Everywhere I go people say to me, ‘Thank you. We are really thankful for a job well done’ . Such is their excitement that many of them go the extent of shaking my hand and giving me a hug. The people hail the leaders of the UDC for a spectacular electoral performance, but I always reply by saying; ‘give yourself a pat on the back because, in the final analysis, it is your victory, you made it happen’.
In Gabane I was among the mainly youthful voters who braved the scotching heat and stood in the queue for over 8 hours in order to cast their ballot. That is how determined people were to embrace change. Newly elected Molepolole legislator Mohamed Khan put it more succinctly by saying, ‘it was our collective effort’.
Strictly speaking, history is made by the ordinary people, and not individual leaders – for no individual, however intelligent and strong-will, can alter the main course of historical events. If history was made by individual leaders this country would have long undergone a revolutionary transformation under the leadership of people like Dr Kenneth Koma of the BNF or Phillip Matante of the BPP.
But the subjective conditions for change did not exist at that time. Leaders who appear to shape the main course of events are those who come as the last link in the concatenation of supra-individual circumstances and correlation of social forces that drive the change process. Such leaders are like the straw that breaks the camel’s back or the drop that overflows the cup.
Those who believe that individual leaders are the locomotives of history claimed that the defection of former BNF and BMD leaders like Isaac Mabiletsa, Akanyang Magama, Mephato Reatile, Samson Moyo, Botsalo Ntuane to the BCP and BDP sounded the death knell of the UDC.
The masses have just proved them wrong. Many of these political turncoats were rejected by the masses during the elections. Of course, people do not make history at will, but rather under definite objective conditions and a historically determined mode of production. We owe the voters of Gaborone Central a special debt of gratitude for paying their best tribute to one of our fallen and illustrious heroes of the UDC, Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi, by voting for the UDC – a movement about which he was very passionate. He paid the ultimate and supreme prize i.e. he paid with his very precious life for the victory we are celebrating today.
Of the masses that supported us in our formidable electoral xbattle with the BDP regime I wish to single out the working class – the five workers unions organized under the banner of BOFEPUSU for special commendation. BOFEPUSU is a trade union federation of five unions namely, BLLAHWU, Manual Workers Union, BTU, BOSETU and BOPEU.
To the historical partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU, we say bravo! Hats-off to BOFEPUSU! My most abiding memory from the 2014 general election was to share the political platform with Comrade Johnson Motshwarakgole representing BOFEPUSU. Not even the wavering and vacillating tendencies of the traditionally conservative BOPEU bureaucratic leadership can alter this historic fact.
It remains to be seen if the BOPEU trade bureaucracy represents their own interests or those of their membership. The BOFEPUSU trade union federation must be applauded for having plucked-up courage to forge a historic partnership with the UDC in the .just ended general election.
Of course, in the run-up to the 1994 general elections there was an unwritten alliance between the BNF and Emang Basadi which contributed in no small measure to the good electoral showing of the BNF evidenced by the capturing of an unprecedented 13 seats in parliament. The was BNF poised to capture state power in the 1999 general elections but this was largely tacit endorsement of the BNF by the women’s movement.
This time the working class movement took up the cudgels and stood side by side with the UDC activists in the battle trenches against the BDP regime and put their very lives on the line. Not even the mysterious death of BMD honcho Comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi intimidated them. This time around not only did the unions play a pivotal role in the formation of UDC but they also actively campaigned for it.
This all dates back to the 2011 public sector strike or ‘school of war’ when their demands for a 16% salary hike were dismissed with bluster and reckless abandon by the Khama regime. In the famous words of Frederick Engels, strikes are ‘the military school of the workingmen in which they prepare themselves for the great struggles which cannot be avoided… and as schools of war, the unions are unexcelled’.
Perhaps the single most important outcome of the public sector strike is that it taught workers, not through theories delivered by some revolutionary politicians, but through their own battles with the arrogant but shortsighted Khama regime that salvation can only come about if unions took a clear principled stand on politics.
