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Zimbabwe: Is Paradise Lost?

Exactly this time in July last year, I wrote an article titled “Zimbabwe: What are our options?” In the article I appealed to you, fellow citizens, to dig into your collective wisdom about the future of our country. I was humbled by your responses which ranged from extreme apathy, pessimism and despondency to militancy, hope and rebirth. From the myriad of responses, I got the feeling that paradise is not yet lost in spite of the sentiments of some of our compatriots who thought Zimbabwe had descended into purgatory.


Betrayal

But what is discomforting is that there seems to be a lack of commitment by some of our country’s leading voices to tackle the serious problems facing our country. In some cases, our inertia as a nation emanates from the fear of changing our failed political system because we are either cowards or we have surrendered to the top predators of the food chain who are hell bent on plundering our country, hoping that we shall eat the crumbs that fall from their dining table.


And worse still, we have betrayed our country since the dawn of our ‘independence’. We have betrayed our country in that we have lied, without shame, to ourselves and to our people that we can improve the quality of their lives by creating jobs and by ushering in hope, social justice and prosperity. We have lied to ourselves that we can transform our country from being a rodent economy to a thriving modern state, from inequality to equality, from injustice to justice and from despotism to democracy. Of late we have deceived our people by crafting a new constitution whose intent and spirit we are not prepared to implement because it prevents those of us who are privileged from plundering the wealth that God has given to all of us. This unabated chicanery is the greatest betrayal of our mother land.


We can quibble about who has betrayed our country the most, but the bottom line is that each one of us is guilty through either our silence in the face of an apparent collapse of our country or through our inability to work together, like a pride of lions, in order to bring down the charging buffalo. Those who do not want to accept self-criticism vicariously argue that the ruin of our country has been caused by ZANU PF and its long-serving chief executive officer. They wash their hands, like Pontius Pilate, and proclaim to the world that they have never been part of the rot. That is sheer hypocrisy because the ruin of our country would not have taken place had we not been complicit in its meltdown. We must accept the painful truth that, we Zimbabweans, through a combination of our cowardice and docility have allowed our country to be ruined. Today we have lost self-respect and are a laughing stock of the region and the continent. What practical steps have we taken to prevent our country from going down the drain? Where is our resistance and fighting spirit for which we are well known?


Yes, ZANU PF and its leadership have played a major role in destroying what used to be the jewel of Africa. Yes they have acted like a leopard which eats its own cubs. Yes they have destroyed our farming industry, our infrastructure and the industrial capacity of our country through their blind policies. Yes they have rigged the results of successive elections, and yes they have haemorrhaged the soul and spirit of our people. But we are equally guilty of allowing the rot to take place through our pusillanimity which makes us fear to take the slightest risk. What did we do to correct the situation? All we did was to cry foul or hide our heads in the sand, like an ostrich, pretending that everything is fine and that life will be better in the near future. In our meekness and timidity, we have said to ourselves that we should mind our own family affairs and not meddle in the political affairs of our country. Now we are paying the price because the centre can no longer hold. Who is to blame?


With all our exalted education, did we not see in advance the chicanery of the pied piper who promised milk and honey? Did we not see the thieving hand that pick-pocketed our inalienable human rights, our freedom and our democracy? It seems to me that our collective ‘innocence’ makes us guilty of betraying ourselves and our country. Admittedly, the degree of betrayal may have differed. Some of us may have been involved in a vertical, perpendicular, acute or horizontal betrayal, but that is neither here nor there. The difference is simply a geometrical calculation which attempts to measure our involvement but not to exonerate ourselves from collateral damage. Quite clearly, in one way or the other, we all share the same blame. But together we can regain our lost paradise if we answer, unequivocally, this simple question: When and how are we going to stop the decay of our country?


Haunting Past

Perhaps at the centre of our problems is our haunted past. Since independence, we have never cast out the demons of our past by coming out into the open to admit that we have inflicted grievous harm to some of our fellow citizens and have gruesomely killed some of them. As we may be aware, in many human cultures, an innocent blood that is shed comes back to haunt you. We did not speak out openly, like South Africans did in their truth and reconciliation commission chaired by Bishop Tutu, about our dark past. And neither did we ask for forgiveness from those we humiliated, even if it was clear that we needed to do so. Like an unrepentant sinner, we did not seek reconciliation among ourselves but, instead, decided to move on as if nothing had happened. So, the restless spirit of those we wronged and those we killed in the past is now visiting our land, more especially that we have betrayed the ideals for which they died. Perhaps in their graves they are asking: Is this the Zimbabwe we died for?


