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The Wretched of the Republic: Students, Youths, Workers and Election Oblivion

Teedzani Thapelo

Institute of International Education Fellowship Award Winner, and runner up national poet to the 2016 Share Botswana Tourism Fiction Award, Teedzani Thapelo*, argues that by sheer force of numbers and the level of political commitment students, youths and workers will determine who wins elections in 2019. He cautions if their decision is going to do Botswana any good they must root for proper and most efficient guardians of the republic, and they must ignore what politicians say, go with what they see, what they experience and what they fear most. They must learn to judge and punish politicians, and in their struggle for national renewal they must take no prisoners.

The avid reader will immediately note the first part of the article is borrowed from two great classics; Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and The Wretched of the Earth by Martinique revolutionary prophet and dialectician, Frantz Fanon. The French connection is obvious, and the political symbolism no less important and the story might have ended there; for here I am writing about Botswana.

It occurred to me though after reading Hugo’s 1269 pages 2012 Canterbury Classics edition for the third time, alongside Fanon; my 1961 penguin edition is prefaced by French existential philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. How appropriate. How fitting. The Botswana we live in today evokes powerful memories of all the characters, episodes, incidents and major themes that inform these works by Hugo, one of the finest French poets and novelists, Fanon, a medical doctor turned revolutionary, and Sartre, a Nobel Award winning dramatist, philosopher, and writer; he refused to accept the Nobel Prize on moral and political grounds. Such scholars are rare. They certainly don’t exist in Botswana.

But all apprehended our human condition with such fierce an intellectual grasp, with such frightening spiritual contemplation, one could be forgiven to think they already knew what would happen to us, what would happen to our country, what would happen to our lives, what would happen to our children, and what would happen to our future. Scholarship does not reach more universalism than this.

To say our lives are miserable is to state the obvious. So many Batswana just don’t bother to think about our condition, and declining circumstances. I have been following the growth of our political literature this past couple of months with great interest. Everybody knows what is happening to students in this country. Everybody knows what is happening to the youth in this country. Everybody knows what is happening to workers in this country.

All of us, excluding BDP of course, know these things very well. What surprises me is in our writings we seem to pay too much attention to the electoral fortunes of political parties, and we seem not to notice who really counts in the coming elections; voters. I am guilty of this omission myself, and I apologise. Look at things this way. The 35 000 students who wrote form five last year will be voting in 2019, and so the more than 40 000 who sat for form three exams.

All form five leavers for the past three years and next three years will vote in 2019, and so a considerable number of those who fall off at form three. Our unemployed youth number somewhere in hundreds of thousands. Government alone employs more than 140 000 workers, and thousands work in the private sector or for themselves. We are talking here altogether about almost 400 000, and perhaps more people, and BDP does not notice these people; it cares not for them, it scorns their expectations, undermines their efforts at mere survival, derides their complaints and concerns, ignores their pleas for help, despises their political opinions, laughs at their lamentations, impugns their sorrows, and censure their demands for justice, freedom and happiness; and all these people are going to vote come 2019.

In the last election only about 600 000 Batswana registered to vote and not all of them cast their vote. Of those who voted more than half the number went with the opposition. As I write official statistics indicate a fifth of our population, that is about 420 000 people, are roaming the streets looking for jobs, more are on temporary and insecure employment, and more than 30 000 college and university graduates join the unemployment lines every year; and our population stands at only 2000 000. 

We know this excludes thousands of discouraged workers who are now alcohol and drug addicts, prisoners who are victims of this catastrophic social landscape, structurally unemployable Batswana who have been rejected by our small and inflexible labour market thanks to wayward economic policies and workers who though still willing to work are now so deskilled, illiterate even (most of these are young mothers who dropped out of school, single mothers, and housewives) they feel ashamed to even apply for any jobs and are quietly wasting away in the animal jungles of our towns and cities or waiting for death in bucolic villages and settlements, some of which BDP only recall when it wants their votes.

What is happening to Batswana is a sombre nightmare that would make even black hearts bleed. But at BDP they sleep easy in comfort and debauchery, laughing at us all. Yet these appalling statistics are actually a language, and they speak a lot. What does this tell us? What is the meaning of these numbers?

One obvious thing BDP has no mandate to rule this country. The numbers clearly show the opposition won in the last election but BDP stayed in office because our electoral system is rigged in favour of the political establishment. Second, and more significant for the coming elections, Batswana are obviously beginning to ask themselves serious questions about the direction things are taking in their country. Yes, there certainly is change in political temperament and temperature in this country.


People are worried about their lives, and livelihoods, about their declining fortunes, the absence of opportunities in life, the bleak, humdrum, and drudgery of everyday existence, the meaningless routine of monotonous life with its endless troubles, the boredom of BTV, the rude pretentiousness of BDP politicians; there really is nothing exciting about life in this country anymore. Every day that the sun rises in this country all human potential goes to waste. We really are no different from people who live in a war zone.


Under such conditions people ask themselves: who am I? What am I doing here? What is the meaning of my life? Where am I going? What will happen to me if things continue this way? What will happen to my life? What will happen to my children? What will happen to my country? Will I too end up without a life like so many unemployed people? Will I too end up without a country like so many refugees? Will I start aging at the age of twenty? Will I ever be truly free and independent? Will I ever own anything that is truly mine, earned through my own labour and intelligence? Do I count for anything in this life? Do I count for anything in this country?

