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Sankara Died, Sankara Lives (Pt. 2)

“There was something new under the African sun — Thomas Sankara, a guitar-playing, humorous, passionate, athletic, articulate, driven and honest young President with a puritanical bent and a seemingly endless supply of novel and innovative ideas.”

The quotation in the sub-title should not be summarily dismissed as a glib, sweet-toned turn of phrase.  It is a very fitting nod to the nonpareil phenomenon that was Thomas Sankara. It rolled off the tongue of Joan Baxter, a Canadian journalist, development researcher, anthropologist, and award-winning author as borne out in Chapter 5 of her 2011 book titled Dust From Our Eyes: An Unblinkered Look At Africa.

In the same, strikingly dispassionate book, Baxter goes on to laud Thomas Sankara as “one of those rare individuals who come along every few decades or so, who seemed to have the energy, ingenuity, and creativity to turn a small country — or maybe the universe — on its head”. Paradoxically for a Westerner, Baxter was attempting to resurrect the hopes that Sankara, Africa’s greatest leader ever by far, inspired in the youth of this dismally stunted, shackled, and perhaps ill-starred   continent.   

On his inauguration as President on August 4 1983, Sankara spoke these highly evocative words: “We have to dare to invent the future … Everything that we are capable of imagining we are also capable of attaining.” The statement cut almost crisply to the heart of Napoleon Hill’s equally pregnant aphorism that “whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”.  To Sankara, no dream was forever a pipedream, no vision was simply a pie in the sky. So what was it that Sankara envisioned for his country? What future did the charismatic young leader and visionary have in store for the people whose destiny now lay in his 33-year-old hands, people who 23 years of pillaging and plunder at the highest levels of government and foreign vested interests had reduced to paupers?

It was this, as captured in a speech he delivered on another rostrum: “Our revolution will be of value only if, looking back and ahead, we are able to say that the Burkinabe people are a little happier because of it. Because they have clean drinking water, because they have plenty to eat, because they are in good health, because they have access to education, because they have decent housing, because they have better clothing, because they have the right to leisure, because they have greater freedom, more democracy and greater dignity … Revolution means happiness. Without happiness, we cannot speak of success.”

Yet even the most sanguine optimist had to take cognizance of the one inescapable fact – that the road to the Land of Milk and Honey would not be a stroll down what John Winston Lennon called Strawberry Fields. Realistically, it would entail a long stint in the wilderness, certainly not the 40 years of stasis the nation of Israel endured in the rocky terrains of Mount Sinai but considerably long anyway. Such misgivings were well-founded for the one stark truth was that the country was staggeringly and eye-poppingly poor.   
Would Sankara buckle under the enormity of the challenges  that raged?

THE ODDS WERE FORMIDABLE

The Upper Volta Thomas Sankara took over in January 1983 was reeling from a raft of asphyxiating economic maladies. Firstly, nature itself had placed its own inscrutable veto on the fortuities of the country.  It was landlocked and was partly enclasped in the tentacles of the drought-stricken Sahel Zone, a narrow band of semi-arid land which was contiguous to the Sahara Desert and stretched all the way from Senegal to the Sudan.  Infant mortality rate was a whopping 280 per 1000 live births, one of the sorriest on the globe. Life expectancy was a piteous 40 years. A startling 90 percent of the population were unable to read and write, with a school enrolment rate of only 10 percent. There was only one doctor per 50,000 in a population of 7 million people. At a mere $100, average annual income per head was bottom-of- the-rung in the whole wide world.   

A mandatory head tax, a flat rate for every able-bodied national of workable age which dated back to the days of French colonial rule, was still enforced as a desperate fiscal lifeline. Peasants had semi-feudal obligations to perform menial tasks for the paramount chiefs as and when they were called upon. As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, chiefs had the right to requisition food and animals from their subjects, another relic of the privilleges they enjoyed in the colonial days as a spur to reigning in nationalistic impulses amongst their people.   

Sankara sought to reverse all these blights not inch by inch or step by step but fleet-footedly, at the speed of a gazelle.   The revolutionary zealotry he undertook to instill in his people was not mere ideological posturing but was about tangible, realisable benchmarks for goal attainment. It was about a radically new approach to duty that presupposed the embrace of a radically new work ethic. It was all hands on deck now for every Jim, Jack, Mary, and Sharon: it was all systems go.  

