Section 92 of the Constitution of Botswana provides that “If the National Assembly at any time passes a resolution supported by a majority of all the Members of the Assembly who are entitled to vote declaring that it has no confidence in the Government of Botswana, Parliament shall stand dissolved on the fourth day following the day on which such resolution was passed, unless the President earlier resigns his office or dissolves Parliament.”
Though section 92 provides for a vote of no confidence in the Government of Botswana as a whole, it is effectively a vote of no confidence in the President for he, in order to save his Government through dissolution of Parliament, has to resign his office within four days if the vote succeeds. It is for this reason that though the Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Advocate Duma Boko’s recent vote of no confidence was theoretically against the Government, it was effectively against His Excellency the President, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
For many, including some Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), the vote of no confidence tabled by Hon. Boko on 10th July 2018 came as a surprise. This is so because, ordinarily, a vote of no confidence is brought following failures in governance and leadership that an ordinary person would have been aware of for some time or after a singular, but colossal governance and/or leadership failure.
Often, before an MP can table a vote of no confidence there would have been public outcry calling for the Government’s removal. In some instances, there would have been demonstrations, protests and general public disquiet. In a representative democracy such as ours, an MP cannot just move a vote with such implications as the removal of a democratically elected Government from office, albeit constitutionally, without there being a general public inclination in that regard.
It appears many Opposition MPs were also not aware of the vote. When speaking to Duma FM on 11th July 2018, the Secretary General for the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Honourable Dr. Phenyo Butale, stated that the AP was not aware of the vote, and it, therefore, had no party position on it. Hon. Butale’s words were confirmed by Independent MP, Honourable Kgosi Tawana Moremi II, formerly of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), who also spoke to Duma FM on the same day.
Kgosi Moremi II stated that it is for this reason that many Opposition MPs did not participate in the debate, stating that the situation was worsened by the unpalatable illustrations used by Hon. Boko to support his vote. Some have said Hon. Boko’s vote was as much unwarranted as the failed attempt by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to oust H.E Masisi through the courts when it argued that his presidency ended after seven days of his ‘temporary assumption of office’, but later withdrew the application.
Some have accused Hon. Boko of being an attention seeker who used the vote as a strategy to deflect the public’s attention from the problems bedeviling the Opposition and him personally as leader of both the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Kgosi Moremi II has, however, argued that even if it is true that Hon. Boko was, by tabling the vote, seeking attention and seeking to deflect the public’s attention from the issues bedeviling the UDC, BNF and himself, there is nothing wrong with that.
Kgosi Moremi II argues that rather than judging people on their motive for pursuing certain courses of action, we should, as a people, rather make judgment on the results and/or impact of their actions. Some have laughed off Hon. Boko’s vote, saying it is against Hon. Boko himself that a vote of no confidence should be tabled in the BNF and UDC because he has failed to lead the Opposition, resulting in the split in the BMD, which gave birth to a splinter party, the AP.
According to them, Hon. Boko has failed to bring unity within the UDC, the result being the continuous conflicts within the BMD and between the BMD and the BCP as evidenced by the recent spat between Advocate Sidney Pilane and Dumelang Saleshando which was leaked in social media. It is probably because of the aforesaid reasons that Hon. Boko’s vote was resoundingly defeated, with a vote of 35 against, 11 for and 3 abstentions. Considering the fact that there are 19 Opposition MPs, it is clear that the vote did not even get the support of the Opposition itself.
But, besides the accusations against Hon. Boko, the question is: has H.E Masisi’s government, within the 100 days he has been President, failed in its duties or committed legal or moral wrongs that a vote of no confidence against it was warranted? According to the Voice’s online edition of 12th July 2018, one of the reasons given by Hon. Boko in support of his vote is that H.E Masisi is unfit to lead the country because he has been implicated in the embezzlement of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) funds.
The other reason he is said to have given is that by refusing former President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s recommendation for the appointment of former Director General of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), Colonel Isaac Kgosi, as his Private Secretary, H.E Masisi is violating Khama’s rights, stating that there is a case in his office regarding such refusal.
It is common cause that the NPF issue has been before the courts before H.E Masisi assumed the presidency, and before he became clothed with protection in respect of legal proceedings in terms of section 41 of the Constitution of Botswana. It is also common cause that after assuming the presidency, H.E. Masisi, in his first cabinet reshuffle, removed former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, who was alleged to be involved in the NPF scandal.