And for a moment I want you to pause and imagine what our fallen heroes are thinking about us. What is Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira, Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Dr Edson Sithole, J. Z. Moyo, Lookout Masuku, Solomon Mujuru and the thousands of our people who died in Mozambique and Zambia in pursuit of our freedom saying about the current situation in Zimbabwe? Do you think they are happy? In their meetings in the world of the spirits, what are they saying about us? Don’t you think they are angry with us, not because we hurt or killed them, but because we have betrayed what they stood for?


The echo of our haunted past increases with greater resonance when we think about the thousands of our compatriots who were murdered in Matebeleland and the Midlands by the notorious gukurahundi as part of a power struggle and ethnic cleansing. Their lingering spirit, bludgeoned skulls and scattered bones stare at us demanding a simple answer to a simple question: Why did you kill us? Do we not need to appease their restless spirit so that we can reconcile ourselves with our sordid past?


What about the savage dispossession of our fellow white citizens of their farms? Although it is indisputable that we needed to redress the injustices of the past, did we need to brutalise the powerless minority in order to bring about justice? Did we need to punish them because of their whiteness and the sins committed by their fathers? Did we need to repeat history by dispossessing the white minority like the fascist Hitler regime did to the Jewish minority in Nazi Germany? Surely we had all the instruments of power to smoothly redistribute our farm land to the landless without destroying our thriving agriculture. What is our lasting solution?


Similarly, we are also haunted by the images of the houses that were callously demolished by those who were frightened of the burgeoning population in our urban areas. Those in power savagely hacked down the houses of the powerless under the pretext that their dwellings were illegally built. They ruined their lives by destroying the only assets they could bequeath to their children. They destroyed a whole generation of our people by inflicting on them an indelible pain. Can you visualise the image of that woman whose beautiful house was wrestled down by the bull dozers while she stood by watching helplessly and crying for divine intervention? Her permanent sorrow runs deep into our conscience. Has she, like many others who were similarly traumatised, pardoned those who inflicted pain on her?


What about the pain of those who lost overnight all their savings through a self-inflicted hyper- inflation? What do we say to those who died because they couldn’t pay their hospital bills; not because they didn’t have some money but because their money had suddenly become worthless due to the mismanagement of our economy? Is there any just compensation for those whose life insurance policies withered away because the Zimbabwean dollar irretrievably lost its value? The pain is too deep in our flesh. It is over here, it is over there in you and me. It cuts deep like a knife or a spear piercing into our heart, and it is so deep and excruciating that we cannot pretend our nation is not hurt. Therefore, in order for us to march into the future confidently, we need a healing process which deals with our turbulent past. The current battle with the street vendors who are trying to survive by selling small items on our streets is yet another pain being inflicted on an already bleeding nation. But there is an irrepressible inner voice which continues to ask: When and how are we going to put to an end all this suffering?

Amazing Resilience

Yet, in spite of the pain and suffering our people are going through, one cannot fail to marvel at their indomitable spirit. They crack jokes and exude an abundant warmth and love, which you rarely find in other parts of our continent. The rank and file of our people survive, against all odds, on the scraps and crumbs the rich have discarded. They criss-cross the urban centres in order to cut some small deals and sell all sorts of merchandise to make a living. Our taxi drivers wake up very early in the morning to drive their ramshackle vehicles and stay on until there are no more passengers to ferry. They are not even deterred by the corrupt traffic cops who demand a bribe for every flimsy traffic offence.


Much more resilient are our women who stand all day long at their market stalls waiting for someone to fork out a few cents to buy their vegetables and small items. At the busy bus stops, young men work like bees, transporting the goods and luggage of travellers who want to board a bus or a mini bus to go home or find a menial job somewhere else. And in the cities, street children who are hardened by poverty guard, wash and polish the cars of the privileged from sun rise to sun set.


Those in the rural areas show an equally amazing stamina. They work tirelessly on their small pieces of land to feed their families. The searing heat does not weaken them. They tenaciously plough, weed and harvest whatever nature has decided to give them during the season. Their perspiration and salty sweat does not slow them down, but greases their determination to survive. They are driven by the wise words of our elders who say that a chicken that does not scratch the ground dies of hunger. Because of this, they work from sun rise till sun set; and the same cycle repeats itself the following day and the day after, throughout the whole year. This is the amazing spirit of our people which waits to be harnessed for the restoration of our lost paradise.