The Marxist-leaning leader’s idea of economic and institutional transformation was premised on change that was creative and non-conformist. It was change which, in his own words,   contained “a certain amount of madness”, a foray if need be into realpolitik.  That did not mean it was an exercise in futility, that it was so wild in its broad sweep and so onerous in its burdensomeness as to border on the fanciful. It was the pace at which it was going to be accomplished that required dying a little, that called for a level of self-sacrifice that was without parallel both historically and contemporaneously.  

The young and feisty president was aware his task made that of Sisyphus seem like a Sunday School picnic but he was such a believer in the possibilities of his people and indeed in his own dynamism that he did not waver.   
 
GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY

Sankara went to work literally from the very day he ascended to power. The first thing he did was to surround himself with a corps of 150 carefully vetted presidential aides who were going to assist him in moving the country forward by jet propulsion. Then he launched one of the most ambitious programmes for social, cultural, economic and political revival ever attempted on the continent of Africa. The concerted instruments of these reforms were the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs).

The CDRs were patterned after the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución of Cuba, which Fidel Castro had established in 1960 as a "collective system of revolutionary vigilance” that criss-crossed the entire island like a latticework. They were launched under a Peoples Development Plan under which provinces were to set down their objectives and devise a means through which to bring them to fruition.   

Underscoring this pioneering experiment of the exercise of power in all its expressions by the people in the name of the people, Sankara observed thus: “The most important thing is to give the people confidence, to help them understand that they can at last define their own happiness, to enable them to decide on their own aims and understand the price to be paid.”

Sankara saw CDRs as a veritable organ for the devolution of the full spectrum of power to the grassroots which would go a long way in consolidating direct, participatory democracy. This divestiture of all facets of executive affirmation on the part of his regime in favour of a brand of authority and responsibility that was coterminous and co-equal with that of the governed was at least in theory envisaged to be wholesale.

“Democracy means using the full potential of the people,” he pointed out.  “The ballot box and an electoral system do not prove the existence of democracy. There is no real democracy where those in power call elections from time to time and concern themselves with the people only in the run-up to an election … There can be no democracy unless power in all its forms – economic, military, political, social and cultural – is in the hands of the people.”

True to their billing, the CDRs became the cornerstone of popular participation in power, permeating as they did every nook and cranny of the constituent structures. There was a CDR for for the youth, a CDR for women, a CDR for farmers, a CDR for unions, a CDR for each workplace, ad infinitum.  The CDRs had clout. Their mandate went beyond the preservation of public security to the inculcation of political education, maintenance of impeccable standards of sanitation, boosting production and productivity, bringing checks and balances to bear on the excesses of government and bureaucrats, red-flagging budget control deviations in the ministries, and a host of overarching judicial and administrative responsibilities.

Not only did CDRs deliberate on a whole range of national projects but they also had the power to reject them if they were not deemed crucial or were fraught with lapses. With the establishment of CDRs therefore, Sankara had radically restructured the basic functions of society, turning it from a mere cog in the wheel to an integral part of the wheel itself.

Sankara also gave considerable thought to the mobilisation of ideas from the youth cadre with a view to inform official policy formulation. His former Policy Adviser Fidele Kientega affirms this predilection thus: “Sankara created the Young Pioneers groups in all schools and communities to change the old feudalistic patron-client political discourse. Young people were trained to practice democracy in decision-making in terms of issues that affected them. They were asked to come up with proposals that were then formed into policies and were delegated with the mandate of implementing these same polices they helped to form. Sankara was building grassroots democracy.”

MILESTONES IN HEALH AND EDUCATION

On August 4 1984, the first anniversary of his accession to power, Thomas Sankara changed the name of his country from the colonially imposed Upper Volta to Burkina Farso, with the people now to be called the Burkinabe.  The name was weaved together from two words borrowed from two local languages and meant “Land of Honourable People.” The name change was not prompted by the sentimental need to rid the country of any lingering imperialistic vestiges. 

It was meant to underline a new dispensation altogether in the aspirations of the nation and as a rallying cry for his people to invoke so that they were forever reminded of forging a new   international dignity through scaling new economic heights. That’s how he sought to galvanise his people and launch a bootstrap development movement. Granted, the name of the country was an integral symbol of his national crusade.  Besides being a great psychological spur, it had positive ramifications, implicitly, at a karmic level.  

