When the UDC was founded some of us were apparently fooled into thinking that we were pursuing the idea of a United Front which has always been a BNF strategy of bringing about genuine independence to this country by mobilizing all democratic and patriotic forces. I personally dismissed as a conspiracy theory what some BNF members told me that the leadership of the three parties, the BNF, BMD and BPP had a grand plan to eventually make the UDC a political party that would substitute for their disparate political organizations.
Only now is it becoming clear that indeed while the rank and file members of the BNF had in mind a United Front some of their leaders had a grand plan of ultimately disbanding the BNF and or merging it with the BMD and BPP. The proposal of a merger has caused something of a stir within the BNF membership who clearly understand that in the fight against imperialism, neo-colonialism and the remnants of feudalism disbanding the BNF has never been and will never be an option. Clearly, our leadership failed the test of accountability to their members on this score.
The main purpose of this article is not try and rekindle the debate per se but to draw the attention of the BNF members, particularly its leadership, to the time-test position of the party on the United Front. This position dates back to 1965 when the BNF was founded and therefore it is absolutely unacceptable for the BNF leadership to be either ignorant or oblivious of it. My views against a political merger were clearly articulated in an article in penned in response to a statement made by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi to the effect that in 2015 the congresses of the three UDC parties will meet and decide whether to merge into one political party (see Sunday Standard , 0109/2013). Let me add that further details on my objection to a merger will be carried by my forthcoming book titled, In Defense of the BNF: Volume One.
Subsequently, I wrote several newspaper articles designed to help the founders of the UDC to consummate the organization as a United Front. None of that advice was taken on board, and strictly speaking, the UDC is not structured or constituted as a United Front. Though BNF is numerically the biggest party in the UDC its leadership within the UDC is at best, far too weak, and at worst, non-existent, not least because the leadership is not focused on strengthening the BNF. The fact that UDC campaigned for the 2014 general election on the basis of a liberal manifesto which was completely silent on traditional BNF policies, including Social Democratic policies endorsed by all three cooperating parties, was clearly indicative of a grand plan to dismantle the BNF.
Regarding the so-called UDC manifesto I must take this opportunity to set the record straight, regarding my role or the lack of it. I deliberately ignored this matter during the campaign because I wanted us to stay focused on fighting the BDP. With elections gone I must clarify my position. The general impression BNF members were given was that I was part of the team that wrote the UDC manifesto. As a matter of fact, I was part of the team that negotiated and wrote UDC policies, not the so-called UDC election manifesto. The UDC policies were not even used to write the UDC manifesto.
The two documents are poles apart. Some comrades go to the extent of accusing me for the liberal so-called UDC manifesto because it is alleged that after being invited to join the manifesto team I walked out. Nothing could be further from the truth – I was not invited to join the UDC manifesto team, which, to all intents and purposes, was apparently single-handedly authored by the BMD. Those behind these maneuvers reckoned that it would be easier to persuade the BNF members to disband their party had UDC won the elections on a banner that was not even BNF.
How can the BNF leadership be focused on defending the BNF when their ultimate aim is to disband it? Consequently, it is ironical that while the United Front is a BNF concept as a political party we are losing ground to other parties within UDC. The BNF leadership lacks the basic understanding of the United Front and the fact that to strengthen UDC they must concentrate more on strengthening their party (the BNF), and not UDC. And as a matter of principle all BNF members must be BNF first and only UDC second. Some of them have confused loyalties.
When article 8.4 of the UDC constitution states that ‘the structures, authority and powers of group members of the Umbrella shall be subordinate to the power and authority of the Umbrella’ it effectively establishes the UDC not only as a political party, but a super political party whose authority cannot be challenged by the individual Central Committees of the BNF, BMD and BPP. This article runs counter to the principle of a United Front. Furthermore, Article 3.3 defines the Umbrella ‘a registered political party’ and yet none of the central committees of the three cooperating parties was mandated by their congresses to form a new ‘political party’.
On the contrary the BNF Mochudi Congress resolution of 2010 was loud and clear in mandating its Central Committee to go and negotiate some form of cooperation with other parties subject to one fundamental condition – never to compromise the ‘soul’ or political integrity of the BNF. The other anti-United Front clause is Article 7 on the Individual Member. A party is formed by individual members hence this article. To the best of my recollection BNF members at different fora rejected the idea of individual membership of the UDC. In Botswana everybody is free to form a party of their choice. What is unacceptable is for some people to mischievously try to form a new party at the expense of the BNF. Again why is the UDC constitution already operational before it is formally adopted and debated by party structures?
In its headline story titled ‘UDC partners may merge in 2015’ Mmegi, (June 11, 2013) reported that, ‘The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will hold a congress in 2015 to determine its destiny, president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Gomolemo Motswaledi has said. He told Mmegi that at the congress, the UDC partners, BMD, BNF and BPP will decide whether to merge and form one party or maintain the status quo. Motswaledi is UDC secretary general’. This statement by Motswaledi has now been fully restated by the UDC (see Sunday Standard 15/03/2015 ) which envisions the holding of the last congresses of the three parties before the 2019 general elections and their merger into a single party.