While some were satisfied with Advocate Kebonang’s removal, arguing that H.E Masisi would not have acted as such if he were involved in the scandal, some argued to the contrary saying Kebonang was a mere sacrificial lamb. They argued that the reason H.E Masisi has not agreed to the establishment of a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the NPF saga is that he fears that he, and his associates, will be exposed.
I agree that a scandal of the magnitude of the NPF is worth a vote of no confidence on a government. However, considering that this scandal happened when Khama was in office and that while Khama did nothing H.E. Masisi acted as shown above, it is disingenuous for the vote to be brought now when Khama has left office.
As regards H.E. Masisi’s refusal to accede to Khama’s recommendation for Kgosi’s appointment it is a matter which, in my view, is not worth wasting Parliament’s time with a vote of no confidence. If the matter has any merit, which I dispute, it belongs to the courts, not Parliament. One thing I am certain about is that considering the disquiet that Kgosi has caused our people, Hon. Boko, cannot claim to be representing Batswana by calling for a vote of no confidence on the Government for H.E. Masisi’s refusal to accede to his appointment as Khama’s Private Secretary.
But, besides the two issues which are reported to have been the basis for Hon. Boko’s vote, there question is: is there justifiable cause for the vote of no confidence against the Government and, by extension, H.E Masisi? To answer this question, a cursory assessment of H.E Masisi’s record, including the appointments, transfers and dismissals he made, since assuming the presidency is apposite.
Since assuming the presidency, H.E Masisi has appointed His Honour the Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane; dropped ministers alleged of corruption and appointed Honourable Nonofo Molefhi as Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration MPAGP&A) despite challenging him for the Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) chairpersonship.
He has also retained such of Honourable Molefhi’s supporters as Honorables Biggie Butale, Fidelis Molao, Phillip Makgalemele and Dorcus Makgatho in his cabinet; and removed Honourable Eric Molale and Ruth Maphorisa from MPAGP&A and the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) respectively following a decade long cry by trade unions.
H.E Masisi has also showed consciousness for youth empowerment and gender equality as well as rewarding excellence by appointing a young woman, Honourable Bogolo Kenewendo, as the Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry. He has, also after a decade long cry over the DISS’s alleged maladministration, brutality and interception of Opposition leaders’ communications, removed the hitherto untouchable and feared former Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence & Security Services (DISS), Colonel Isaac Kgosi.
Besides the cabinet reshuffle, transfers and dismissals, H.E Masisi has undertaken some activities which are worth consideration in evaluating whether or not Hon. Boko’s vote of no confidence was warranted. Firstly, though he took more than four months to hold a Press Conference, H.E Masisi did, on 10th July 2018, hold a Press Conference to which journalists from all media houses were invited. In listening to the Press Conference, which was broadcast live, one got the impression that the journalists were free in asking questions and H.E Masisi answered the questions without evasion.
Secondly, speaking at the Press Conference, H.H Masisi assured Batswana that the long awaited Bills on Declaration of Assets & Liabilities and Access to Information shall be tabled before Parliament by the end of this year. Thirdly, also speaking during the Press Conference, H.H Masisi stated that he will, on 12th July 2018, meet with the leaders of Opposition parties. The last such meeting was in 2008. During the Khama regime, the All Party Conference did not convene.
Fourth, in an effort to attract investors thereby creating employment, H.E Masisi has instructed his Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Honourable Dorcas Makgato, to make the process of applying for residence permits, work permits and Visas one seamless process. Fifth, H.E Masisi has reportedly met with trade union leaders in an effort to restore the relations which were strained during Khama’s reign.
Sixth, H.E Masisi is on record stating that the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Honourable Tshenolo Mabeo, has been given strict instructions to restore the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Seventh, right from his first week in office, H.E Masisi showed his willingness to prioritize foreign relations by visiting Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries as well as the United Kingdom and Mauritius.
On the negative side, H.E Masisi has failed to establish a Commission of Inquiry on the NPF saga and has defended the Act on Electronic Voting Machines despite public outcry against the Act. H.E Masisi has also not made any commitment of at least taking such issues as political party funding; direct presidential elections; changing the electoral system from first past the post to proportional representation and recall of MPs and Councillors to a referendum.