Our poor and brutalized students, our unemployed youths who face shame and humiliation at every turn of life and our workers who earn, and live on peanuts, ask themselves such questions every day, and only one thing can bring a semblance of response to their agitated minds; the voting hour, the voting day. It is on this day that many people try to square their miserable fate and chose a better and more meaningful path into the future. In that hour, on that fateful day, Batswana must judge for themselves what needs to be done.

2019 gives every voter the right, and might, to make that most fundamental decision in their life: who is going to direct my future? Who is going to manage my public affairs? Who is going to be guardian of the fate and destiny of my nation, my republic, and fellow citizens? It is the most important day in our life, and in the coming election the decision made by our students, youths and workers is going to bind us all and redirect the fate and fortunes of all citizens.


But in making this decision, I do think, it is critical they consider in detail how much more risk they are prepared to take with their lives. How much more they are prepared to lose in terms of the great possibilities of life offered by modern society, possibilities and opportunities that fail to reach many because of bad politics, bad policies and indifferent officialdom.


Is our economy competing well? Do we possess accurate information about the state of the nation? Is the country prepared to deal with the risks and crisis of today? Are we investing enough in the education and health of the nation? Do Batswana have confidence in their economy? Do they have confidence in the BDP? Are we comfortable with the rising level of the national debt?


Do Batswana have good and secure jobs? Are the incomes of workers rising? Are we comfortable with our standards of living? Is enough being done to protect the environment and rural livelihoods? Is BDP promoting the best use of our natural resources? Is the use of our natural resources sustainable? What is the best way of building strong resilience in terms of managing the economy?


Does the BDP understand the facts, risks, and uncertainties of managing the economy in a rapidly globalising and fervently unpredictable world? Are BDP public policies informed by good choices? Are BDP policy instruments agile and adaptable enough to respond to the management of serious risks and crisis in modern society?

Are Batswana comfortable with BDP philosophy of fast-fail projects that put us top of the flops in policy sciences; BDC, BMC, Air Botswana, BCL, what next? Are these people really capable of making economics work in this country? Do they care about the welfare of Batswana? Do they care about the future of this country? Can Botswana ever be a safe, efficient and sustainable economy under the watch of BDP?


Can we ever develop effective speed for responding to fast-changing circumstances and learn to create opportunities from the crisis that befall us so frequently? Can we ever be a dynamic, entrepreneurial nation that creates good, secure jobs, with rising incomes? Can BDP ever manage to envision, enable and engage Batswana so they can fully participate in public life as moral citizens determined to recapture and redefine their future lives and the destiny of the nation? Does the country have a clear plan to match into the world of tomorrow confident, prosperous and secure in the knowledge we can even go further and surpass our own expectations?

Questions like these make people to sit up and think, and it really would be a good thing if Batswana could think this way before they cast their vote. Look at your country. Look at your own life. Look at the lives of your children, the lives of friends, family members and the state of your community. Consider your own future.


Consider the future of your country, the future Botswana that is going to be the home of your grandchildren and their own children, and ask yourself; is enough being done to protect all these people, to secure and protect the world of tomorrow? If the answer is no, then forget about BDP. Don’t vote on the basis of what politicians tell you, what they promise.


Worse, don’t even bother about what they claim to have done for you in the past; they got paid for that, and always remember you too do your bit in your own small way to build this country every day. Accomplishments of the past belong to us all. We all take credit for that. What is important is to look at missed opportunities, and ask yourself; but why? Why don’t we have six cities the size of Johannesburg that could be employing our children today as per the gigantic diamond wealth that disappeared into thin air?


The best way to think about the future is to look ahead, not to think about the past; the past belongs to another country, and it becomes foreign and irrelevant the older you get, and the more troubles you have to deal with just to cope. But remember crimes of the past can still ruin the future. So never forgive political actions that ruin the future of your country.

In short before you cast your vote you really have to give yourself time to think things out on your own. Writing this article right now, thinking the way I do, I too am still thinking about how I am going to vote in 2019. Voting is a terribly serious decision; just like thinking of getting married. Don’t rash things. Think hard and then vote in the knowledge you are really doing the right thing at the right time for yourself and your country.


Voting is key to social innovation. A radical transformation of political direction overnight in a small country like Botswana can have a strong bearing on how things are done in government. If we are to succeed in solving social and economic problems we must first understand that this is best done through social learning, and politics is a learning process. Politically active citizens always find solutions for the problems they face.


The best politics encourages mutual learning and a dialogue of trusting relationships between people. Social movements and loose coalitions in communities are always strong forces in the struggle for structural change. In America, for instance, political parties always encourage voters to recruit each other on voting day.


If you support a certain political party they always ask you to invite no less than ten friends and family members to accompany you to the polling station on voting day and make sure they vote the party that you support. If a school PTA committee, for example, is angry about the way educational issues are being handled at their local school they are encouraged to canvas and vote out the local council authorities. If the sheriff is incompetent an entire community can vote him out of office. Rooting for your party as a local activist is very important even if you are not running for office yourself.