Salvation will only come when all the trade unions get together and write a Workers Charter of Botswana beginning with, ‘We the workers of Botswana demand that…’ Salivation will only come when all the workers, irrespective of their different employers, come to the realization that they are all oppressed by the same ruling class. And indeed salvation will only come when workers and poor peasants come to the realization that they are all oppressed and exploited by the same bourgeoisie both in towns and the rural hinterland and forge a worker-peasant alliance.
Writing on the historic public sector strike of 2011 I observed that ‘. If any one has a sense of triumphalism because the 16% wage hike has not been granted then they are only celebrating a pyrrhic victory. There are no winners and losers in this battle.
The impact on the country’s rapidly deteriorating democratic credentials has been massive and the damage will only become clear when the country goes to the polls. If this government is unwilling to pay the money prize, it must be made to pay the political prize. After all, workers constitute a huge voting constituency. On that single day when elections are held workers will have the power in their hands to punish these dictators once and for all’.
And ‘punish’ them they did! For the first time in the history of this country the opposition has scooped an unprecedented total of 20 seats in parliament (17 for UDC and 3 for the BCP) with several marginal constituencies.. And as the results of the elections eloquently illustrate, it was pay-back time for the workers. Today the BDP regime is a minority regime elected by 320, 657 people, while the combined national vote of the UDC (207, 113) and the BCP (140, 998) is 348, 111 i.e. 27, 446 more than the national vote cast for the BDP.
Since 1999 the BDP is sustained in power by the split vote of the BCP. The BCP leadership has a mammoth decision to make; either to find ways of jumping onto the UDC bandwagon or face possible relegation to the great dustbin of history. The mass exodus from the BCP to the UDC has already started. Our call at the beginning of this year for a UDC-BCP electoral pact in an open letter to Dumelang Saleshando was ignored with disastrous consequences.
In the Global Post of November 11, 2014 it is regrettable that BCP activist Lotty Manyapetsa is reported as having said, ‘leaders of the BOFEPUSU should abstain from politics because that is bound to break the union as evidenced by the contradicting statements issued by the leaders of the same union’.. Such reactionary drivel is enough reason why the workers must shun the BCP. The BCP is the one which nearly divided BOFEPUSU by pulling out of the umbrella.
The first step to freedom in the labour movement is to abandon false political neutrality and consciously build strategic alliances with revolutionary parties while safeguarding their relative autonomy as trade unions. BOFEPUSU has just taken that giant step to emancipate themselves and the rest of the oppressed masses of Botswana. As far back as 1921 the third Congress of the Communist International addressed the question of trade unions and politics. They made the following observations;
The bourgeoisie keeps the working class enslaved not only by means of naked force, but also by subtle deception. In the hands of the bourgeoisie, the school, the church, parliament, art, literature, the daily press – all become powerful means of duping the working masses and spreading the ideas of the bourgeoisie into the proletarian milieu. One of the ideas which the ruling classes have succeeded in inculcating into the working masses is trade-union neutrality – the idea that trade unions are non-political organizations and should have no party affiliations.
The Communist International argued that the bourgeoisie cannot openly call on the workers’ trade unions to support the bourgeois parties, so it urges the unions not to support any party. The sole aim of the bourgeoisie, however, is to prevent the trade unions from supporting progressive parties or political formations like the UDC. Trade union neutrality amounts to tacit support for the capitalist status quo and denies workers the opportunity to forge strategic partnerships with like-minded revolutionary political parties and movements.
Since 1966 the BDP has been propped up employers, including De Beers while it lulled the workers into a false of political neutrality. The irony of it all is that the millions that De Beers, Dada and Derrick Brink contribute to the BDP political campaign is the sum total of the workers’ unpaid surplus value which accumulates in the hands of the capitalist employers by virtue of the fact that they privately own and control the means of subsistence – land, cattle, diamonds, automobile industries etc.
The fruits of the workers’ sweat are effectively used against them by financing a political party which is ideologically hostile to the interests of the workers. Even the blankets and radios used to buy votes are made by workers of other countries but are now used to oppress the workers of Botswana. So it is only proper and fitting that workers identify with a party or political movement such the UDC that addresses some of their concerns.
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.