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Development: a decade of lost opportunities!


This is a follow-up on last week’s submission where I visited the 2008 inaugural address by the president; when he presented his four lanes roadmap, each with a D inscription (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline). He thankfully later added a Delivery lane. This was the road map to the promised land of peace, tranquility and plenty for all Batswana and residents.

Before I move onto the second lane of Development, I would like to digress a little.  Some of the speeches at the memorial service of the late seven Matsha students who perished in a cattle truck that should never have been used to transport them in the first place; some  of the exchanges in parliament and councils  chambers regarding this unfortunate event, point to a bleak future of intolerance where leadership instead of accepting responsibility that is clearly and squarely theirs and dealing with the consequences blame and viciously seek to silence those who call upon them to account.  Instead of apologising to the nation, they play ignorant and chastise those angry citizens who dare to raise their voices against the incompetency that allowed such a truck to be used for our dear children. Our democracy is indeed flawed. This is the same country with ’a shining example of democracy in Africa’, a   ‘democratic country’ in which only those belonging to the ruling party; those who sing their praises are said to be patriotic citizens, others are unpatriotic people who deserve to rot in hell. How naïve and how wrong? With this mentality can we really achieve the Development aspirations that this great nation deserves; the Development that the nation was promised in 2008 by our loving president?

With this type of mentality, what can we expect on the second lane of the presidential road map? We find a lot of pot holes, the road is bumpy and the driving is slow and perilous.  Here I am talking about lack of systems, procedures and human capital to drive the Development vehicles, the Development agenda. Also reviewing progress on this lane is very difficult if not impossible because it is not clear what is contained and packaged in these vehicles. It should have been clear at the onset; that vehicle A has these goods which will be delivered at this station, on such and such a day and the goods are for this particular purpose. This was never given; hence the difficulty in evaluation.

But perhaps we should guess.  What are the possible outcomes that the nation should legitimately expect to be delivered by these Development vehicles?  What are the outcomes to be expected from any development for that matter?  My guess would be to improve the lives of the people broadly in these areas; more jobs created, increased business opportunities, improved health services and care, improved personal safety, improved security (personal and property), better standard of education, more educational facilities, improved and more recreational facilities, improved and more road networks, better and more railway transport, improved competiveness, improved global recognition etc, etc. These are some of the legitimate expectations Batswana would aspire for as the country develops.

What have we achieved from 2008 to todate? What will we have achieved during this decade from 2008 to 2018? We are only left with three years.  What can be achieved in the remaining three years?  We can only really talk about the achievements so far and based on these achievements we can then perhaps make some projections. Let me briefly look at the list of expectation I made above:

JOB CREATION

Since 2008 the economy has lost more jobs than it has created. The official rate of unemployment remains at about 20 %.  The mining sector has lost over a thousand jobs due to restructuring and closures caused by the market and possibly poor planning on the part of owners including government inability to positively influence the developmental direction.  We have created and lost jobs in the diamond beneficiation industry. In my humble view, we could have done better if our planning was robust and far sighted.

CREATION OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

The relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre from London to Gaborone should have created a lot of business opportunities for Batswana but how much have actually been created?  This should not only be measured by the number of Batswana who have benefitted directly but by how much compared to the total value available. Without measuring these numbers, we are just talking and fooling ourselves.  The diamond business is a multi dollar business and for Batswana to meaningfully benefit they must be credit worthy, must have access to requisite financial resources and must also have the requisite business skills? These skills will not necessarily come from having a degree in business, but in adequate exposure to the diamond business. A proactive government would have ensured that our people are adequately prepared and equipped to benefit immensely from the relocation of the diamond business.

OTHER JOB AND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

There are also a number of failed projects that would have created both jobs and business opportunities if we had been more proactive and far sighted.  What happened to the 1200 MW Mmamabula energy project?  This was a coal mine and power station to supply electricity mainly to South Africa and Botswana. Due to poor long-term planning by both Botswana and South Africa, this project was suspended because the two countries thought they would have enough power by 2012 or thereabout. Look where both South Africa and Botswana are now? We are still constantly in the dark. This project would have created thousands of mining, energy and logistics jobs as well as revenue from energy sales and possible business opportunities for local investors. The business losses ad expenses incurred as a result of power outages would have been averted. We could have created more industries and attracted more foreign direct investment.  We must all learn that short-termism is really expensive.