People in government fear genuine grassroots politics because it is the most effective way of destroying corrupt and incompetent political administrations. Politicized public life requires a community that is active, that exercises some control over the conditions of its livelihood, and that can hold the state accountable. It is the best way of making a direct contribution towards the transformation of the structures of political governance. It is through such struggles that people engage in the social production of their lives.


It is not enough that people remain consumers at the end of a delivery process as it happens in Botswana every day. BDP is teaching Batswana very bad politics. In a true democracy power, politics and participation reside with the people in living and vibrant communities, communities with strong voices. In a true democracy people learn about themselves and about the material conditions of their lives through doing, through hard work and personal sacrifices. In a true democracy public policy is a process of public learning, a means of finding ways of improving the capacities and opportunities of people, a means of doing a better job of ameliorating the human condition.

It is time Batswana learned these things. It is time Batswana learnt the real value of politics. Politics is supposed to encourage and support people in solving their own problems, and not giving them food parcels and blankets. The job of a government is to make the laws of a country, make the economy work, grow, create jobs, expand the tax base and regulate all public conduct; working together with law courts, security personnel and communities and citizens.


A government that fails to do these things must immediately be kicked out of office. Voting day is a day of output judgements of political conduct. On voting day citizens sit the bench as judges over politicians. It is the day voters decide if rhetoric matches up with reality, a reality that they themselves understand well. It is a day of reckoning, a day of self-public assessment. It is not just a ritual. On voting day citizens directly measure the value of their participation in the political process by grading the quality of public policies, public servants, political parties and the political process itself through the casting of their vote.


Many questions are asked and answered by each voter on that day; has the economy been growing, do people have jobs, are workers and households making more money, do all people live well, are the lives of citizens safe, do children get good quality education, are hospitals doing well, is the use of the environment and natural resources done well, is there justice for all in society, are there thieves in government, is everybody paying taxes as they should, is the country’s money used well for the benefit of all in society, is the future of the country in safe hands?  

In other words, has the policy process improved, solved problems or made things worse? Has the ruling party delivered on its mandate as governor and have they fulfilled their promises as custodians of public goods? If the answer is no, vote the party out of office. Replace them with another party. It is as simple as that. This is how things are done in every country. Why should we do things differently in Botswana? People must always remember they can only reward good political behaviour.


If politicians are nasty, arrogant, and stupid rascals use your vote to kick them out. If they steal, benefit only their friends and relatives, use your vote to kick them out. If they treat you like dirt vote them out. If they are too old to do things well kick them out. If they are out of touch with reality kick them out. There is no point in keeping a politician who is not civil and considerate in office. Such people will always sit on your rights and expectations. Always watch what a political party is doing and judge the things they do. This will always tell you a great deal about politicians and the way things are going in country. The one mistake we do is to forgive bad behaviour in politics. Never do that.


Everything that happens in politics is done wilfully and deliberately. Punish a political party for every bad thing it does. Discipline politicians the way you discipline naughty children. If they steal a penny from the treasury send them to jail and then vote their political party from office. Never allow them to explain bad behaviour. They will never tell you the truth, and they always laugh behind your back. Naughty children. Don’t forget that. Political parties have important impact on public policy. Voting a different party into office means you are choosing new values, beliefs, and expectations.


It means you are looking for a different way of solving problems, a different way of doing things, a different way of going into the future. Voting the same political party into office again is a different thing altogether. It means you remain stuck with the same politicians, the same policies, the same rhetoric, the same values, the same everything, and worse the same gravity of domestic and global risks and threats to the national economy and the environment.


There are always severe limitations on what such a party can do to change or improve anything in public life; the same commitments of the past, the same policies and attitudes, the same interests, the same sense of purpose. If they hate a particular person or community they will keep on hating and harassing those people, if they love foreigners and despise their own people they will continue favouring foreigners over Batswana, if they enjoy stealing public money they will continue doing the same thing and if they have no respect for the laws of the country and no respect for judges of the high court they will keep on doing as they like.

In short there is no incentive for a political party that has been returned to political office to change things around. People are always comfortable with things as they are if they live well. If you vote for BDP again, for example, don’t expect them to stop dinning with Indians, watching birds with white foreigners and dancing polka at Khawa village while BCL group of companies are crushing to the ground leaving close on 60 000 Batswana facing ruined livelihoods and ever greater threats of death from hunger and diseases like HIV/AIDs.


Political parties are terribly important to policy and outcomes. Batswana must understand the simple fact that in times of difficulties the need for movement is more than just important; it is critical. If you want things to start moving, if you thirst for change, vote for a different political party. A new political administration can have an impact on economic policy, it can remove a lot of constraints that act against economic growth, find better and different markets for local products, start working with all Batswana and not just a bunch of well entrenched foreigners, fight corruption in public life, direct public expenditure to the most deserving sectors of the economy, create better jobs, raise incomes and forge a new direction in national life and public expectations; giving every citizen new hope and ambition to succeed in life.

Never underestimate the number and quality of things a new political administration can do. As they say in policy sciences a new party in power stimulates a Moving Consensus in which the need for movement to deal with problems is as important as consensus. A new party in office also promotes a new re-assessment of democracy by citizens in the new faces in politics, and new entrants into office are usually more approachable to ordinary people, and more eager to help.