I know that there are some sceptics who think that a return to paradise in Zimbabwe is a pipe dream because we have lost so much ground over the years. Yes we have been dislocated, but not fractured. We still have our survival instinct. We have gone through this before from 1965-1980 when the whole world imposed sanctions on Rhodesia when Ian Douglas Smith, the last white prime minister, declared unilateral independence in 1965. After independence in 1980, when sanctions were removed, the economy boomed. And the same recovery trend was experienced when we had a government of national unity from 2009-2013. These are the indicators that show that, given the right political environment, our country can rise again to its former glory, especially because we are richly endowed with gold, diamonds, platinum, nickel, chrome, iron ore, coal, gas, rich farm land and above all, a skilled and hard-working people. But the question is: how and when are we going to bring back our lost paradise?   

Political Rebirth

In order to regain our lost paradise, we urgently need to have a new political vision whose agenda is to restore the dignity of our country. For thirty five years since 1980 many of our people acquiesced under the rule of ZANU PF because it had liberation credentials. The party was successively given a blank cheque to rule our country hoping that it would translate our political gains into economic prosperity. But it has failed our people. It has failed us in that it has neither brought about political freedom nor has it fulfilled part of its social contract by creating an enabling environment which makes our people achieve their dream of happiness and prosperity. What it has succeeded to do over the years is to run down the country through its drunken policies and to drive out three to five million of our people into exile. It has no good story to tell, except a tale of betrayal and tragedy. Yes, it has run a long distance race for thirty five years, but now it has run out of steam. We need a political rebirth to save our country from becoming the wretched of the earth.


Today, ZANU PF can be likened to an old bus with so many dents, broken parts, torn seats, shattered windows, a cracked front screen with no head lamps or rear lights. The engine is smoking and the tyres are worn out. The driver, though highly respected, is old and ailing but is crafty and wily enough to silence rebellion. He has run out of ideas and does not know where to drive the bus. While there are still some passengers in the bus, they are quarrelsome and dangerously thuggish. There are too many factions in the bus which are ready to back-stab each other. They thrive on boot licking and singing praise songs of the driver. The more intelligent conductors and passengers are aware that the engine is going to knock. So, they are busy plundering whatever they can lay their hands on before it is too late. Can this bus be trusted to take us to our destination?


On the other hand, there is an MDC bus. It, too, has factions. The main MDC remains the omnibus, with many passengers wearing red t-shirts. The bus is road worthy and is carrying jubilant passengers from many parts of the country. The engine is in good condition as well as the body parts. The driver is tried and tested. He has been previously beaten up by ZANU PF thugs who fear his bewitching charm and charisma, and he has been involved in a suspicious road accident which sadly claimed the life of his wife. He remains as constant as the northern star in his resolve to bring about democracy; but the main problem is that, in spite of the international goodwill he enjoys, he appears to have no clear vision about where to drive the bus. He needs our support in order to gain more courage. He has demonstrated his willingness to work with other people and stands out as a crowd pulling driver who can galvanise the masses into action.


But, as we all know, the movement for democratic change is no longer a monolithic organisation. It now has two splinter groups which are like two mini buses competing with the main bus to get some passengers. One of the mini buses is parked in Bulawayo. It is licensed and is road worthy, but it has no designated route. It has tried to pirate some passengers from the main bus, but has been hamstrung by its lack of visibility. The driver is intelligent and well educated, but is a victim of his own ambition and intransigence. He is a national asset who should be persuaded to accept the wisdom of our elders who advise us that one figure cannot crush a louse.


Another faction of the movement which calls itself the Renewal Team is trying to launch its own mini bus. The team has been trying to do a market research in order to find a niche in the saturated political market. The ‘team’ has set a date when they are going to launch their mini bus. It is unclear what name the mini bus will be called and the route it will take. We still do not know whether it will commute in the major cities and townships or it will go to the rural areas. Whatever name or route it will take, the important thing is that it must be viable. From the look of things, the team will struggle to breathe a new life into a congested political space. By calling themselves a ‘team’, they have inadvertently admitted that they are just a group of individuals with a singular purpose.


This aside, we must commend the ‘renewal team’ for having publicly announced that they are prepared to work with others in order to bring about meaningful change to our country. Like their obscure ‘renewal team’, they seem to suffer from self-contradiction in that while they say they are prepared to form a grand coalition with other political formations, one wonders whether it was necessary to break away from the main MDC in order to form a ‘grand coalition’. And is it constructive to suggest that they do not want to unite with the leader of the main MDC who clearly commands the largest support in the country? Be that as it may, the driver of the renewal team is a distinguished son of Zimbabwe who, I believe, will be wise enough to realise that sticks in a bundle are difficult to break. That is the ideal which the team should work towards in order to achieve the Zimbabwean dream of a free and just society.