At the just ended BNF Leadership Forum the proposal to disband the BNF and merge it with the BMD and BPP was formally presented as an agenda item but without proper consultation of the general membership. The agenda item only vaguely stated ‘UDC- the Way Forward’ as an item to be motivated by the Central Committee. The BNF Constitution is silent on how much time the Central Committee must give members to mull over agenda items and no accompanying notes are provided for members to know exactly what the items are about The tendency to give members short notice is part of the strategy of stifling debate so that the ideas of the leadership should prevail.
Thankfully, although BNF members were ambushed they were vigilant enough – they actively deliberated on the matter in three groups and unanimously rejected it outright, including the proposal to have a shared office of the three cooperating parties. A shared office would have been one step towards merging the parties – exactly what BNF members do not want. There was not one dissenting voice from the floor. So far so good, but I suspect that this non-issue will again rear its ugly head at the July conference and it must again suffer tissue rejection.
What then is the position of the BNF on the United Front as expressed in the basic document of the party, Pamphlet Number 1? We quote lberally from Pamphlet Number 1 in order to illustrate this critically important point. After describing the modern petty bourgeoisie or ‘Elites by education’ Dr Koma provides this advice regarding the United Front; ‘From this characterization, it is clear that the section of the Botswana nation which forms the basic force in the United Front should maintain its autonomy within the Botswana National Front’ (page 26). Here Dr Koma had in mind the ultimate assumption of the working class leadership of the Botswana National Front that the founders of the BNF envisaged – maintaining their organizational and ideological independence both within the BNF and the broad United Front of democratic and patriotic forces. This was considered impossible by the founders of the BNF in 1965 because, as Dr Koma goes on to explain, ‘their class consciousness is as yet non-existent.
They are not politically organized and where there is some nucleus organization, they have fallen under the influence of the pro-colonialist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. It is obvious that unless and until it can join the United Front as a force independent from the political parties, the working class in Botswana cannot and will not play the role of a basic force in the United Front. And it is obvious that without a working class ideology, the working class in Botswana will remain on the level of trade unionism – concerned with wages and conditions of service’ (page 26).
Getting to the crux of the matter Dr Koma states that; ‘They (the basic force in the United Front) should unite with their allies in the national democratic front (currently these are the BMD and BPP, to some extent BOFEPUSO), but they should not merge, except under very exceptional conditions favourable to the independence of their orientation. This means that while we are certainly for unity, we are not for a merger. We are not for a single party. Here we disagree with those protagonists of national unity who disseminate the thesis that it is in interests of the struggle that in all cases there should be only one party. We are for independence and autonomy within the United Front. We reject the one party system as a general panacea’ (page 23).
The quotation above is the central message of this article. The BNF leadership must be fighting for the independence and autonomy of the BNF within the UDC, not a merger. I have no doubt in my mind that had Dr Koma not met his untimely demise and managed to compete his book, The Vietnamese Experience of the United Front he would have driven this massage further home on the concept and application of the strategy of a United Front. It is however reassuring to learn that one comrade is working hard at trying to get this book completed and published. We look forward to reading it.
Since a proper United Front requires working class leadership Dr Koma then sounds this warning, mainly to the revolutionary intellectuals and the class consciousness working class, on the dangers of lack of a working class leadership of both the BNF and the national democratic front, ‘We submit that form the elements which constitute the basic force of the United Front not to have their own party or organization, not to maintain the purity of their orientation, is to condemn the whole movement to the pace of a snail and to obscure the fact that the national democratic front is an organizational weapon for specific tasks at a specific phase of the movement… for the basic force to join the United Front without their organization is like a general who shouts hysterical slogans about going to the battle when he has neither a gun nor an army’ (page 23).
The current BNF leadership is absolutely nothing about this second and admittedly difficult condition for a successful United Front. Surely any BNF leader who has read and internalized these words cannot make the suicidal mistake of trying to persuade his party to disband so that UDC becomes their party. But these are not just mere words because in its practice or attempt to forge a national democratic front with other democratic and patriotic the BNF (with the exception of the current leadership) consistently applied these principles. We do not seem to learn any lessons from our past.
An important historical point that merits our attention at this juncture is that from the Peoples Patriotic Front (PPF) of 1991, to the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) of 1999, through to the much looser Electoral Pact of 2003 (with the exception of the UDC of 2012 within which the BNF leadership is inclined towards a merger) the BNF has consistently opted for a United Front which guarantees and protects its organizational independence and autonomy as a party within the national united front of other democratic and patriotic forces.
In all attempts at forging a united front with other parties the BNF has steered clear of a merger because ideological differences between these parties cannot be wished away. When other parties started calling for a political merger the PPF and BAM collapsed because as far as the BNF leadership of that time was concerned they had crossed the red line. Today it is the rank file who are to the left of their leadership as demonstrated by their historic resolution at the Leadership Forum.
This is exactly what the BNF congress resolution of 2010 sanctioning talks that led to UDC meant when it mandated negotiations with other political parties subject to one condition – ‘not to sell the soul of the BNF’. Tragically, it is not only the ‘ soul’ of the BNF that is threatened but the party’s very existence is under threat, and most ironically, from the very people entrusted with the role of leading and defending it! Given this state of affairs it is important to emphasize that it is the bounden duty of every BNF member to stand up and be counted and do everything in their power to defend their party so that the sacrifices of so many comrades, dead and living, were not in vain.
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.