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Admirable politician – 11: working for the common good, Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Following our tenth entry: MP Andrew Gwynne, who successfully introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act and worked long and hard to get justice for those who received contaminated blood through the NHS, we turn to Botswana, after reading an obituary by Emily Langer in the Independent. Her subject was Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’. 

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor and became a successful farmer.

Botswanan cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari Desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  

He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in  Wikipedia..

 

 

 

 

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This week’s PMQs: “quite possibly the day when Tories started taking Jeremy Corbyn seriously”

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As Glasgow’s Daily Record put it: “Cameron had no good answers and looked like a PM finally being held to account for the all damage his policies are doing. It really was an absolutely terrible day at the office for David Cameron. And quite possibly the day when Tories started taking Jeremy Corbyn seriously”.

As even the right-wing press salutes Jeremy Corbyn’s questions in Wednesday’s PMQs, two of the Telegraph’s journalists – hopefully their worst – pounce.

  • One is Dan Hodges, who describes himself as a ‘tribal neo-Blairite’.

dan hodgesDan has been a parliamentary researcher, a Labour Party official, GMB official, and as director of communications for Transport for London under Ken Livingstone. He left the party in 2013 after the government lost a crucial vote in the House of Commons which was designed to pave the way for a military intervention in Syria. Nice guy.

He writes: “The Lords are in open revolt. Caesar has been brought low. Or George Osborne, who has a haircut remarkably similar to Caesar’s, has been brought low. The barbarians are at the gates. Jeremy Corbyn has finally had a decent PMQs, using the tax credits issue to back David Cameron into a corner”.

He later refers to “Jeremy Corbyn’s besting of David Cameron at PMQs”

Reading around one gathers his attempted ‘downing’ of Osborne and Cameron is due to his support for Boris Johnson, first shown when he voted for him in the London Mayoral elections.

  • The other is Angela Epstein, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle and some right-wing British publications

angela epsteinUnder the title, ‘Jeremy Corbyn is too thick to be Prime Minister’, she focusses on his exam results and lack of what she calls ‘natural talent’. It appears that she is a person whose disapproval amounts to an accolade. Read this devastating analysis of her mindset by Kate Smurthwaite, comedian.

Attacks by such people only highlight Corbyn’s decency and the popular welcome for the Labour Party’s policies for building a fairer society and redeeming Britain’s besmirched international reputation.

Compare Jeremy Corbyn’s record with that of the many ‘highly educated’ psychopaths in and out of power. They have successfully connived at the deaths and destruction in so many countries of late – whilst increasing their fortunes by their alliance with subsidised arms traders, multinationals who have taken over most of Britain’s energy, health, water, financial, communications and transport services and those who periodically attempt to make the struggling taxpayer accept mass medication (fluoride, statins, the polypill) GM technology, nuclear power stations, polluting incinerators and fracking – totally disregarding the welfare of the 99%.

Soapbox for the 99%: privatisation is grand theft from the public

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Richard Bruce says:

Having given a lot of thought about nationalisation, privatisation and the results of policy decisions, I have come to the conclusion that privatisation is in fact grand theft from the public which is then made to pay again for what they had already both paid for and provided the funding to build the infrastructure that made the sell-off possible.

We are seeing it again with the rescued banks – they will be re-privatised at a massive loss.

Public loss, private gain

The population at large blamed nationalisation for failure when the reality is that placemen put into the hierarchy deliberately run down the businesses so that a sell-off at a fraction of the real value could take place without too much public outcry. Those responsible enriched themselves handsomely.

The Post Office

This is happening again with the Post Office which has priced itself out of the general letter post making it almost impossible for people to afford to send letters and cards as they once did and which now relies on the massively annoying junk mail problem, just to keep profitable, which wastes an enormous amount of resources and landfill.

What was once a respected next day delivery service to all addresses in the UK is now rapidly degenerating into a third-class service where there is no guarantee for delivery even for recorded delivery letters. Where once the mail was routinely delivered before 9 am in the morning some are lucky if they get deliveries by mid-afternoon as consolidation of rounds mean postmen have much bigger rounds than they once had.

Politicians of all parties are to blame as they have allowed competitors to cream off the most profitable services but add to the cost of the Post Office by making them carry the burden of less profitable deliveries. One can only wonder if those politicians held shares in the competitors.

If we examine what has happened to the privatised formerly nationalised services the outlook for the Post Office looks bleak.

The railways

I well remember talking to a well-spoken gentleman on a station platform and how he declared that once the railways were privatised things would improve. How wrong he was. Ticket prices soared. Subsidies increased. Shareholders ran away with the profits that would have eased the tax burden on us all. Worse still we no longer have a joined up national railway with problems now similar to those that required nationalisation in the first place – and some regional services are run by foreign owned nationalised companies.

Water, electricity and telephone services

If we look at water, electricity and telephone services we see the same story. What was once owned by the taxpayers via government is now more often than not run by foreign companies with the British customer being forced to pay excessively high prices to satisfy shareholders and foreign companies.

Housing

Housing was another privatisation scam. Well-built council houses were sold for political reasons at a fraction of their worth and that triggered a shortage of homes for those who could not afford to buy and fuelled increases in house prices and the rents linked to them.

That in turn increased the welfare bill because the owners of property no longer paid rates and the tenants often could not afford to pay rent and the council tax, plus the water bills that were once included in the rates. Worse than that was the replacement housing costs which required agreements with builders and more subsidies for the provision of what are basically little more than wooden sheds with decorative walls but which are still priced as if they were built to last. Why can no politician see the glaring scandal there?

We now have a government that is reportedly going to offer money to first time buyers who cannot afford the required deposits so that they can once again get the property owning sector moving again. What seems to have been forgotten is that it is this very issue that supposedly started the current financial crisis with the sub-prime mortgages failures that brought down long-established banks.

Of course we should question if there really is/was a financial crisis as it should be noted that the elite are doing very nicely thank you and it is only the very poorest in society who are being hit, as is usual.

The Coalition’s current policy is to once again support those who cannot afford mortgages while at the same time punishing those who are unable to afford their rents and who have received financial assistance not for themselves but as direct payments to wealthy landlords as inflated rents. Both actions will no doubt end in disaster.

National Health Service

We were told that the NHS would be safe but it is clear that there is a move towards privatisation with the changes to Foundation Trusts which offer members discounts at local shops whilst at the same time drastically cutting numbers of hospital beds, Nurses and Blood Donor Services. The added stress of staff is unbearable and we have seen the same in the changes made to the education system with the cuts hitting as they did before at the basic infrastructure, which is usually far cheaper to properly maintain than it is to replace after being run-down.

Once again short-term political gain is to be paid for by even greater financial problems down the track.

The prison service

Not so very long ago there was an outcry that government was using a prison ship because there were too many prisoners and there were promises that more prisons would be built. The reality is that they have closed prisons and shortened sentences and yet crime has reached a point where hardly a day goes by without reports of murder.

All of the formerly nationalised services were sold off at a fraction of their true worth as a temporary fix for the economy – but surely anyone with eyes to see would realise that such a short-term fix brings long-term pain.

Welfare and NHS cuts

Look closer and we can see that once again it is grand theft from the people of this country who provided the investment, just as the new welfare and NHS cuts are a betrayal of the ideals of the National Insurance Contributions scheme, which was supposed to protect those injured at work or by accident illness etc. Now that too is slowly being privatised, as are the services that determine eligibility, and here too those who have eyes to see can see obvious fraud and deception, but the politicians responsible see only good in what they do because they know that they will never have to suffer from the consequences of their actions.

They are alright Jack – and the rest of us will just have to take it all on the chin and from our wallets….