What happened to the ACTIVOX Refinery plant in Francistown whose bankable feasibility was completed and construction of the plant commenced only to be stopped due to the drop of recessionary nickel prices and uncertainty in the power supply. We know recession come and go and astute business minded people invest during the recessions in preparation for the next boom cycle. This plant was a unique patented hydrometallurgical plant that would have recovered copper and nickel metal from sulphide concentrates at high recovery rates. This would not only have obviated the need for expensive smelting process and refinery oversees but would also  have enabled us to recover more metals from low grades. This would have made Botswana a regional hub for metal refinery allowing us to export finished products to Europe and elsewhere. What a missed opportunity!

There are others like the famous fengae glass factory project in Palapye that was abandoned because of incompetency and possible corruption after close to P550 million was disbursed and plant built. This factory was going to source coal, silica and soda ash from Botswana and would employ over 500 people.  We have lost millions of Pula, job and revenue opportunities. We have lost an opportunity to be a regional glass exporter. Indeed a decade of lost opportunities.

OTHER ASPIRATIONS FROM ANTICIPATED DEVELOPMENTS

I will now group the other aspirations that include health care, education, safety, security, recreation, transport and competitiveness among others. I am not aware of any improvements in this area accept perhaps in the area of sport competitiveness and global recognition in some good and bad ways. We have done well in the sporting arena. Our athletes have done us proud and we need to motivate them all the sport codes to do more.  We have built more stadia albeit grossly outside budget and time. We expect more in the coming years on our sports and art Development.

As for education, we have deteriorated badly in terms of quality and infrastructure. We have lost the reason for sending our children to school as they graduate and stay at home or do ipelegeng. The situation is dire and needs argent attention.

We have added heath facilities but our hospitals remain over loaded, under staffed and in many cases without medicines. We have cases of millions of pula worth of expired medicines that have been thrown away.  We seem to have an incompetent health system that builds hospitals and clinics when there is no provision for requisite medical staff including just medical doctors and nurses?

The transport system is a failure as evidenced by many people hiking on all our roads. It becomes a nightmare during the holidays. The Bechuanaland train finally gave up the ghost increasing the load and cost on our road transport. Safety on our roads has thus been severely compromised by bad road behaviours, congestions and possible increase of unqualified drivers with fraudulent acquired licenses.

Depending on what a Motswana calls recreation, the reduction of night life hours has deprived many Botswana from their livelihoods. This was not replaced by any modern facilities where people can meet and mingle in public and have fun and share their life stories and miseries. We have not seen theaters and recreational facilities being built to support the performing art industry. The billions of pula from the alcohol levy that we seem to be so proud of should have been used for some of these alternatives.  

How about our personal security and security of our properties?  We continue to experience increased breakages in our homes and people killed by thugs and some disappearing.  We continue to hear increased cases of car theft.  When we were growing up, we never locked up our homes and cars. We never imagined someone snatching and running away with our belongings. These are now daily occurrences and the nation is increasingly getting scared.

CONCLUSION

It is very clear that our development vehicles as well as the road they are travelling on require carefully planned maintenance including appropriate schedules and man power.  How can we have developments when we have failed to produce enough electrical power for domestic and industrial use? How can we have developments when we cannot supply enough water to drink and to propel our industrial growth?   How can we have developments when our people do not have land to develop for themselves and industrialise? How can we have Development if we do not have adequately trained manpower to support industry?

I believe the water situation is dire and first priority in our development together with power. If no developmental measures are taken urgently, we are headed for a rapidly collapsing economy. The water from Letsibogo and Dikgatlhong dams will not sustain the SPEDU region with its planned agricultural projects together with the entire eastern corridor and southern parts of the country including Lobatse, Barolong, Bangwaketse and Bakwena regions. It is impossible especially with our erratic rainfall patterns and on going irresponsible use of our rivers.  My advice is that each area must have its own local fully equipped underground water supply.  We must not entirely depend on surface water including possible supply from Lesotho and Chobe. These should just be available as and when required to supplement our own local efforts.

The much talked about ESP should have focused only on sustainable water and electricity supply. We need massive underground water exploration across the country and fully functional supply infrastructure. We also need to urgently treat and re-use all the waste water in our towns and major settlements.  To avoid the massive evaporative losses we experience on our dams we should be spending money on infrastructure for using available surface water to recharge and keep our water in our underground aquifers away from the evaporative losses we experience as a result of hot weather and large surface areas of our dams.  With electricity we should know what to do.

Instead of praying for rain, we should pray for wisdom to enable us to deal effectively with the Developmental challenges we face.

Bernard Busani
E mail;  HYPERLINK "mailto:bernard.busani@gmail.com" bernard.busani@gmail.com;   Tel; 71751440

 

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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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