Following the SONA week with the much talked about ESP that left more questions than answers; the tragic week that saw seven of our young lives lost in an unfortunate truck accident and many injured leaving the parents and the nation critically wounded and heart broken. This incident has shown us the best and worst of our people. May the souls of these young lives rest in peace and may Batswana be comforted in the knowledge that we are largely a caring nation and may the culprits be hunted down to face the full might of the law. This was an aside. Today I want to visit 2008 when the president gave us an inspiring roadmap for his presidency.
During his inauguration in 2008, the president presented a roadmap in which he articulated four Ds (Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline) that would define his presidency. We were excited as Batswana that here comes a president who saw the need for our Democracy to be improved and modernised; who saw the need for our Development to be accelerated to give all our people a more Dignified standard of living and who saw the need to improve Discipline nationally in order to support the pillars that would anchor his roadmap. He later realised that a Delivery vehicle was required and fittingly crowned his Ds with a fifth D which he aptly termed Delivery. This roadmap was going to leave a lasting legacy that posterity would cherish and build on. We believed that the president was on a mission to take Botswana to a new destination where our country would assume a significantly new and vibrant shape. We believed that the ‘savior’ had arrived and he was going to place Botswana in its rightful place globally. I think the time has arrived for us to evaluate where we are on this roadmap and demand feedback. I will start with Democracy and the rest will follow in subsequent submissions.
I believe when a Motswana talks of Democracy, he or she is talking of ‘a government of the people, by the people and for the people’. If I am not mistaken, the president is on record describing democracy in the same manner. This is a definition that was coined many years ago by the then American president Abraham Lincoln which definition has largely been universally embraced including by our own people. So when the president included Democracy as one of his first key deliverable, he must have been concerned about the state of our democracy and was planning to meaningfully enhance it. He was not talking about maintaining the status quo or weakening the already weak Democracy he inherited. So what has the president done to enhance Democracy in our country? I believe there are many opportunities and areas where he could have made significant improvements, but we still await his interventions more than seven years later.
The Democracy we currently practice is a watered and weathered down version of democracy which means a form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections and independent courts of law. Many people would argue that we barely meet this basic and narrow definition of Democracy, hence the excitement generated by the inclusion of this D in the roadmap as his number one priority.
What then are our expectations as Batswana? Maybe we can answer this by asking another question. What are the ingredients of the democracy that we aspire for, the democracy that was aptly defined by Abraham Lincoln as ‘a government of the people, by the people, for the people’? What are the critical success factors?
There are many areas that the president should have attempted to address on the Democracy lane of his road map. I will highlight these ingredients by posing questions that the president should have answered during his two terms. I will also briefly mention some possible interventions that could have been adopted in an attempt to enhance our democracy.
EQUAL ACCESS TO INFORMATION BY THE ELECTORATE
How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when access to information is limited and biased in favour of one party? The people must not only be allowed to vote, but must be given information that would allow them to choose their representatives wisely. All the political parties and their candidates must be given equal exposure by the national electoral process including public broadcasting. BTV, Radio Botswana and the Daily News which are national assets run and maintained by the tax payer must be availed to all political parties in equal measures for them to reach the electorate equally. These media outlets belong to all the people of Botswana. Therefore all these facilities must be used equally by all Batswana especially during elections. The president has done nothing to ensure equal access to the public media by all the political parties. If anything he has somehow made it even more difficult for the opposition parties to access the public media because he is always given lengthy and unqualified coverage thus denying others access. A recent glaring example was the state of the nation address that was covered live by both BTV & Radio Botswana and then repeated over time on the same stations. When the leader of opposition was responding officially to the same address in parliament, BTV and Radio Botswana were no where to be found. Only a handful of people who found seats at the parliamentary gallery could listen to the leader of opposition live. Some people were rudely kicked out as there were no seats available accept for elders from the ruling party… true, no exaggeration! They were not even allowed to listen from outside because no provision was made for the public. This is our sick democracy, where people are only shown one side of the political coin and the president ought to intervene and have this corrected.
REGISTRATION AND THE VOTING PROCESS
How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’ when only less than 50% of the people bother to register for elections and only about 80 % of those who bother to register actually vote? Can this be true democracy when only about 35% (700 000 people out of a population over two millions) of the population participates in the elections? This is an area where the president would have looked at closely to find ways to make registration and the voting process easier to encourage more people not only to register but also to vote. The opportunity is available. Technology is glaringly available to make the process easier and friendlier. It is not rocket science anymore; it only requires political will and the word from the president for it to happen. Many countries including developing countries like ours have better systems to encourage registration and voting. In some countries it is even illegal not to vote because they know that it is through voting that true democracy can be entrenched.