This leaves us with the oldest mini bus, which is ZAPU. It would seem, to all intents and purposes, it long ceased to be on the road. It is in the scrap yard with no engine, no tyres, has broken windows and is rusty and dilapidated. The only visible thing on the mini bus are the fossil letters written boldly: Zimbabwe African Peoples Union. Its continued existence is probably inspired by nothing else but nostalgia and sentiment. And those who have fond memories of its past achievements often gather in the ramshackle mini bus to reminisce on how the organisation used to unite all our people into one critical mass. Its past slogan of ‘the son of the soil’ or umtwana welizwe/mwana wevhu united all our people, regardless of one’s tribe, race or class. Its present leader is a true son of the soil who has been humiliated by the current regime. He is a liberation hero whose spirit has not been broken by those who dislike what he stands for. He is the remnant of resistance and remains an icon of justice and freedom. He is prepared to work with others who share the same dream and has demonstrated his selflessness by uniting with Dr Simba Makoni, another brilliant son of Zimbabwe whose ideal of widening the democratic space has been frustrated by his ex-colleagues in ZANU PF.  

Resolution

As can be seen from the above analysis, the will is there already to form a broad-based front in order to regain our lost paradise. Each opposition group has declared openly that they are willing to work with others in order to save our country from an inevitable collapse. Also, it is necessary to open up the political space to include those who have been expelled from ZANU PF. We should not forget the dictum that in politics there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. Political marriages always mutate depending on the circumstances. As the situation stands, there are no ideological differences which can prevent us from uniting. We all share the same ideal: that of making Zimbabwe a prosperous country which we can all be proud of. The era of an antagonistic Marxist-Leninist ideology versus capitalist imperialism is now gone. What we need to do is to immediately open up dialogue in order to find one another. Anyone who refuses to heed the call for unity runs the risk of being judged harshly by history as a traitor.


In order to unite, may I humbly remind Messrs Biti, Dabengwa, Makoni, Ncube, Tsvangirai and Dr Mujuru that you stand on the cross roads. You either choose to follow the path of unity in order to save our country from ruin or you go it alone knowing that our people will not forgive you for betraying their hopes. This clarion call is also extended to ZANU PF. I know that some of those in the party genuinely want to see change, but they are under the spell of fear. My candid advice is that they should not betray their conscience and go down in history as having been responsible for the destruction of our beautiful country. They can maintain their honour by joining forces with those who want to bring back our lost paradise. The same goes to our churches. They need to stand up courageously and be counted on the side of the suffering and the down-trodden by preaching the gospel of liberation and salvation. The book of Proverbs is awash with messages that warn against oppression. For instance, Proverbs Chapter 14 verse 31 is quite explicit: “If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship”.


In seeking unity, we need to be very clear about the sort of unity which suits our unique circumstances. It is my considered view that we need to explore all the possible options. For instance, we can form a patriotic front, a grand coalition, a loose alliance, an umbrella party with individual identities or a new political party altogether. The merits and demerits of each of these options require another discussion. But as a person who is deeply concerned about the future of our country, I am prepared to join forces with those who want to bring about a lasting solution to our country.


While we work out the modalities of a broad based unity, we need to (1) prepare a programme for the economic recovery of our country in the short and long term, (2) engage the international community for a marshal plan to rescue our country from its current economic morass, (3) review our investment and land redistribution policies, (4) establish a watch-dog organ with the help of the United Nations to ensure that our mineral resources and other national assets are not further plundered, (5) draw up a concrete plan for a credible, free and fair election under the auspices of the international community, (6) devise a plan with the assistance of the international community to lure back Zimbabweans in the diaspora, and (7) establish a national healing and reconciliation commission which will bring closure to our turbulent past.
 

Conclusion

To wrap up, let me humbly submit to you, fellow citizens, that my writing this paper is driven by my deep concern for the future of our country, your country, the country of our children and those who will come after them. I know that you are equally concerned and so are the millions of our people. I also know that you are prepared to unite for the salvation of our country. Our first step, therefore, is to call on all our political movements to unite so that we can restore our lost paradise. I hope that they will not fail us. Let me also assure you that we are fortified by the knowledge that no amount of force, no matter how mighty it is, can ever stop us from reclaiming what is rightfully ours: the right to happiness and prosperity. We are also strengthened by the spirit of our ancestors who tell us that “tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it”. As I end my paper, allow me to leave you with these poetic words:


We are the new buds that unfurl from the old leaves

We bubble youthfulness in our quest for a new spring

In the past we harvested the leaves, but never the fruit

We are ready for the future’s cradle like a new seed

Discarding the old shell that slowed down our walk


Professor Ambrose B. Chimbganda can be contacted at: chimbga42@gmail.com

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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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