His government has also stated that it does not intend changing Botswana Television and Radio Botswana I and II from state broadcasters to public broadcasters despite complaints that they are biased in favor of the ruling BDP. The question is: can the majority of Batswana, having regard to H.E Masisi’s achievements and failures aforesaid, come to the conclusion that H.E Masisi and his government have failed to the extent that they should be removed through a vote of no confidence?
In my view, the majority of Batswana, including members of the Opposition, cannot come to that conclusion, especially that H.E Masisi has only been in office for about 100 days. Not even the claim that Hon. Boko’s vote was warranted because H.E Masisi has failed to create employment and eradicate poverty has merit. Who can bring solutions to such complex issues in 100 days?
A wife, uncle, and two in-laws fall at the hands of Judah’s despot
The pre-eminent Jewish chronicler, Flavius Josephus, said of Herod the Great that he was “blessed with every gift of looks, body, and mind” but he was a “slave to his passions”. This was in the context of a gloating bloodlust.
His sword knew no sacred cows: neither his own kids, wives, in-laws, next of kin, nor bosom friends were immune from it. He is on record as pestering Caesar Augustus with a barrage of letters seeking permission to execute his own flesh and blood, prompting the Roman emperor to at one time quip that, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son”, which was apt: as a “Jew”, Herod did not eat pork and therefore in the event that he kept any pigs, they would never have to be killed.
You are by now well-apprised of the death of Hyrcanus II by the same Herod, General Atiku, in 30 BC. Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean ruler of Judah twice over, was actually the grandfather of Mariamne I, Herod’s most beloved wife and his second of up to 10 wives. It was Mariamne’s own mother Salome, who dreading Herod’s pathological savagery, pitched Mariamne to Herod in the hope that that would insure her family from Herod’s murderous caprices.
Now, Mariamne, General, was as much a stunning beauty as her younger brother Aristobulus III was breathtakingly good-looking. Having tied the knot with Herod in 37 BC, Mariamne had prevailed over her husband to install Aristobulus as High Priest. The post had fallen vacant on the death of Antigonus in 37 BC and Herod had appointed one Ananel, who had no ties whatsoever to the Hasmoneans, the first such in more than a century, in his place. Unable to resist the spirited entreaties of his beloved wife, who had also lobbied Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her beau Mark Anthony, Herod gave in and replaced Ananel with Aristobulus, who was only 16 years old, in 36 BC.
Because of his enormous charisma and overall affability, Aristobulus was a hit with the masses despite his tender age and Herod was envious of the young man’s rock star-like popularity. To make doubly sure the young man did not harbour a seditious ace up his sleeve, the morbidly paranoid Herod had his spooks watch on both Aristobulus and his mother round the clock. Sensing imminent danger, Aristobulus contacted Cleopatra, asking for a pre-emptive safe passage to Egypt and there enjoy absolute freedom. When Herod got wind of this, he decided to get rid of Aristobulus as he did not wish him to be a perennial thorn in his flesh from the utter safety of self-imposed exile.
The opportunity came at a banquet in Jericho which was organised by Aristobulus’ mother. There, Herod had one of his henchmen cause Aristobulus to drown during a dusk time horseplay in a swimming pool. Of course Herod would forever maintain the drowning was accidental when everybody knew it was in truth a tactical elimination. Poor Aristobulus was only 17 years old having been born in 56 BC. He was the last Hasmonean High Priest and was replaced by the previously deposed Ananel, who was to remain in that position till 29 BC.
HEROD ACQUITTED OVER THE ARISTOBULUS DEATH
It need not be over-emphasised, General, that Mariamne and her mother Alexandra did not take Herod’s line over the all too untimely demise of Aristobulus lying down. If he had reckoned that with the death of Aristobulus he had gotten rid of potentially the most potent threat to his omnipotence, he was totally mistaken. Herod had actually simply fanned the flames of intrigue against him, for mother and daughter confronted him and accused him of murdering their boy in cold blood.
Nor did the two Iron Ladies end matters there: Alexandra wrote a lachrymal letter to Cleopatra to get her to bring her influence to bear on Mark Anthony so that Herod paid dearly and likewise for his nefarious act. Anthony, who at the time was the Roman colossus in charge of the whole of the Middle East, was persuaded and during a visit to Laodicea (in modern-day Turkey, though some accounts say it was Rhodes in Cyprus), he commanded Herod to report to him forthwith and exculpate himself over the affair.