How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’ when 47 % of the popular vote yields a majority of 65 % of seats in parliament? This looks like government by the minority. Therefore, there is a definite need for improvement. The current system denies the electorate fair representation in parliament as it can and has yielded a government that is not reflective of the will of the majority. This therefore cannot be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’. It is a minority government. Many progressive democracies have adopted a form of proportional representation which enhances representation across not only political party lines but also different interest and minority groups. The president ought to do something to improve the current undemocratic practice that has produced a minority government in our country for the first time in our history.
PUBLIC FUNDING OF DEMOCRACY
How do you achieve ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when the ruling party is allowed to use public funds for electioneering and the opposition parties have to use their own personal resources for the same? This obviously makes it extremely difficult for the opposition to reach the electorate, giving the ruling party an unfair and unjustified advantage. Political funding is a common phenomenon in most democracies including our neigbours. The president as part of his desire to enhance democracy should have introduced political party funding. Democracy is a commodity that should be publicly funded and nurtured as it is the only viable vehicle that will allow all citizens to participate in the development of their country through their representatives. The president has an obligation and opportunity to make a significant mark in enhancing our democracy by allowing political party funding. He still has a chance to do this before the end of his term.
THE PRESIDENT MUST BE ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE
How can it be ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’, when the president is not elected by the people directly? Why should we not allow the people to choose their president like they do in other developed and developing democracies? When democracy is a key component of his roadmap, election of the president by the people would have been an obvious and glaring area that should have stood up for improvement.
THE PRESIDENT MUST ATTEND PARLIAMENT
The president does not attend parliament to listen to debates and concerns from the people’s representatives. In a democratic dispensation he is duty bound to attend and listen and answer questions. He needs to hear the concerns of all the people regardless of party affiliation in order to formulate and design appropriate polices and programs for the entire country. Parliament is where development policies and laws are made. How does he influence that if he does not attend the very institution that he should head and guide, the institution not only charged with making laws but development of the country? If the president respects the voice of the people, he should attend parliament, others he will be assumed to be an autocratic leader who rules alone.
It is very clear that our democracy is sick and weak as correctly identified by the president during his inauguration. This is true despite the international accolades that we are a shining example of democracy in Africa. These accolades are seemingly politically motivated and those responsible for these accolades must own up and tell us the real truth. The president still has up to 2018 to make some improvements. Maybe he is waiting for the right time to make some far reaching amendments that will shake and humble his opponents. The president however, owes Batswana an update on this roadmap before Batswana make their own uninformed conclusions.
Bernard Busani E mail; HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com; Tel; 71751440
Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.
The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.
The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.
Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.
A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.
The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.
The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.
The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.
We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.
Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.
There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.
In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.
By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.
In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)
IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.
Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.
MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.
The 490-hectare campus researches the world’s deadliest pathogens, including Anthrax (in 1944, the Roosevelt administration ordered 1 million anthrax bombs from Fort Detrick), Ebola, smallpox, and … you guessed right: coronaviruses. The facility, which carries out paid research projects for government agencies (including the CIA), universities and drug companies most of whom owned by the highly sinister military-industrial complex, employs 900 people.
Between 1945 and 1969, the sprawling complex (which has since become the US’s ”bio-defence centre” to put it mildly) was the hub of the US biological weapons programme. It was at Fort Detrick that Project MK Ultra, a top-secret CIA quest to subject the human mind to routine robotic manipulation, a monstrosity the CIA openly owned up to in a congressional inquisition in 1975, was carried out. In the consequent experiments, the guinea pigs comprised not only of people of the forgotten corner of America – inmates, prostitutes and the homeless but also prisoners of war and even regular US servicemen.
These unwitting participants underwent up to a 20-year-long ordeal of barbarous experiments involving psychoactive drugs (such as LSD), forced electroshocks, physical and sexual abuses, as well as a myriad of other torments. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the CIA’s own charter which forbids domestic activities. Over 180 doctors and researchers took part in these horrendous experiments and this in a country which touts itself as the most civilised on the globe!
Was the coronavirus actually manufactured at Fort Detrick (like HIV as I shall demonstrate at the appropriate time) and simply tactfully patented to other equally cacodemonic places such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China?
THE FORT DETRICK SCIENTISTS’ PROPHECY WAS WELL-INFORMED
About two years before the term novel coronavirus became a familiar feature in day-to-day banter, two scientist cryptically served advance warning of its imminence. They were Allison Totura and Sina Bavari, both researchers at Fort Detrick.