They also want change like you and they are more likely to work better with you to start doing things properly. They bring a breath of fresh air in public life. They are more likely to distribute resources in a more equitable way, especially in areas of public expenditure and more importantly only a new party can terminate unpopular public policies and introduce radically new development programmes.

As things stand right now BDP has no working policies at all. Their daily political behaviour is reactive; concerned only with getting out of difficulties and crisis, things which they do not even understand. Is it proper to govern a country in this way? Public policy cannot operate by escape seeking. It must be based on potential possibilities of success. So what is it going to be?

Students, youth and workers, the future of this greatly troubled country is in your hands. What direction must we take? What future must we envision and pursue? Who will be the leaders of Tomorrow? To answer these questions properly and sufficiently on voting day keep your eyes on all the things going on around you, the things happening in your life, the things happening to your life, and if you really do that well then this great nation has nothing to fear.

We shall survive. There will be another tomorrow, and in the brave new world our children will thrive and live well.

Novelist, poet and historian, Teedzani Thapelo*, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science and the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, University of London. He is author of Seasons of Thunder, and the forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, and Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe.

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A “Virgin” Conceives

2nd March 2021

Princess Mary falls pregnant only one month after her betrothal to Prince Joseph

To put the lineage of Mary the mother of Jesus in context, General Atiku, it is in order that we begin with her grandfather Yehoshua  (Jesus in Greek) III.

Mary was offspring of two royal lines, the Davidic line and the Hasmonean line. Yehoshua III was the Herod–appointed High Priest of Israel between 36 and 23 BC.  He had no sons, only three daughters namely Joanna, Elizabeth, and Anna, all of whom he organised dynastic suitors.

Elizabeth would be married off into the House of Aaron, the legitimate priestly line, and Joanna and Anna would be married off into the House of David, the legitimate kingly line. That’s how Elizabeth became the wife of Zechariah of the tribe of Levi and in due course the mother of John the Baptist.

Mainstream Israel up to the level of the Sanhedrin had recognised Anna as the eligible mother of the future King of Israel and not the sitting impostor Herod (it is not clear what happened to first-born Joanna but she probably passed away before she got married). Anna was accordingly married off to Alexander III, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince who was best known as Heli as indeed the genealogy of Luke clearly attests.

Heli and Anna too had no sons. They only had daughters, the firstborn of whom was Dorcas, whose was born in 26 BC and whose titular name was Mary.  Mary was orphaned early in her childhood when her father Heli was killed in 17 BC at the orders of the increasingly paranoid Herod and when her mother Anna died a year or so later.

Since she was a dynastic heiress, it was likely that Herod would come after her. The Essenes thus secreted her somewhere in remote Galilee. It was actually in Galilee that most members of the Davidic royal line were concentrated not only to keep as far away from Herod as possible but to also enjoy the protective custody of the Zealots, who were the secret military wing of the Essenes and a thorn in the side of both Herod and the Romans.  Joseph was also officially based in Galilee although both he and Mary were in truth based at Qumran in the Judean wilds.


Dynastic marriages are often more politically strategic than spontaneous, General. For example, the union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was motivated by the need to fuse the Windsor genes with those of the Stuarts as the Windsors, being predominantly Reptilians, were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their human form.

The Stuarts, the clan of Diana, had by far more human genes than Reptilian and they too were an aristocratic family. That’s why once Charles had produced a  “heir and a spare”, he completely sidelined Diana, who he had never loved, and devoted himself to his real love – Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The marriage of Joseph to Mary, General, was equally strategic. Although both were from the tribe of Judah and of the royal Davidic line, they were from different branches.  Joseph was a descendant of Solomon, whereas Mary was a descendant of Nathan, Solomon’s elder brother. The line of Solomon, as we once underlined, had been tainted by the Jeconiah curse.

The line of Nathan was clean. Since the son of Joseph and Mary would be the future King of Israel, it was important that he not be compromised by the baggage, rightly or wrongly, of the Jeconiah curse. Hence the desirability of the union of Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.

Now, both Joseph and Mary’s clans were Essenes. As such, their marriage process, formalities, and protocols had to strictly adhere to Essene dynastic rules. The Essenes were in ranks. Amongst the higher echelons were the two great dynasties, the Davids and the Zadoks, who had been the high priests and kings of Israel respectively before the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

The Davids and Zadoks lived a strictly holy life, typically in a monastery at Qumran, the reclusive headquarters of the Essenes. They were sequestered there so that they did not fall prey to the machinations of the bloodthirsty King Herod though officially their address was Galilee.  In fact, the major reason the Essene movement had come into existence was to preserve and safeguard the Davidic and Zadokite lines, the religio-politico haunt of Herod and the Hasmoneans initially.

According to the Essene code, General, the Zadoks and the Davids were not to engage in sex for recreational purposes because it was regarded as defiling: it diluted holiness. The only times they were supposed to do so was when need arose to produce heirs. In 8 BC, it was now opportune for Joseph, the David, to produce a heir and so he was excused from a life of chastity.

At this point in time in fact, the Essenes were focused on two dynastic figures. These were Joseph and Zechariah. The two were expected to produce the Messiah of David and the Messiah of Aaron, that is, the future King of Israel and the future High Priest of Israel.

According to Essene rules, the David had to marry at age 36, so that by the time he was 40, he had already sired a heir. The new heir had to be born when the David was 37. If the child was a daughter, she could not inherit, and so the David had to set about the procreation of a second-born, who hopefully would be a boy (copulation to that end was allowed only when the daughter was 3 years old).