Although Herod put a brave face on the matter, General, he was rather unsure of his eventual fate after the trial. He also suspected rightly or wrongly that Anthony had a thing for the voluptuously beautiful Mariamne and the last thing Herod wanted was for any other man to bed his beloved Mariamne even in death. So before he set off for Laodicea, Herod instructed his uncle Joseph, who was married to his sister Salome, to make sure that in the event that Anthony sentenced him to death, he should immediately put her to the sword. He also detailed a certain Sohemus, a most trusted aide, to stand sentry over the entire womenfolk at the palace.
Herod, however, had the nine lives of a cat, General. Using his immense rhetorical skills and the time-honoured palm greasing, he won himself an acquittal. Meanwhile, the Judean rumourville was abuzz with chatter that Herod had been summarily executed by Anthony, as a result of which people became spendthrifts of their tongues.
Both Joseph and Sohemus disclosed to Mariamne the instructions Herod had left them with in relation to her fate once he was no more. Mariamne was both livid and distraught that her husband regarded her as so easily expendable when outwardly he cherished her beyond words. To her mind, his arrangements with Joseph had nothing to do with love but sprang from sheer monstrosity. She probably thanked God that he was dead, but the fact of the matter was that he was not and when he at long last turned up, she did not want to have anything to do with him, including the conjugation which he so eagerly pined for after such an extended absence.
HEROD KILLS HIS WIFE AND HIS UNCLE
Now, if Herod had a kind of Svengali, General, it was his youngest sister Salome. Salome (65 BC-10 AD) was the most powerful woman at Herod’s court. A sly, scheming, and manipulating vixen, she arguably more than any other living being had the most sway in a negative sense on her brother, who took practically whatever she said as gospel truth.
Let us nevertheless, General, take stock of the fact that the bulk of what we learn about Salome comes from Flavius Josephus, who himself relied on the writings of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus. For one reason or the other, Nicolaus did not see eye to eye with Salome and it is therefore possible that much of what Nicolaus relates of her is embellished to smear her before the court of history. Upon his return, Herod was told of the rumours of his death and so was surprised to find Mariamne alive when Joseph and Sohemus should in the circumstances have had her killed if indeed they were loyal to him. In fact, Joseph had even put Mariamne and Alexandra into the safe custody of Roman legions stationed in Judea just in case Jewish malcontents who abhorred Herod turned their wrath on them.
But there was more. Salome reported to Herod that Mariamne, who she hated like the plague, had had sexual relations with both Joseph and Sohemus, this being Mariamne’s reward to them for dishing out to her the dirt on Herod, and that she had on several occasions before attempted to poison him. Now, no one would hump Herod’s most beloved wife and get away scotfree. It is therefore small wonder that Herod straightaway ordered the execution of Joseph and Sohemus. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of his death in 34 BC, having been born in 95 BC. In the case of Mariamne herself though, he had her subjected to a formal court trial not on charges of adultery but of attempted regicide.
Herod had hoped that the court would acquit her, whereupon he would make bygones be bygones so great was his love for the woman, but sadly for him, General, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Even then, Herod tactfully dilly-dallied on signing the writ of execution and simply had his wife detained at a fortress for some time until Salome prevailed over him to execute her at long last. Writes Josephus: “Thus, with the death of the noble and lovely Mariamne ended the glorious history of the Hasmonean High Priest Mattathias and his descendants.”
For a long time to come though, General, Herod was haunted by the death of his wife to the point of even sometimes coming across as if he had lost his mind. “When Herod realised what this meant (the death sentence passed on Mariamne), he tried in vain to have the verdict changed, but Salome did not rest until the death penalty was carried out,” Josephus informs us. “Herod was heartbroken; nothing could comfort him for the loss of his lovely wife.
For seven years he refused to have her body buried, and held it, embalmed, in his palace. Afterwards, he became so melancholy and despondent, nothing interested him or could arouse any enthusiasm in him for living … He was so far conquered by his passion, that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them … He tried hard to forget his trouble by going hunting and banqueting, but nothing helped. Herod built new cities and erected temples and palaces. He also named a tower in honour of Mariamne.”
HEROD SLAYS SISTER’S EX-HUBBY
Mariamne’s death was not the only one which Herod perpetrated through the instrumentality of Salome. There were actually several and included those of her own husband Costobarus. Salome was married four times, to her uncle Joseph (45 BC); Costobarus (34 BC); Sylleus (circa 27 BC); and Alexas (20 BC).
