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Government agenda impoverishes Boteti

ALFRED MASOKOLA
POINT BLANK


Government approach to development of districts in the country has only one outcome – creating unjustifiable wealth disparities. Our development approach leaves many other Batswana in the extremes of poverty while on the other hand a few enjoy the economic privileges which are causal effect of the country’s wealth of resources.


Boteti is one of the regions that are severely disadvantaged by the government’s development agenda. The area is rich in minerals and tourism but without doubt one of the poorest in the country, maybe in the same bracket with Kgalagadi, Ngamiland and Okavango regions.


Many will recall that Boteti forms an integral part of the country’s economy and contribute more to the GDP than any other region in Botswana.  Boteti has three mines operated by Debswana (a joint venture between the state and De Beers). Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Debswana Mines are all based in Boteti.  


Boteti also contributes considerably to the country’s tourism sector which is the second largest revenue contributor after mining, through several avenues including being a gateway to Game Reserves and National Parks like Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi National Park.


Under normal circumstances, one would expect Boteti to be one of the most developed in the country. We must appreciate that Boteti region includes villages in the mould of Rakops, Mopipi, Toromoja, Khwee, Kedia, Mmadikola, Khumaga, Makalamabedi and Moreromaoto. All of these villages are synonymous with poverty, social ills, unemployment and devastating state of health.  


Boteti schools are among those with the worst pass rate (save for Orapa schools) in in the country at all levels i.e PSLE, JC and BGSCE. I am old enough to be aware of Government’s view that natural resources should belong to the state and be shared equally by citizens. But I am of the view that this argument is merely a fallacy because the status quo in the development agenda shows the opposite.


As a result of this policy, Government no longer feels obliged to contribute towards economic development of regions such as Boteti which are the generators of wealth for the country in the name of equality.


The people of Boteti will not buy the notion of equal distribution of developments because they have nothing when compared to other regions in the country? I will give a simple and honest observation – If you look at the tertiary institutions in the country, 80 percent are located in the southern part of Botswana.


To reinforce my argument, let us take the Institution of Health Sciences (IHS) as a case study. There are eight (8) government funded IHSs in Botswana. Six of them are located in the Southern part of Botswana; Gaborone, Mochudi, Lobatse, Ramotswa, Molepolole and Kanye, all within a radius of not more than 100 KM from Gaborone.


While the remaining one goes to Francistown and of course one to Serowe. But honestly, six IHSs within a 100km radius is mockery of the equitable distribution gimmick! It is unfair to other communities. Is it wrong for the people of Boteti to feel deliberately left out and that the development agenda is discriminatory?  


If you look at villages like Mochudi, Molepolole, Kanye, Ramotswa and other semi-urban areas – they have all benefited from the development agenda of today and yet there is almost no single economic activity in those areas contributing significantly to the country’s GDP when compared to Boteti.  


We are not saying the mineral revenues generated by the mines in Boteti should not go to state coffers and instead to Boteti. Our view is that since the government’s development policy has disadvantaged those communities under the pretext of equally distribution of developments, it would be wise if, say 10% of the revenue goes straight towards community based projects in Boteti. This could help in infrastructure development in the area and consequently uplift the communities in Boteti economically.


Under the current approach even privately operated mines like Lucara Diamond Corporation which ‘proudly’ trades as Boteti Mining (Pty) Ltd is not compelled to contribute a few millions of Pula from its annual revenue towards the development of Boteti and its communities. They do not feel the need to do so because government is not doing it either.


Another injustice against Boteti is that of all diamond associated industries none has been set up in Boteti. Everything is in Gaborone, including Orapa House, which is strangely in Gaborone and not Orapa. In turn these benefits communities on the outskirts of Gaborone instead. The same applies to the relocation of the Diamond Trading Centre (DTC) which sadly was located in Gaborone, creating economic opportunities for the Gaborone dwellers and those around the city at the expense of those in Boteti, where diamonds are mined.


Government then went out to explain that it wants to turn Gaborone into a diamond hub? But why Gaborone? Why not turn Orapa, Letlhakane or maybe Jwaneng into diamond hubs? My opinion is informed by few but reasonable variables; 1) If DTC relocated its operations either to Orapa or Lethakane, it would have created more opportunities for those communities in terms of job creation. 2) It would have boosted the growth of the private sector in the region and even the expansion of physical infrastructure. 3) Gaborone is already faced by many challenges including shortage of land, inadequate housing, and shortage of water among other challenges.


All these show that government does not necessarily believe in equal distribution of developments in Botswana. There is a silent agenda to satisfy the needs of certain areas at the expense of the people of Boteti who by all accounts have a legitimate right to claim the economic benefits associated with what is found in their area.  


There are those who say developments are entirely based on tribalism and only villages which belong to eight prominent tribes or “The Big 8” namely; Bangwato, Bakwena, Bakgatla, Batawana, Bangwaketse, Barolong, Balete and Batlokwa are given priority. It is no secret that not only are these tribes recognised through representation in Ntlo ya Dikgosi they also seem to be influential in getting government developments.


Currently there is a burning issue of shortage of land in Botswana. But really, what shortage of land in Botswana are we talking about? The truth of the matter is that there is shortage of land in Gaborone, and we all know the causes. People flock to Gaborone in search of opportunities, including jobs, because the way we have structured our economy, Gaborone is the only prime business area in all forms of commerce including industrial business.  
In Boteti there is no shortage of land, it is very easy to acquire a business plot there. But under normal circumstance no one would go and acquire a piece of land where there is no purpose – it has to make economic sense. If government had pushed the DTC relocation to Boteti, the area could be prime land today.


We must take a leaf from South Africa, whose governance is based on the decentralisation model, where provincial governments have their own budgets and play a vital role in infrastructural development of communities.  
South Africa has nine provinces (Gauteng, North West, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal and a staggering number of cities sparsely located countrywide in those provinces. The cities almost share similar infrastructure including stadiums and state funded universities.


We can do the same in Botswana and bring developments and resources closer to the people. The Palapye industrialisation, which caused government to deliberately take major projects like Morupule B Power Station, Glass Manufacturing Project, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) to the village is a case in point, albeit the challenges faced by individual projects.


The problem with Botswana is that we have chosen one city, Gaborone (Francistown still not fully recognised by the development agenda) where we currently overloading developments and this has caused problems and it is impoverishing other communities like my beloved Boteti.


When Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi outlined the government economic development strategy in the last session of parliament when responding to President Ian Khama’s State of Nation Address he revealed the economic development strategy.


He said it will focus on comparative advantage of different development nodes in Botswana. Masisi says they will promote and focus support for the following sectors in the regions as follows; Chobe/Kasane- Tourism, Pandamatenga- Agro business, Maun/Okavango/Makgadikgadi- Tourism and Mining, Gantsi- Cattle Industry, Kgalagadi- Small Stock Industry and Tourism, GoodHope- grain production, Gaborone- Diamond Centre, Palapye/Mahalapye/Dibete-Energy Sector and Agro Business, Selebi Phikwe- Industrial Tourism and Mining, Francistown- Service Industry, Mining and Tourism. But where is Boteti here? Boteti has three mines contributing immensely to the GDP but still the region cannot be considered by government in the economic development strategy. Are we fair and just to the people of Boteti?

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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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