The two scientists talked of “novel highly pathogenic coronaviruses that may emerge from animal reservoir hosts”, adding, “These coronaviruses may have the potential to cause devastating pandemics due to unique features in virus biology including rapid viral replication, broad host range, cross-species transmission, person-to-person transmission, and lack of herd immunity in human populations … Associated with novel respiratory syndromes, they move from person-to-person via close contact and can result in high morbidity and mortality caused by the progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”
All the above constitute some of the documented attributes and characteristics of the virus presently on the loose – the propagator of Covid-19. A recent clinical review of Covid-19 in The Economist seemed to bear out this prognostication when it said, “It is ARDS that sees people rushed to intensive-care units and put on ventilators”. As if sounding forth a veritable prophecy, the two scientists besought governments to start working on counter-measures there and then that could be “effective against such a virus”.
Well, it was not by sheer happenstance that Tortura and Bavari turned out to have been so incredibly and ominously prescient. They had it on good authority, having witnessed at ringside what the virus was capable of in the context of their own laboratory. The gory scenario they painted for us came not from secondary sources but from the proverbial horse’s mouth folks.
CDC’S RECKLESS ADMISSION
In March this year, Robert Redfield, the US Director for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee that it had transpired that some members of the American populace who were certified as having died of influenza turned out to have harboured the novel coronavirus per posthumous analysis of their tissue.
Redfield was not pressed to elaborate but the message was loud and clear – Covid-19 had been doing the rounds in the US much earlier than it was generally supposed and that the extent to which it was mistaken for flu was by far much more commonplace than was openly admitted. An outspoken Chinese diplomat, Zhao Lijian, seized on this rather casual revelation and insisted that the US disclose further information, exercise transparency on coronavirus cases and provide an explanation to the public.
But that was not all the beef Zhao had with the US. He further charged that the coronavirus was possibly transplanted to China by the US: whether inadvertently or by deliberate design he did not say. Zhao pointed to the Military World Games of October 2019, in which US army representatives took part, as the context in which the coronavirus irrupted into China. Did the allegation ring hollow or there was a ring of truth to it?
THE BENASSIE FACTOR
The Military World Games, an Olympic-style spectrum of competitive action, are held every four years. The 2019 episode took place in Wuhan, China. The 7th such, the games ran from October 18 to October 27. The US contingent comprised of 17 teams of over 280 athletes, plus an innumerable other staff members. Altogether, over 9000 athletes from 110 countries were on hand to showcase their athletic mettle in more than 27 sports. All NATO countries were present, with Africa on its part represented by 30 countries who included Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Besides the singular number of participants, the event notched up a whole array of firsts. One report spelt them out thus: “The first time the games were staged outside of military bases, the first time the games were all held in the same city, the first time an Athletes’ Village was constructed, the first time TV and VR systems were powered by 5G telecom technology, and the first use of all-round volunteer services for each delegation.”
Now, here is the clincher: the location of the guest house for the US team was located in the immediate neighbourhood of the Wuhan Seafood Market, the place the Chinese authorities to this day contend was the diffusion point of the coronavirus. But there is more: according to some reports, the person who allegedly but unwittingly transmitted the virus to the people milling about the market – Patient Zero of Covid-19 – was one Maatie Benassie.
Benassie, 52, is a security officer of Sergeant First Class rank at the Fort Belvoir military base in Virginia and took part in the 50-mile cycling road race in the same competitions. In the final lap, she was accidentally knocked down by a fellow contestant and sustained a fractured rib and a concussion though she soldiered on and completed the race with the agonising adversity. Inevitably, she saw a bit of time in a local health facility. According to information dug up by George Webb, an investigative journalist based in Washington DC, Benassie would later test positive for Covid-19 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
Incidentally, Benassie apparently passed on the virus to other US soldiers at the games, who were hospitalised right there in China before they were airlifted back to the US. The US government straightaway prohibited the publicising of details on the matter under the time-honoured excuse of “national security interests”, which raised eyebrows as a matter-of-course. As if that was not fishy enough, the US out of the blue tightened Chinese visas to the US at the conclusion of the games.
The rest, as they say, is history: two months later, Covid-19 had taken hold on China territory. “From that date onwards,” said one report, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 — the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 — and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”
TWO CURIOUS RESEARCH HALTINGS
Is it a coincidence that all the US soldiers who fell ill at the Wuhan games did their preparatory training at the Fort Belvoir military base, only a 15-minutes’ drive from Fort Detrick?
That Fort Detrick is a plain-sight perpetrator of pathogenic evils is evidenced by a number of highly suspicious happenings concerning it. Remember the 2001 anthrax mailing attacks on government and media houses which killed five people right on US territory? The two principal suspects who puzzlingly were never charged, worked as microbiologists at Fort Detrick. Of the two, Bruce Ivins, who was the more culpable, died in 2008 of “suicide”. For “suicide”, read “elimination”, probably because he was in the process of spilling the beans and therefore cast the US government in a stigmatically diabolical light. Indeed, the following year, all research projects at Fort Detrick were suspended on grounds that the institute was “storing pathogens not listed in its database”. The real truth was likely much more reprehensible.
