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Ntuane is Right, Botswana needs reforms!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States of America, once said: "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost". In the context of this column, Adams’ statement can be adapted to say “Always stand for principle, though you may stand alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your stand is never lost”.

When Botsalo Ntuane, the Chairperson of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Gaborone Region, authored an opinion article in the Sunday Standard newspaper edition of 11th January 2015 under the heading ‘20 years on, is it time for BDP’s 2nd Reform Agenda?’ he, at the risk of being labelled a radical by some conservative elements in the BDP, stood for principle and put the party and the country first. As Adam said, though Ntuane may be alone now, he, if he continues with such a mindset, which I trust he will since he has exhibited it before, will cherish the sweetest reflection that his stand will never be lost.

On the contrary, those ‘Democrats’ and ‘party loyalists’ who, for political expediency and gaining favours from the party leadership, fail to advise the party leadership to embark on reform will certainly have their stand lost. When the party leadership, perhaps when it will be too late, realizes that such ‘loyalists’ misled the party the results may be dire for both the individual and the party.

It takes a brave and principled party member, let alone a Regional Chairperson, to call for such an electoral reform as using the hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past the Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS) when his or her party has expressed opposition to such. By citing examples of countries, in Africa, where PR and hybrid electoral systems are being used Ntuane dispelled the propaganda that is often used alleging that such systems are western and/or socialist.

The fact that Namibia has been using the PR system since independence in 1991 and has not experienced political upheavals dispels the myth that PR or hybrid electoral systems lead to political instability. The truth is that such systems, which address such socio-economic ills as gender inequality and minority right violations, promote peace and stability. That Lesotho and Zimbabwe, both of which use the hybrid system, are tainted with political instability has nothing to do with the electoral systems. The political instability is as a result of such vices as vote rigging and corruption and, in the case of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s insatiable desire to remain in power until his death.

If, as Ntuane reminds us, the BDP, following its 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress, embarked on such far reaching reforms as introduction of the two-term presidential term limit; reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18; external balloting and the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission, it can certainly afford a second phase of reforms. In fact, considering the fact that the last such far reaching constitutional reforms were twenty years ago, it can be argued that reform is long overdue. Further, such reforms would be opportune in view of the fact that we are just about to reach Vision 2016 and start a new Vision. Not only that. We have reached the year 2015, the milestone year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Also, in 2016 Botswana will be celebrating her 50th anniversary.

I have written earlier in this column that beyond President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s departure the BDP may lose elections if it does not renew itself now. Such renewal is not, like some BDP Public Relations Agents shortsightedly advice, only about election messaging, bill boards, newspaper adverts and press releases, but also, and most importantly I opine, about ushering in constitutional reforms. Such reforms, which will further entrench such of our long held values as the rule of law; judicial independence and separation of powers, will make Botswana a freer and fairer society. Consequently, regardless of who initiated the reforms, the BDP, as the ruling party, will enjoy the credit and Batswana will reap the rewards.

It is, therefore, naïve for any BDP member, official or Consultant to advise the BDP against adopting certain reforms simply because they were initiated by the Opposition or by such interest groups as civil society and the media. Were the 1995 Sebele Extra-ordinary Congress reforms aforesaid not initiated by the Opposition or by interest groups? Who benefited the most from the reforms, is it the BDP or the Opposition? I agree with Ntuane that, as evidenced by the BDP’s winning of 33 out of 40 seats in Parliament and a popular vote of 54% in the 1999 polls, the BDP benefited the most. But, beyond party politics Batswana emerged the victors.

Therefore, over and above reforming the electoral system by introducing a hybrid of Proportional Representation (PR) and the current First Past The Post (FPTP) or the Single Member Plurality System (SMPS), the BDP should consider such other reforms as making Parliament, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and the Ombudsman truly independent; introducing political party funding; introducing direct presidential elections; decentralizing power to Local Authorities; and abolishing Specially Elected Members of the National Assembly and nominated Councilors. The least the BDP can do is to subject these to a referendum.

Further, the BDP should, in order to enhance judicial independence, introduce a system where the Chief Justice (CJ) and the President of the Court of Appeal (CoA) are appointed by the President with advice from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Also, like in such democracies as South Africa, the JSC should not, save for one member of the Law Society nominated by the Law Society, only comprise such appointees of the Executive as the CJ, President of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General (AG), the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and a person of integrity and experience not being a legal practitioner appointed by the President. It should also comprise Members of Parliament (MPs), DiKgosi, the clergy and the civil society.

There are those within the BDP as well as Consultants who advise the party leadership that such reforms may result in the BDP losing elections. This is not necessarily true. If there is any reform which could have led the BDP to lose elections it was the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18, yet it did not. Following the reform, the BDP, like the Opposition, developed strategies to attract the youth vote. How can introduction of political party funding, for example, result in the BDP losing elections? Will the BDP not receive funding like the Opposition? It will and if the funding will assist the Opposition to reach more voters, it will do the same for the BDP.

How can enhancing the independence of Parliament, the IEC, DCEC and the Ombudsman make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP has a good presidential candidate, how can direct presidential elections make it lose elections? If the party president is a member of the party who can be disciplined and recalled by the party, how can there be two centers of power? Even Mugabe, one of the world’s worst dictators, is elected through direct presidential elections! How can an independent judiciary make the BDP lose elections? If the BDP is a democratic party and abhors such ills as corruption and economic crime and subscribes to the rule of law why should it be afraid of enhancing the independence of the judiciary?     

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Some defeats are more triumphant than victories”. If by conceding to the calls for reform, the BDP will have been defeated, such a defeat will in fact be a victory-a victory for democracy and the country. While some reforms will require a referendum, the BDP should implement those reforms which do not require a referendum. Even for those reforms which require a referendum, if the BDP uses its majority and influence to support them such reforms will certainly gain Batswana’s support.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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