The Davidic heir had to be born not in any other month but in September, the holiest in the Jewish calendar. In order to conform to these parameters, a betrothal ceremony was held at the beginning of June. During the betrothal period – the three months from beginning of June to end of August – sexual relations were not permitted.

Then at the beginning of September, a First Marriage was held. This was the beginning of the marriage proper as now the couple were allowed to become intimate. However, the intimacy began only in December, with a view to delivering a heir in September the following year. At the end of March, the Second Marriage was held for it was hoped that by that time the spouse was three months pregnant if there hadn’t been a miscarriage. With the Second Marriage, the wedlock was permanent: divorce was never allowed whatsoever.

Meanwhile, General, if the spouse hadn’t conceived in December, sexual relations were suspended till December the following year. The husband would then leave her spouse and return either to the monastery at Qumran or embark on a tour of duty elsewhere in furtherance of the Essene cause.


According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, General, the Essenes were not only a spiritual, revolutionary, and philosophical movement. They were also ardent believers in astrology. They meticulously studied the stars and the movements of planets to read what they portended about the future.

Thus the reason a Davidic heir had to be born in September was not only because this was the holiest month of the year: it was also in recognition of the fact that September was ruled by the constellation Virgo. In other words, September was astrologically the month of the virgin. That was what Mary was.

Mary was both a virgin physically and a virgin titularly. A bride of the future king was required to be a virgin. As an Essene, Mary belonged to the Order (not the tribe) of Dan.  This was the Order of Nuns, or virgins, both legal and physical virgins. Thus in the Order of Dan, a woman was not a virgin only before she slept with a man: she was a virgin until she was six months pregnant. In the case of a dynastic spouse like Mary, this was up to end of June.  From then henceforth, she was promoted within the Order to the first stage of a Mother.

Joseph’s betrothal to Mary took place at Qumran in June 8 BC. Now, in our day, betrothal simply means engagement to be married. In ancient Israel up to New Testament times, betrothal was part and parcel of the marriage contract. It was definite and binding upon both groom and bride, who were considered as man and wife in all legal and religious aspects, except that sexual relations were not permitted.

For example, in 2 SAMUEL 3:14, King David refers to his betrothed woman as “my wife”. Also in DEUTERONOMY 22:24, a betrothed woman is referred to as “his neighbour’s wife”.  In the betrothal formalities, dowry and bride price were included. If a bride and groom for one reason or the other wanted to opt out of the betrothal after the betrothal ceremony, they had to seek a formal divorce.

Since the betrothal took place in June, General, Joseph and Mary were not supposed to make love till December, that is, six months after the betrothal ceremony and three months after the First Marriage ceremony in September. Just one month after the betrothal ceremony (that is, at the beginning of July 8 BC), however, Mary became pregnant. Was it Joseph, General? Was it rape by a Roman soldier called Panthera as some contemporary records suggest? Or was it simply the supernatural act of the “Holy Spirit” as Christendom holds?


Those who hold that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were supernatural, General, can be excused. This is because the language employed therein smacks of ethereality – Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel, Son of the Most High, etc. To those who have read and rigorously studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, such terminology is well within the temporal context.

That is to say, it does not carry spiritual connotations as such. True, the idea of an angel speaking to Joseph and Mary in their sleep may seem supernatural but the dreams are theological interpolations, inserted into the gospels in onward editing to fit a contrived agenda – what Karl Marx called the opium of the masses.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are so named because they were discovered in caves around the Qumran plateau of the West Bank (about 40 km east of Jerusalem), at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, in March 1947. The discoverer was a Bedouin shepherd kid who was looking for a lost goat. The scrolls were found hidden in jars.

The 1947 find was the initial discovery: more discoveries were made after further excavations on the same site spanning 11 years in a series of 11 caves. Altogether, 972 texts were   turned up. They are written in four languages, namely Hebrew (the majority), Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, mostly on parchment. Other texts were inscribed on papyrus and bronze.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments. Fragments of all the Old Testament books have been found save for the book of Esther. The only complete book is Isaiah.  There are also apocryphal books (those arbitrarily excluded from the Old Testament canon by the Constantine-convened Nicene Council of AD 325) such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, and sect-specific writings that embody rules and beliefs of the people who compiled them.

The latter include commentaries on the Old Testament, paraphrases that expand on the Law of Moses, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writing. These texts have been given appropriate titles such as the War Scroll; Manual of Discipline; the Community Rule; the Temple Scroll; the Copper Scroll; etc.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written/preserved by the Essenes between 168 BC and 68 AD. We know this because Pliny, the first century Roman historian, wrote that, “On the west coast of Lake Asphaltitis (the Dead Sea) are settled the Essenes, at some distance from the noisome odours that are experienced on the shore itself.

They are a lonely people, the most extraordinary in the world, who live without women, without love, without money, with the palm trees for their only companions.”   The Essenes stashed away the scrolls sometime in 70 AD, when Roman General Flavius Titus overran Jerusalem and laid waste to the Temple following a catastrophic Jewish uprising – led by the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes – that began in 66 BC.