In 2014, there was a mini local pandemic in the US which killed thousands of people and which the mainstream media were not gutsy enough to report. It arose following the weaponisation at Fort Detrick of the H7N9 virus, prompting the Obama administration to at once declare a moratorium on the research and withdraw funding.
The Trump administration, however, which has a pathological fixation on undoing practically all the good Obama did, reinstated the research under new rigorous guidelines in 2017. But since old habits die hard, the new guidelines were flouted at will, leading to another shutdown of the whole research gamut at the institute in August 2019. This, nonetheless, was not wholesale as other areas of research, such as experiments to make bird flu more transmissible and which had begun in 2012, proceeded apace. As one commentator pointedly wondered aloud, was it really necessary to study how to make H5N1, which causes a type of bird flu with an eye-popping mortality rate, more transmissible?
Consistent with its character, the CDC was not prepared to furnish particulars upon issuing the cease and desist order, citing “national security reasons”. Could the real reason have been the manufacture of the novel coronavirus courtesy of a tip-off by the more scrupulous scientists?
President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have breathed a huge sigh of relief when he emerged victorious in last year’s 2019 general elections, but the ultimate test of his presidency has only just begun.
From COVID-19 pandemic effects; disenchanted unemployed youth, deteriorating diplomatic relations with neighbouring South Africa as well as emerging instability within the ruling party — Masisi has a lot to resolve in the next few years.
Last week we started an unwanted cold war with Botswana’s main trade partner, South Africa, in what we consider an ill-conceived move. Never, in the history of this country has Botswana shown South Africa a cold shoulder – particularly since the fall of the apartheid regime.
It is without a doubt that our country’s survival depends on having good relations with South Africa. As the Chairperson of African National Congress (ANC), Gwede Mantashe once said, a good relationship between Botswana and South Africa is not optional but necessary.
No matter how aggrieved we feel, we should never engage in a diplomatic war — with due respect to other neighbours— with South Africa. We will never gain anything from starting a diplomatic war with South Africa.
In fact, doing so will imperil our economy, given that majority of businesses in the retail sector and services sector are South African companies.
Former cabinet minister and Phakalane Estates proprietor, David Magang once opined that Botswana’s poor manufacturing sector and importation of more than 80 percent of the foodstuffs from South Africa, effectively renders Botswana a neo-colony of the former.
Magang’s statement may look demeaning, but that is the truth, and all sorts of examples can be produced to support that. Perhaps it is time to realise that as a nation, we are not independent enough to behave the way we do. And for God’s sake, we are a landlocked country!
Recently, the effects of COVID-19 have exposed the fragility of our economy; the devastating pleas of the unemployed and the uncertainty of the future. Botswana’s two mainstay source of income; diamonds and tourism have been hit hard. Going forward, there is a need to chart a new pathway, and surely it is not an easy task.
The ground is becoming fertile for uprisings that are not desirable in any country. That the government has not responded positively to the rising unemployment challenge is the truth, and very soon as a nation we will wake up to this reality.
The magnitude of the problem is so serious that citizens are running out of patience. The government on the other hand has not done much to instil confidence by assuring the populace that there is a plan.
The general feeling is that, not much will change, hence some sections of the society, will try to use other means to ensure that their demands are taken into consideration. Botswana might have enjoyed peace and stability in the past, but there is guarantee that, under the current circumstances, the status quo will be maintained.
It is evident that, increasingly, indigenous citizens are becoming resentful of naturalised and other foreign nationals. Many believe naturalised citizens, especially those of Indian origin, are the major beneficiaries in the economy, while the rest of the society is side-lined.
The resentfulness is likely to intensify going forward. We needed not to be heading in this direction. We needed not to be racist in our approach but when the pleas of the large section of the society are ignored, this is bound to happen.
It is should be the intention of every government that seeks to strive on non-racialism to ensure that there is shared prosperity. Share prosperity is the only way to make people of different races in one society to embrace each other, however, we have failed in this respect.
Masisi’s task goes beyond just delivering jobs and building a nation that we all desire, but he also has an immediate task of achieving stability within his own party. The matter is so serious that, there are threats of defection by a number of MPs, and if he does not arrest this, his government may collapse before completing the five year mandate.
The problems extend to the party itself, where Masisi found himself at war with his Secretary General, Mpho Balopi. The war is not just the fight for Central Committee position, but forms part of the succession plan.