Education and literacy were an overriding priority. In only the first two years of his presidency, the proportion of people who attended school jumped from 10 percent to about 25 percent, thus significantly denting the 90 percent illiteracy rate that bedeviled the country when he assumed office. In 1986, a whirlwind nationwide literacy campaign mounted in nine indigenous languages resulted in 35,000 being able to read and write. It was tantamount to imparting a competence across the board in one fell swoop.  

Similar strides were made in public health. In a 15-day marathon immunisation programme in November 1984 – and this was only three months after he took office – Sankara enlisted the aid of Cuban volunteer medics to vaccinate 2.5 million Burkinabe children against the dreaded meningitis, yellow fever, and measles in a bid to fast-track the promotion of public health.

The feat was unprecedented anywhere. For the first time ever, basic health services were like in the Botswana of today made available   to the entire population, one consequence of which was that river blindness was kept in check, again a first for the country under a plucky, doggedly determined Thomas Sankara. By January 1985, the infant mortality rate had precipitately fallen from 280 deaths for every 1000 births to 145. In only four months at the helm, the wunderkind president had delivered results as though he was waving a magic wand.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE SAHEL

Concerned that his country desperately needed an infrastructural uplift, Thomas Sankara embarked on an ambitious rail and road construction programme to “tie the nation together” as he put it. Schools, hospitals, dams, and houses were also factored into the hive of construction activity.

As much as government was the project bankroller, a considerable amount of labour was donated by the citizenry out of a sense purely of patriotic duty and the unremitting love of their iconic leader. For instance, peasants built storage dams by the sweat of their own brow, and every village was called upon to voluntarily build a medical dispensary. Over 350 communities were stirred by Sankara’s logically marshaled persuasive pitches to construct schools by sacrificially working their fingers to the bone. Note that the people were not expected to make a material contribution: only labour and of their own accord. No one was forcefully conscripted.

In February 1985, two construction programs were incepted. These were a public housing project and what Sankara called “The Battle for the Railroad” project. The latter was the construction of a missing rail link to the northeastern region of Tambo with a view to develop a major manganese deposit that had   recently been stumbled upon. Sankara dubbed the undertaking a “battle” in that it was done independent of foreign financing after the Bretton Woods institutions and the jaundice-eyed donor community gave it the thumbs-down in favour of the less crucial road to the already flourishing northern mining region. The only foreign prop for the project took the form of an inconsequential number of rails Canada grudgingly provided from a plant in Trenton, Nova Scotia.

With government coffers stretched too thin, Sankara again took recourse to a resource of last resort – the citizenry. He appealed to them to lend the project a vital hand without which it was foredoomed.  They readily obliged: between 1985 and 1987, the merry throngs of volunteers, who mostly comprised students and civil servants, led 62 km of rail under the blazing Sahel sun and a smog-like swirl of hovering dust.

Meanwhile, the encroaching Sahara Desert needed to be taken care of as another component of the national agenda. In this regard, Sankala launched a vigorous reforestation programme in which hordes of Burkinabes were both directly and indirectly mobilised.  Over 10 million trees were planted around the country in the space of only twelve months in a bid to expeditiously halt the growing desertification of the Sahel.  In order to keep the momentum of the reforestation going, new house owners or tenants were made to undertake to plant and tend to a prescribed minimum number of trees.  

Concomitant measures to help perpetuate the reforestation programme have been summed up thus: “The CDRs of women and youth mobilised to build tens of thousands of improved stoves in order to reduce the consumption of firewood. Hundreds of wells were sunk to provide reliable drinking water to those who lacked it. An old, partly-abandoned tradition of each town and village cultivating its own grove of trees was revived. In the villages in the developed river valleys, each family was given the means and the obligation to plant one hundred trees per year. The cutting and selling of firewood was brought under strict control.” (To be continued next week)

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Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

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.

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The Corona Coronation (Part 10)

9th July 2020

Ever heard of a 666-type beast known as Fort Detrick?

Located in the US state of Maryland, about 80 km removed from Washington DC, Fort Detrick houses the US army’s top virus research laboratory. It has been identified as “home to the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, with its bio-defense agency, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and  also hosts the National Cancer Institute-Frederick and the National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research and National Interagency Biodefense Campus”.

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?

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Masisi faces ultimate test of his presidency

9th July 2020

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.

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