Like the Herod clan, Costobarus was of Idumean stock. It was Costobarus Herod had made governor of Idumea and Gaza and upon Joseph’s death had him tie the knot with Salome, with the couple eventually siring two children, Berenice and Antipater III. Costobarus, though, soon began to harbour monarchical ambitions of his own and wrote to Cleopatra beseeching her to persuade Mark Anthony to make Idumea independent of Herod and install him (Costobarus) as Rome’s client King of the territory.
Of course upon learning of this, Herod was not amused. It was Salome who pleaded with him not to put her husband to the sword. Next time, however, a dumped Costobarus was not so lucky. Seven years after their marriage, Salome and Costobarus parted ways and a possibly hurt Salome decided to exact vengeance. She informed her brother that he had been harbouring two fugitives from Herodian justice for a full 12 years at his own farm.
The two were simply known as the Sons of Baba. Baba ben Babuta, their father and clan patriarch, was related to the Hasmonean ruler Antigonus, who Herod had replaced and killed in 37 BC with the help of Roman legions. Baba and his sons had resisted Herod at the time, with his sons henceforth persisted in insurrectionist activity against Herod. Baba himself had been captured and blinded by Herod but spared anyway as he no longer posed any threat. Writes Josephus: “Now the Sons of Babas were of great dignity, and had power among the multitude, and were faithful to Antigonus, and were always raising calumnies against Herod, and encouraged the people to preserve the government to that royal family (the Hasmoneans) which held it by inheritance.”
Costobarus had provided the Sons of Baba an indefinite lair “supposing that their preservation might be of great advantage to him in the changes of government afterward”. Following the Salome tip, Herod had Costobarus and the Sons of Baba summarily executed “so that none was left alive of the family of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean), and the kingdom was wholly in Herod’s power, there being no one of high rank to stand in the way of his unlawful acts” per Josephus.
We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate and market services’. WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there, claiming it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenues which Facebook generated in the third quarter of 2020 came from advertising and there is currently none in WhatsApp.
The company now wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also garnering their usage habits on WhatsApp and enabling businesses take payments via WhatsApp for items that were selected on other Facebook sites. For long-time users, the option to share data with Facebook was made available in 2016, but it was just that: optional and temporary. It was now to become mandatory for everybody from Feb. 8 but owing to a massive backlash, the company has delayed that to May 15 to try and persuade users to sign up to the new Ts and Cs.
WhatsApp on Monday attempted to address the uproar over privacy concerns with a post on its website, explaining that the update was designed to aid businesses on its platform, as it reiterated in Friday’s post.
“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”
These new terms have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organisations and triggered a wave of defections to rival services. Elon Musk has urged his followers to switch to Signal and the governments of Turkey and India have threatened to block the app if it insists on proceeding.
Elsewhere too, in spite of Whatsapp protestations, millions of its users are already migrating to alternative platforms. Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week, a 4,200% spike since the previous week and large swaths of users also jumped to Telegram, as the platform gained 9 million new users last week, up 91% from the previous week. Both apps are now topping Google and Apple’s app stores,
Facebook could possibly learn a lesson from history here. Every past empire – Aztec, Mayan, Greco-Roman, Sumerian, Mongol, Chinese, Ottoman and more recently British, all saw their star rise, their glory swell, their boundaries grow and yet each eventually fell, often the instigators of their own downfall.
To understand its influence and control one only has to check out the un-smart sector of the mobile phone industry which for some time has offered handsets a small step up from the basic starter sets with Facebook and Whatsapp as default screen app settings. These limited internet access options have allowed millions of users to connect with affordable data bundle packages.
And for Google smartphone subscribers, the search engine automatically connects its base to Whatsapp and Facebook – one big, happy family. Facebook is also seamlessly linked to Paypal offering contact-less charges for its boosted post advertising, a somewhat sinister partnership which accesses their Paypal log-in and authorisation details without the need to inform the payee – the transaction is simply deducted automatically from the registered credit card. This is Big Brother with a blue logo.
The bottom line here is that if you have any privacy issues at all – and you probably should – you might as well make the switch now before you are forced to sign away your rights in May. And the plus part is that both Signal and Telegram have the technological edge over Whatsapp anyway, the latter even being accessible on multiple platforms simultaneously, not just on your phone. Empires take time to crumble and Facebook is not in imminent danger but information is a weapon that can be used in any war, even a virtual conflict, so don’t give this giant any more ammunition than it already has.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.