This they did in heed of JEREMIAH 32:14, which says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences … and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us invaluable insight into the beliefs, customs, rituals, politics, philosophies, and traditions of first century Palestine.


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A crash course in publicity

2nd March 2021

The rivalry between luxury German automotive marques Mercedes-Benz and BMW is legendary. Both brands offer high-end, high-priced desirable models, always at the forefront of cutting-edge driving technology and excellence. And in the annals of the advertising world, a campaign between the two rivals is equally legendary and it happened on our own doorstep.

Many of you will be familiar with the coastal road out of Cape Town called Chapman’s Peak. It is a beautiful, sightseeing attraction, the road winding through spectacular coastal-mountain scenery, with cliffs sinking into the  Atlantic ocean on one side, and steep mountains towering over the road on the other. However, the road is also notoriously dangerous, with its 114 sharp, meandering bends . It’s reputation is well-deserved . Several years ago, when a major coastal cleanup campaign was launched, a helicopter pulled a total of 22 wrecked cars out of the water adjacent to Chapman’s Peak and it was one such accident which prefaced the notorious marketing battle. The story is thus:

In 1988 an Irish businessman lost control of his Mercedes Benz when driving along this road, plunging 100 metres down the cliff. Miraculously, he not only survived the accident, but crawled out of the wreckage with hardly a scratch on his body.

When Mercedes heard the details, the marketing department decided to base a new advertisement on the story to promote the safety features and stability of the brand. In the video ad they intentionally drove an identical model off the road in the exact same location, having it plunge off the edge of the cliff, the driver stepping out similarly unscathed, proving the phenomenal survivability and strength of Mercedes Benz.

When the marketing suits at BMW saw this ad, they took a bold and ingenious decision to mimic it but with a twist. Only a week later, whilst the first ad was still fresh in the public’s minds, they shot their ad showing a BMW driving along the exact same stretch of road in the rain. However, when it reached the point at which the Mercedes plunged off the cliff, the BMW negotiated it safely, and continued driving along the road.

The catchphrase of the ad was “BMW beats the bends” . Or was it? It was cunningly recorded so that it could equally have been ‘beats the Benz’, implying that their cars had superior cornering and stability to their rival, Even more sneakily, they launched their campaign on a Saturday, mindful of the rules on competitive advertising in South Africa, safe in the knowledge that no objectionable actions could be taken till the new working week.

Mercedes-Benz wasted no time on Monday in issuing an injunction, the ad was swiftly pulled but the damage was done and the dog had had its day. The ad campaign ranks high in the history of advertising and can still be found online to this day. Meanwhile the rivalry between the two automotive greats goes on.

I reference this piece of marketing history in the light of this week’s horror crash by golfing great, Tiger Woods. Driving from a luxury holiday resort in California to a nearby country club Tiger Woods lost control of his vehicle on a downhill stretch of the road, smashed through a road sign, crossed over the central reservation and rolled his car several hundred feet. He had to be cut out and pulled to safety through the windscreen and the vehicle was so badly damaged, the attending police officers said he was ‘lucky to survive’.

The vehicle Woods was driving was a rented Genesis GV80 SUV. If you are unfamiliar with the brand that is not surprising since it is a relatively new spin-off from the South Korean Hyundai marque. The Genesis utility vehicle, not available locally yet, retails for around $50,000 or half a million pula, placing it in the higher end of town and country SUVs in the USA.

The model has certainly been widely publicised in the media coverage of the high-profile sportsman’s accident and I suspect that if asked to comment, Hyundai/Genesis would disagree with the police assessment, putting Woods’ survival down to build quality and in-built safety features such as crumple zones, anti-roll bars and airbags, which were deployed in the crash and would most certainly have played their part cushioning the effects of the rolling and ultimate impact. There is , of course, no suggestion that the manufacturers will capitalise on Woods’ survival but certainly it will have done the brand no harm that he did indeed emerge with recoverable injuries.

Comparing the two accidents, the driver of the Mercedes driving along Chapman’s Peak was, of course, an ordinary member of the public whilst Tiger Woods is a household name. That said, in humanitarian terms each tale of survival carries equal weight but the fact remains that the former was just another local story of yet one more victim of a notoriously tricky stretch of road whilst the latter went round the world in an instant because of the fame and name of the driver.

There is also no evidence that that stretch of Californian urban highway carried any inherent risk. His appears to have been just a loss of control and a freak accident. However, in the event that Hyundai/Genesis should consider making capital from that accident, a note of caution needs to be sounded.

In the advertising world, the use of celebrities to promote a product is a fall-back stance to sell anything from washing-up liquid to whisky but statistics have shown that it can be a double-edged sword in that yes, the ads are memorable and the public love them when the celeb is popular and personable. But…..what is often remembered is the name of the famous promoter, not the name of the product. In other words, they sell themselves far better than they sell the item.

In golfing terminology Hyundai/Genesis are not ‘out of the Woods’ yet and maybe they should go with a completely different Driver!

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Pact with the Devil

2nd March 2021

How Jesus’s grandfather sold his birthright to megalomaniac Herod

If you were to ask a Christian to name the main Jewish sects, General Atiku, he would no doubt begin with the Pharisees (because Jesus had innumerable slanging matches with  them according to the gospels), followed by the Sadducees.  Yet there was a third, equally momentous sect – the Essenes.

