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A Right Charlie

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

The dust has by no means settled on the Charlie Hebdo debacle in Paris last month which saw a massacre at the offices of the satirical cartoon, followed by hostage-taking and more deaths.  Whatever it was and it wasn’t, the episode was a series of acts of terrorism, carried out in the name of Islam mainly by people of foreign extraction against mainly people of French stock. 

Some of it was directed against Gentiles, some against Jews but then extreme forms of Islam make no differentiation – all non-Muslims are infidels, though of course some are more infidel than others and there is a long history of animosity between Jews and Muslims, despite both their origins being from the very same region in the Middle East.

But last week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, arguably the most feared and most notorious of all the Nazi death camps.  Survivors of the Holocaust and of the camp made their way to their former prison to pay tribute to those who were not so lucky and to remind the world of what happened there, lest the coming generations forget. Yet in an unforeseen backlash to the Charlie Hebdo affair there appears to be a growing wave of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe, causing many Jewish people to consider fleeing to Israel.

All of that has been happening in Continental Europe and you may be tempted to think that it does not concern us here.  And true, Botswana is very tolerant of other races, colours and creeds but sadly this is not the case everywhere in the region.  Only a few hundred kilometres away, in Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation, there has been a wave of violent attacks on foreign-owned businesses, mainly Tuck shops and General Dealers. 

This wave of terror began in Snake Park, Soweto when one Somali shop owner shot dead a youth whom he suspected of stealing.  Rightly the shop owner has been arrested and charged with murder but the initial spark  quickly escalated into widespread attacks on any foreign-owned business throughout Soweto,  spreading to Alexandra, Eden Park, then Pretoria and Durban,  causing injury, death, devastation and destitution as shop owners find themselves left with nothing but the clothes they stand up in. 

Municipal officials have been obliged to step in with hand-outs of basic essentials, police have tried in vain to stem the tide of looting, shooting and arson and the general mood of township residents is one of prejudice, xenophobia and misplaced jealousy.  

Their arguments are ones we’ve all heard before.  The foreigners are exploiting locals and taking their jobs.  Why don’t they go back where they came from?  One was even quoted as saying the shop owners are prepared to run their operations at a loss, just to put locals out of business – seriously?  None of these arguments hold water.   Researchers Lawrence Piper and Rory Liederman studied many such shops in Delft South in Cape Town and published heir findings in last week’s Business Day and this was what they found:

Somalis have a network of suppliers which allows them to source and sell their goods cheaply.

Their shops are better stocked and offer more variety since they open with an initial capital outlay of between R15, 000-R20, 000.  Start-up capital by local shop owners, in contrast is between R450-R1000.

Somalis acquire their capital from hard work and saving, locals often from hand-outs.

Somalis and other foreigners are prepared to open early and close late whereas local owners open and shut when they please.

Somalis are more prepared to offer credit to their customers, a working example of ‘ubuntu’ which locals refuse.

When this research is examined objectively it is clear that running such businesses seems to be a national trait, just as the British were formerly known as ‘a nation of shopkeepers’. Somalis aspire to own their own business and save to do so and they have the assistance of a support and supply network of family members and business associates.  They offer good service in their local communities, are an asset rather than a nuisance and local hostility appears to be built of envy and laziness rather than valid reasoning.

But there is a sinister familiarity to all this.  Jews in Europe, too, were known for running successful businesses.  They were astute in commerce and finance and this made them easy targets for hate and the green-eyed monster.  In most countries this amounted to nothing more than an undercurrent of resentment and anti-Semitism but in Nazi Germany it resulted in a genocide unprecedented either before or since.  Instead of crediting their culture of hard work and respecting their right to worship in peace they were vilified, ridiculed and exterminated. 

And this, in microcosm is what is happening in South Africa, right here and right now; a people attacked for being different, for trying to make an honest living and live in peace, having left a conflict zone back home and seeking asylum in a more peaceful climate, or so they thought.  Yet in those South African townships today there is no tolerance, no Ubuntu, no sympathy; merely race hate, greed, envy and aggression.

I have no answer to any of this but interestingly, renowned South African Numerologist Sandy Smith was on the radio this week answering listeners’ queries on their life numbers and predicting their immediate futures.  And thrown a question about the current wave of violence all over the world she responded immediately with an explanation that the current numerical year, which began in November 2014, is an ‘8’ year, the most aggressive, according to Ms. Smith. 

And ‘8’ can only find balance when laid on its side, when it becomes the symbol for Infinity which is the most positive of all such symbols. Now I’m not saying that I buy into numerology but right now it seems as good an explanation as any for what seems to those of us standing outside and looking on to be baseless, mindless, heartless behaviour in a world which seems to never learn the lessons of the past.

‏STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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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
Samson

… 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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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

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 www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    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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