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There is more to culture than singing and dancing

There are some people who have reduced our Setswana Culture to mere singing and dancing. There is a lot we can learn from our heritage in order to build a better Botswana for the future generations.

Ours is a human centered culture, this means that whatever we do, human beings come first. We do not plan to do things in order to make profit or individual gains.

Our economic plans, political governance were always geared towards the interest of the community as a whole. Nobody was regarded as inferior or less privileged because the society was giving equal opportunities to all.

If for whatever reasons someone is found to be less fortunate either due to ill health or disability the society or community will come to his or her rescue and nobody will announce it at the top of his voice that so and so is poor and I have brought him or her out of poverty.

It is a taboo in Setswana culture to boast about your wealth. The wealth someone is having does not belong to him or her but to the clan. We speak about dikgomo tsa rona, dikgomo tsa gaetsho, Dikgomo tsoo rra Moenga kgotsa dikgomo tsoorra semangmang. This is the culture which makes every child in the family, clan, community, tribe or society to be equal because the wealth of the society belongs to all.

As Steve Biko said, in traditional African culture, there is no such thing as two friends. Conversation groups were more or less naturally determined by age and divisions of labor. Thus one would find all boys whose job was to look after cattle periodically meeting at a popular spot to engage in conversation about their cattle, girl friends, parents, heroes etc. All commonly shared their secrets, joys and woes. No one felt unnecessarily an intruder into someone’s business.

The curiosity manifested was welcome. It came out of desire to share. This pattern one would find in all age groups. House visiting was always a feature of the elderly people’s way of life. No reason was needed as a basis for visits. We did not need hired pastors or borra le bomma boipelego to visit the sick and the needy. It was all part of our deep concern for each other.

These are things never done in the westerners’ culture. A visitor to someone’s house, with the exception of friends, is always met with the question; “what can I do for you?” This attitude of viewing people as agents, for particular functions either to one’s disadvantage or advantage is foreign to us.

We are not a suspicious race. We believe in the inherent goodness of human beings. We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap warranting endless competition amongst us but as a deliberate act of God to make us a community of brothers and sisters jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer to the varied problems of life.

Hence in all we do we always place human beings first and hence all our action is usually joint community oriented action rather than the individualization which is the hallmark of the capitalist approach. We always refrain from using people as stepping stones.

Talking to each other is one of the central concepts of our culture. We talk to each other not for the sake of arriving at a particular conclusion but merely to enjoy the communication for its own sake and to learn from one another.

This talking to each other freely will erase suspicion from one another. Today you find people belonging to one organization, either a political party or church but not greeting each other when they meet in the streets, let alone talking to each other. You hear the secretary general of a particular party does not see eye to eye with the president of the party. This is not African and is evil to say the least. People see each other only in meetings or church gathering on Sundays.

African culture, our Setswana culture teaches us to communicate with one another and by so doing build trust and respect on each other. I don’t need to greet you when we meet only if I know you. Greetings, in our culture are the key to conversations.

When Batswana meet they greet each other and ask about relatives’ welfare, even about their cattle, sheep, and goats because in Setswana you cannot be well if your uncle or mother is not well, or if your animals are dying of drought. We believe in a holistic approach to life. Our Setswana culture must be reflected in all spheres of life i.e. in our politics, economic and social life. Batswana believe in consensus methods in dealing with national issues.

We debate issues politely, honestly with respect to each other until we reach an agreement. It is in the best interest of the majority that we agree. We don’t believe that everything discussed needs to be voted for. Voting is a foreign concept. In a world where money can buy anything most voters are being bought as one intelligent journalist put it, “under capitalism – democracy is on sale!”

Sometimes people vote without knowing why they are voting and who they are voting for, simply because they are given money or they are given alcohol. We no longer debate issues, because of lack of African culture in our politics, evil people are in governments in Africa while honest and intelligent people are left out of power.

In African culture a leader is prepared even before birth, groomed and nurtured to be a leader. This reminds me of the story I was told by Kgosi Mareko Mosielele of Bahurutshe on how he trained Kgosi Letsholathebe Moremi. Kgosi Letsholathebe II graduated with a degree but in accordance with our Setswana culture.

Batawana royal house found it fit to send Letsholathebe II for more studies at the Bahurutshe royal house. Anybody who knew Kgosi Letsholathebe II will agree with me that he was the best among the best when it comes to leadership qualities. He was a down to earth person but highly respected kgosi.

On several occasions, I met him in Gaborone when he was attending house of chiefs meetings and I being a student he will always say,” dumela morwa Moenga, you always remind me of your parents”. Somehow Kgosi knew my parents and respected them and I benefitted from that in a way.

The point I am making is that, a leader is trained to lead. It must be the people to decide who leads them, not money as it seems to be the case in our society now. Our culture also was reflected in our economic systems as Africans or Batswana.

We helped each other when it was ploughing season since we did not have tractors and used oxen for ploughing. Those who did not have oxen would just go and borrow from the neighbor, borrowing oxen, easily, as if borrowing a simple knife. That is African culture. What was important was assisting someone.

At the center of our culture is the human being. Whatever we do or plan to do is done in the best interest of the human being. Poverty is a foreign concept. As I said rich or poor we were always using oxen for ploughing. If you didn’t have milk to provide for your children you would just go and ask for dikgomo tsa mafisa. 

Our economy was not profit driven, unlike the western culture that places profit ahead of human beings, although they smartly refer to it as individual rights. The right of individuals to do whatever they want to do, even at the expense of other human beings.

This is why at the time of bo Sir Seretse khama & Sir Ketumile Masire we used to have price control department to ensure that prices were not set to exploit people. Goods and services shouldn’t be produced for the simple purpose of making money at the expense of the consumer.

As Steve Biko said,” we are tolerated because our cheap labor is needed. I will add,”also because our money is needed”. Biko is right to say that in rejecting the western values, therefore, we are rejecting those that are not only foreign to us but that seek to destroy the most cherished of our beliefs or that the corner stone of our society is man himself – not just his welfare, not his material well being but just man himself, with all his ramifications.

We must reject the power based society of the west that seems to be ever concerned with perfecting their technological know- how while losing out on their spiritual dimension. We believe that in the long run the special contribution to the world by Africa will be on this field of human relationship.


The great gift is not money, industrial or even a military look but the greatest gift to the world which can only come from Africa is to give the world a more human face. It is from this background that when we talk of our culture and how to preserve it we must know what we are talking about because it is the culture which will serve the world.

It seems in Botswana we are busy destroying our culture. Because if we are really serious about preserving our culture we must start with the teaching of our languages in schools, like Sekalaka, Seyei, Sesarwa and many more found in this country.

The good thing is that we are surrounded by countries where these languages are taught. We can easily take teachers & text books from Zimbabwe to teach Sekalaka, take teachers & textbooks from Namibia to teach senaro, Seyei, Sembukushu; take textbooks and teachers from South-Africa to teach seXhosa & Afrikaans. We can take teachers & text books from Zambia to teach Serotsi & Sesubiya.

In my view music, art and dancing are means to communicating in our culture and are not as central to our culture. At the center of our culture is the Human Being.

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Opinions

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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Opinions

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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Opinions

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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