Although there’s not a single, one mention of the Essenes in the Bible, General, the New Testament is filled with Essene-type language as anybody who has read the Dead Sea Scrolls would readily recognise.

In point of fact, it was the Essenes who produced Jesus as well as the infamous Jewish band of freedom fighters known as the Zealots. Furthermore, almost all the New Testament writers were either Essenes or champions of the Essene cause as is apparent in their language and the drift of their overall philosophy.   The Essenes have a palpable presence in the Bible, albeit a cloaked one.

The Essenes, General, were the most popular, the most esteemed, and the most influential of the Jewish sects. The Jewish historian Philo (20 BC-50 AD) devotes 90 percent of his description of the Jewish sects to the Essenes. He wrote that the Essenes  “dwell in many cities of Judea and in many villages and in great societies of many numbers”.

Hyppolytus of Rome (170-236 AD) devoted nine-and-half chapters to the Essenes and only one to the Sadducees.     The Essenes are the authors of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947 in Israel at a place called Qumran and which have given us even greater insight into the happenings in the first century than the Bible itself.

How did the Essene movement come about, General?  The Essenes, meaning “puritans of the faith”, were the Jewish sect that was the most loyal to the Davidic dynasty. They set themselves apart from the mainstream Jewish community circa 175 BC and established their headquarters at Qumran,  about 40 km from Jerusalem.

Since the Jewish nation revered the Davidic royal line, the only legitimate and rightful rulers of Judah in their view, they rallied to the Essenes en masse. And because the Essenes were disparaging of the Hasmonean rule (140 BC to 63 BC), the mainstream Jews also took a dismissive view of Hasmonean rule too.

The Essenes were so highly regarded because of their virtue and spirituality. The legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) writes thus of them: “They are more mutually affectionate than the others (Pharisees and Sadducees). Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue  … Since [they are] despisers of wealth –  their communal stock is astonishing – one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions.

For by a law, those coming into the school (that is, the Essene fold) must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all.”

In time, the Essenes, General, became quite influential even with occupying powers. For instance, when the Greek General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as ruler of  Palestine in 63 BC,  he sought the opinion  of the Essenes. The Essenes recommended that Hyrcanus go by the titles High Priest and Prince, not King, to which Pompey paid heed. In  142 BC, when Simon was installed by the Seleucids as ruler of Palestine, the Essenes had insisted on the same titular style. To the Essenes, everybody who occupied Israel’s seat of authority was simply holding fort for the real deal – the Davidic  King.

In 37 BC, when Herod became King of Palestine, the potential Davidic King was Jacob-Eliakim – the father of the Joseph of the gospels – who was an Essene himself. It was in order to win the blessings of the historically popular Jewish royal family that Herod sought to curry favour with the Essenes.


About the time Herod came to power, General, there were three citizens of considerable stature in Palestine – Hillel, Menahem, and Jacob-Eliakim, the grandfather of Jesus. Hillel is by all accounts ancient Israel’s greatest teacher and scholar.

He was the foremost spiritual sage in the development of the Talmud and the Mishnah, the most authoritative religious references of the Jews which are second only to the Old Testament in esteem.   The renowned “Golden Rule”, which is invariably attributed to Jesus, was actually coined by Hillel. It is not certain whether Hillel was an Essene but his teachings did have a profound influence both on Essene philosophy and that of Jesus, who was an Essene too.

It was Menahem, however, who was an incontrovertible Essene. The Essenes were of two main branches, General. First, there were the puritans, the Palestinian Essenes. Then there were the liberals, the Diaspora Essenes, who sneered at the Palestinian Essenes’ dogmatism and rather strict views on morality. Menahem was the leader of the  Diaspora Essenes.

He was also privilleged to be advisor to King Herod. Herod did hold Menahem in very high regard. Josephus relates that when Herod was a school-going lad, Menahem had patted him on his back and said to him, “one day you will be King young man.” Since the prophecy came to pass, Herod had a certain, atypical respect both for Menahem and the order of Essenes.

Jacob-Eliakim’s significance was by virtue of his pedigree. He was of the royal line of David and was therefore the uncrowned King of the Jews. Now, as we have already indicated, Herod had his own grand designs about rulership of the world notwithstanding the fact that he was in reality a vassal of Rome.

When he made overtures to the trio, they didn’t mince words: they told him that in the new Israel, the Israel that would rule Earth once the Romans had been toppled from the pedestal of world power, it was a Davidic King who would reign. Herod took very strong  exception to such a prospect. Herod was neither a full-blooded Jew nor of Davidic stock but he was royalty in his own right.

His father, Antipater,  had been the governor of Idumea and in due course Judea in  the Hasmonean government and was in fact the real ruler of the entire Palestine, with John Hyrcanus being a  mere figurehead king.  When he (Herod) was only 25 years old, his father had appointed him governor of Galilee.   Herod thus had strutted the corridors of power from the day he was born and he wasn’t going to give that up easily either for his own sake or that of his descendants.

As such, General, Herod maintained to the trio that in the new, overarching Kingdom of Israel, he was going to be the emperor and would be based in Jerusalem. Just like the Greek empire of Alexander had been a triarchy (a kingdom divided into three governments), the global Kingdom of Israel (“Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer) was going to be likewise.

