Societies are always changing. A society that is static cannot develop. So it is no surprise that Botswana society is changing. What is worrying many people, especially various categories of leaders, is that the changes our society is undergoing seem to be largely negative.
Recently there have been debates on national Radio and TV, where these negative changes have been debated. Attracting most debate has been the behavioural tendencies observed among the youth, especially the ones at school or of school-going age.
This change in behaviour among the youth includes such things as their behaviour to adults (e.g., not greeting adults, smoking and drinking in front of adults, boys and girls showing amorous behaviour etc.), the way they behave in schools (such as vandalism and disrespecting teachers, including being aggressive or threatening to teachers), abuse of alcohol and other drugs, involvement in delinquency and crime, and generally not applying themselves to school work.
Many aspects of this behaviour can be seen also in adults, especially young adults who are no longer in school. There is excessive use of alcohol and other substances in our society, early and extramarital sexual activity, and general criminal activity.
Many explanations are being offered for this apparent unravelling of our society. Some say that these things are a sign of, or a result of the people of Botswana having abandoned their culture and tradition. They quote for example that tribal societies have abandoned institutions that used to instil good behaviour and promote culture such as initiation ceremonies (bogwera and bojale). Some on the other hand feel the problems are with us because we have abandoned God; by that meaning Christianity.
As an example, during a discussion in BTV recently in a programme called Molemo wa Kgang, when progress towards the attainment of Vision 2016 was being debated, a church leader stated that the youth who are active Christians and have given their lives to Christ do not participate in those bad behaviours that are described above.
But is that true? Do we find less crime, less extramarital sex, less teenage pregnancies, less drug abuse and less delinquency in general among youth and adults who are active Christians than among those who are not active Christians, or among the general population?
Studies so far have not shown that active Christians engage in these negative behaviours or suffer from their consequences any less than the general population or their counterparts who are not active in religion. Things like HIV infections and teenage pregnancies are evenly spread in the population and are not any less among the active Christians, showing that negative behaviours are widespread among the youth and the population in general.
Societies have been changing since human beings started organizing themselves in social groups- from small hunter-gatherer groups through tribal chiefdoms to the nation states that are now the common form of social and political organization. Economic organization has of course also been changing continuously in tandem with social and political organization, e.g., from hunter-gathering, to subsistence agriculture, to commercial agriculture, to commerce, industrialization and the sophisticated economy we see now.
Changes in social organization and social relations, including relations at family level, have been mostly determined by modes of economic production in society. In turn these modes of production have influenced urbanization, which has had a profound impact on the family.
In the Radio and TV debates I have referred to above, people have largely blamed the break-up of the extended family system for the social problems we are facing, especially bad youth behaviour. However, it should be remembered that these changes have faced every society that has “modernized” from being a tribal/agriculture based peasant society to an urban society dependent on commerce- the cash-based economy.
Urbanization and the cash-based economy promote individualism and the desire to accumulate wealth based on the money economy; hence the growth of the influence of the Middle Class and the decline of the influence of the nobility and the feudal classes.
We should remember that urbanization is not a new phenomenon. The ancient empires such as the Babylonian, the Greek and the Roman Empires had considerable urbanization. Hence the existence of City States in those Empires. In fact the word “civilization” in a way relates to urbanization [the word civilization comes from the "Early modern France" 16th-century French civilisé (civilized), from Latin civilis (civil), related to civis (citizen) and civitas (city)]. So, when we talk of people abandoning their culture to adopt “foreign” culture, we actually mean that our society is undergoing reorganization to become more urban and its economy to become more cash oriented.
A good example is our major villages; they have had to be reclassified urban (euphemistically called urban villages) since the 1981 census because it was realized that the majority of people in these localities no longer rely on agriculture for day to day survival or as their main occupation.
Globally, this phenomenon of change of dependence on agriculture started in Europe from about the 16th century with the growth of commerce and the Middle Class, and gained momentum with the industrial revolution. All these changes promoted urbanization and its attendant social organization.
These changes have also led to the growth of the “nuclear family” as the main basic unit of society, with the accompanying decline of the extended family system. The family now consists of the parents (or parent) and their children, usually living away from their traditional home (the husband and the wife may be coming from different villages), working in an urban area.
Their contact with their relatives is generally minimal, so the children only know their uncles and aunts peripherally. Unlike in the past, these relatives have little or no influence on this nuclear family, and as the children become adults, the role of the extended family declines progressively.
The developed countries are now living in such a system. We in Botswana, as is the situation in many developing countries, are slowly but inexorably moving to that situation. We are in a state of transition, with the extended family slowly collapsing and the nuclear family slowly becoming the norm.
This situation obviously has a profound effect on the way our children are socialized. Our children don’t spend a lot of time with their cousins and other peers playing in the dust of the patlelo in the village. They spend time alone or watching TV, and they meet their relatives only occasionally.
Another complicating factor on the socialization of the children is that many, probably most of them, are born out of wedlock. So they do not have a balanced family with a father and mother to guide their socialization. These changes are inexorably marching on.
The wheel cannot be turned back to a situation where life will be like it was during the primacy of the tribal system. So, instead of crying for the return to past cultures and traditions that have faded away , our leaders should work towards managing change, because the change will keep happening.
Our leaders- political, tribal, social- should aim at managing this change and not stopping it, as that is not practical. Those who advocate the reintroduction or strengthening the tribal system to reflect the situation of many decades ago are likely to be very disappointed. In the same way, those who think Christianity can be the main factor in arresting the negative effects of modernity and change in our society are not being very practical. Instead, both tribal culture and Christianity should learn to live with this new culture and influence it from within.
One cannot help but feel the sense of despondency, frustration and desperation that seem to grip many young Batswana as they face their future. What hit most Sub-Saharan African countries from the late 1970s or 1980s is to some extent hitting us now. While Botswana is not facing the economic collapse they faced at the time, the other problems are with us- unemployment, especially graduate unemployment being the most visible problem.
When most of these African countries faced economic collapse and were pushed by the International Finance Institutions and donors to undergo Structural Adjustment Programmes as a condition to be rescued with aid and debt forgiveness, Botswana was riding the crest with rapid economic growth, despite the fact that two decades earlier, at the time of its independence, it was regarded as a hopeless case while the other countries had promising economies.
Botswana did not have to undergo the HIPC initiative (Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative), that was used by the International Organizations and donors to implement massive aid and debt forgiveness to restart the collapsed economies of the fellow African countries.
Botswana grew to become a Middle Income country, while a few of its peers actually dropped from Middle Income status to Low Income or under-developed country status. These countries have now been revived, thanks to aid and debt forgiveness (neo liberal economics?) and Botswana is now having some of the problems they had and still have- small economies that cannot absorb all their people into productive jobs. Contrary to what some people are peddling around, there are no ready-made solutions to these problems.
In view of these problems, many, including the youth, seem to believe that Botswana is facing a “defining moment”. One cannot help but feel that this feeling is largely deliberately orchestrated by some organizations and individuals. What is a defining moment? It is a feeling that something drastic is about to happen. It can be defined as an event which typifies or determines all subsequent related occurrences. Such an even can determine the subsequent occurrences to be negative or positive. While many advocates of a defining moment for Botswana seem to be expecting the negative, many of us hope that if such a moment does come, it will determine positive occurrences for the future.
Our future is in our hands, but with challenges that face us, such as a small population, some of it scattered in a large area of desert, being landlocked and having a small economy, we should accept that it will be a hard slog.
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.