feathers and beads riding baboons and hyenas, have now changed wardrobes and are now wearing Armani suits and driving Range Rovers in the city. Same script, different cast. May God help us to be able to not just handle, but also be able to celebrate the success of our neighbor without turning green and nasty.
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.