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Jeff Ramsay

On 1st March 1965 Batswana for the first time voted for a national government on the basis of universal, one person one vote, suffrage. At a time when the region lived in the shadow of white minority rule, the day was also notable for being the first truly mass non-racial poll south of the Zambezi (Lesotho followed a few weeks later).

The 1965 election resulted in the formation of the first BDP government led by Seretse Khama, who then served as the Prime Minister of a self-governing Bechuanaland. This was a transition stage to Botswana’s declaration as a sovereign republic eighteen months later.

While the 30th of September 2016 will be Golden Jubilee of our independence, last Sunday thus marked the 50th anniversary of the birth of Botswana’s modern non-racial party-political democracy.  

Given the momentous nature of this milestone this author was somewhat disappointed that last Sunday’s countdown festivities rather focused on such mythical events as our three Kings asking Mmamosadinyana for Protection. As the events leading to self-government and independence are by contrast relatively recent one rather looks forward to the prospect of seeing other members of our Republic’s founding generation joining Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe in reminding us of the bravery and foresight of those who paved the way.

Sadly one such figure left us this week. With the passing of Kebotse Klaas Motshidisi the nation has lost a historical figure, who by the time of his death was also personally active in efforts to record and preserve the memory of the life in times he experienced. In the past year he thus contributed to at least two film documentaries – “Waterberg to Waterberg” which examines the experience of the Ovaherero Diaspora and “Mandela’s Gun” in which he was able to offer fresh insights into Madiba’s 1962 movements in Botswana.

Like Winston Churchill and our own David Magang, Motshidisi was a politician who believed that to know where to lead a nation one should be conscious of where it has been.

The last time this author talked with him was a some weeks ago when he phoned to ask why “Builders of Botswana” was no longer appearing in the Daily News (the editors have other priorities). He was in this respect the last of a trio of comrades that also included Fish Keitseng and Motsamai Mpho who it was my privilege to know as timeless profiles of courage as well as windows to another time.

Klaas Motshidisi began his career as a pioneer nationalist politician, labour organiser and human rights activist, while working at the Palapye Garage owned by a certain Tom Shaw. Having attended primary school in Palapye, he completed correspondence courses with South African institutions before ultimately earning his BA in the Soviet Union.

In 1961 Motshidisi was among the founding members of the Bechuanaland Peoples Party (BPP), serving on its executive.  In this capacity he, along with Mpho and Phillip Matante, travelled to Ghana to successfully secure Pan-African support for the fledging movement.

Following the Party’s 1962 split he emerged as the Secretary General of the BPP faction led by Mpho, which was re-branded to contest the March 1965 general election as the Botswana Independence Party. Along with Keitseng, he subsequently found his long term political home as a founding member of the Botswana National Front (BNF).

It was also in the early 1960s that the Motshidisi became involved in trade unionism as the Secretary-General of the short lived Bechuanaland Trade Union Congress. After independence he joined the civil service for a period, becoming the Commissioner of Labour, where others attest that he was model public servant for his fairness and devotion to duty.

After retirement, Motshidisi re-entered politics in the 1990s. In 1994 he unsuccessfully stood as the BNF candidate for Palapye against Festus Mogae. During the subsequent BNF infighting he supported Dr. Koma and thereafter the leadership of Otsweletse Moupo, serving in the 2001-04 BNF Executive.   

Besides his domestic activism, during the 1960s, Mr. Motshidisi also played a key role in securing the movement of political refugees through Botswana. In this context he, along with Mpho and Keitseng, played a key role in the November 1962 Palapye Train incident, a turning point in Botswana’s participation in the region’s liberation struggle.

In September 1962 Thabo Mbeki along with 26 other ANC members, led by Keitseng, were detained in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) while en-route to Tanganyika.

For six weeks Keitseng, Mbeki and the others, whose numbers ultimately swelled to 39 including SWAPO cadres, were held and tortured by Rhodesian and South African security. Thereafter, they were quietly put on what was then a Rhodesia Railways train to take them back to South Africa via the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

Fortunately, Keitseng managed to smuggle out word of their predicament to ZAPU comrades to contact Mpho and Motshidisi, who quickly organised protests at the Palapye Station to block the train’s onward passage. In the process the local District Officer ordered the prisoners off the Mafikeng bound train.

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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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