There was going to be a ruler in the east, a ruler in the west, and a ruler in the centre, that is Jerusalem, under the oversight of Herod himself. Hillel would rule in Jerusalem; Menahem in the east; and Jacob-Eliakim in the west. If these three happened to have disappeared from the Earthly scene by the time the Kingdom of Israel came into being, their descendants would observe the same setup.

The pecking order would thus be like this: Herod as the emperor; Hillel as the senior king; Menahem as the second-ranked king; and Jacob-Eliakim as the junior king. Put differently, Herod had by the stroke of a pen reduced the Davidic dynasty from foremost to least important as it posed the most serious threat to his office. Meanwhile, the three kings-in-waiting would go by the names of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Hillel would henceforth be called the Abraham, or the Father (or Papa, which later morphed into Pope), since Abraham was the Father of the Jewish nation; Menahem would be called the Isaac (Abraham’s son); and Eliakim the Jacob (Isaac’s son). Half a loaf was better than nothing at all and so Jacob-Eliakim meekly accepted this arrangement.

When Jesus later said, “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the new Kingdom of Heaven (MATTHEW 8:11),” he did not mean an afterlife kingdom: he referred to the Earthly setup proposed by King Herod.


Those days, General, the Davidic heir used the title “Jacob” rather than “David” as the latter title was very risky, particularly under the Hasmonean government. Given that Joseph was the most beloved son of the Old Testament Jacob, the next in line, that is, the firstborn son of the Jacob, used the title “Joseph”.

In September 44 BC, a son was born to Jacob-Eliakim. As the crown prince to the Jacob, he was given the titular name Joseph, the name by which he became best-known.  Like his father Jacob-Eliakim, Joseph was a missionary. But he also had a trade. He was a carpenter, a boat builder primarily, and a master of his craft. The word translated “carpenter” in the Bible is the ancient Greek word “ho hekton” which means a master artisan or craftsman.

In 31 BC, Qumran, the Essenes’ Judean wilderness bastion, was struck by an earthquake. The hermitic Essenes had no choice but to trek back to Jerusalem, from where they operated indefinitely at a place they called the Essene Gate. Then in 23 BC, Herod struck again. He had Jacob-Eliakim killed on trumped-up charges of sedition, his motive simply being a continuation of a systematic purge of  the Davidic “pretenders” to his throne.

The Essenes were wroth. They now set about promulgating to the Diaspora Essenes that Herod would have no part to play in the coming Kingdom. Instead, the overall King would be Joseph, the son of Jacob-Eliakim. This, General, was the beginning of a permanent rift between Herod and the Essene sect.


The prospective global world, General, was subdivided into ten provinces to facilitate governance and tax collection. Palestine would have two provinces, Judea and Samaria, the latter of which would include Galilee. Asia Minor (largely present-day Turkey), where the bulk of Diaspora Jews were concentrated, would have five provinces.

The last three provinces would be Babylon, Rome, and Alexandria in Egypt. The future capital of the West was not Rome: it was Ephesus in Asia Minor. Having been allocated the West, it was in Ephesus and Alexandria that Jacob-Eliakim spent most of his time evangelizing to fellow Jews about the future Kingdom of Israel. This was the beginning of the New Covenant, whereby Jews who converted to the ideal of a new Kingdom of Israel were baptised by immersion in water.

To mainstream Palestinian Jews, General, Jacob-Eliakim was a sellout. Herod had demoted his pedigree but to somewhat placate him, he gave him the honorary title of Patriarch or Prince of Jerusalem. By subordinating the Davidic throne-in-waiting to Herod, Jacob-Eliakim had  gone against what the nation of Israel’s God, Enlil, the Bible’s main Jehovah, decreed – that every King of Judah had to be a descendant of  David. So when the unpredictable Herod had him killed in 23 BC for “sedition”, as part of a pogrom against the line of David, there was very little sympathy for him.

In 44 BC, Joseph had been born to Jacob-Eliakim. Joseph was a title: it was not his real name. At the death of his father, Joseph became the Jacob. However, he preferred the title “David”, the more apt one historically. Joseph would become the father of Jesus. When Joseph attained 30 years of age in 14 BC, his uncles and the Essene sages sent him to Rome and Alexandria to do his part in missionary work, which was simply about promulgating to the Diaspora Jews the future Kingdom of Israel in which a Son of David, that is a descendant of King David, would rule.   Egypt was also a special place because Joseph’s maternal relations were Egyptians.

Jacob-Eliakim, General, had two wives. The one was called Euchariah, a Jewish princess, of whom very little is known, and the other, the dynastic wife, was an Egyptian princess, a daughter of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Julius Caesar. Jacob-Eliakim and this princess had three sons: they were Joseph, the father of Jesus, and the twins Cleopas (after whom James, Jesus’ immediate younger brother, whose given name was Cleopas, was named) and Ptolas. Joseph was thus the Davidian Prince of Israel as well as contender to Crown Prince of Egypt. Despite pretences to the contrary on the part of the Jews, Egypt and Israel have always had ties of monarchical kinship.

In 8 BC, General, Joseph was required by Essene custom to return home and fulfill his obligations for a dynastic marriage. A wife-to-be had already been chosen for him by his uncles  and other patriarchal Essenes. This was Dorcas, better known today by her title name Mary.


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