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The Roots of Botswana Nationalist Politics Part 6: ‘Lekgotla la Batho-fela’”

Jeff Ramsay

Last week we noted that with its April 1958 acceptance of a local Legislative Council, it seemed that London had finally concluded that the time was ripe to contemplate some greater degree of autonomy for Bechuanaland along with the other two High Commission Territories.

While the spectre of domination by neighbouring white minority regimes had long dissuaded popular mobilization against British overrule within the Protectorate, over the years it also encouraged a number of Batswana to involve themselves to varying degrees in political movements within South Africa and, to a lesser extent, the Central African territories.

Some of these individuals, Motsamai Mpho being an especially notable example, would later use the lessons they learned across the border to play prominent roles in organizing parties within Botswana.

Another, perhaps an equally important, factor that stifled the early emergence of political parties was the degree in which traditional Setswana political culture continued to exist as a dynamic focus for local initiatives, as well as an instrument of indirect imperial control.

Responding to official post-World War I concern about the spread of militant anti-colonial movements, such as Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Comintern (Communist International) aligned Africa Bureau of International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW) the then Resident Commissioner, James MacGregor, had reported back in March 1923:

"There is no evidence of the existence, let alone progress, of Pan-Africanism in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and I do not expect that there will be any as long as the tribal system is maintained."

Indeed, as late as August 1961 the first American Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Mennen "Soapy" Williams, reporting on his tour of the High Commission Territories, had observed:

"Bechuanaland is the poorest of the three areas visited and shows the least evidence political evolution…. In general, people interested only in cattle and the chiefs show little desire for development political pattern. As one tribal chief put it, 'We are not worried about the slow pace of politics here. Tradition is important and constitution is so framed that we do not get too far from tribal patterns.' In conclusion, British probably correct [on] possibility of development of Bechuanaland at slow pace."

At least until the 1950s bogosi, operating within the consensual ideals of the makgotla and through the agency of mephato or age regiments, continued to be the primary context for political competition.

Much like the medieval monarchs of Europe, colonial era dikgosi often sought to strengthen their position from below by playing off the rival interests of dikgosana against commoners, including those at the time often labelled as bafaladi  (or baagedi- outsiders/immigrants) and the “meretswane”  (now pejorative for junior or subordinate communities) within their morafe.

Outside of the royal family, where the Mmakgosi in particular enjoyed special prerogatives, women were also generally excluded from politics. Completely excluded were the malata.

Contradictions within Setswana social hierarchy tended to come into the open when the authority of a particular kgosi was challenged. The troubles that plagued the reign of the Bakwena Kgosi Sebele II are in this respect a notable example. In the aftermath of a November 1929 colonial inquiry as to whether control over the “Bakwena National Office” should be transferred from the Kgosi to a "Tribal Council" the Resident Commissioner, Rowland Daniel, reported:

"I attended a full kgotla meeting at Molepolole on the 18th and 19th of November to discuss the matter and found there were at least two-thirds of the tribe who were opposed to the petition. The position was much the same as I found it a year ago, the greater number of headmen were in favour of the petition whilst the majority consisted of common people and a few headmen."

But, ignored by Daniel in his report, but otherwise captured in the minutes of the same was an alternative proposal that an elected council of commoners be created to assist the Kgosi.

To exercise greater control over the Mokwena, whom he regarded as an uncooperative if not rebellious ‘Chief’, the Commissioner instead imposed a ‘Tribal Council’ consisting of four loyal ‘Headmen’. The new Councillors were, in particular, to be responsible for the collection Hut Tax, in return receiving salaries based on a 5% commission.  But, in the face of a general refusal in the part of most Bakwena to accept their authority, Daniel’s Council soon proved to be ineffectual.

As partially reflected in the minutes the suppressed call for the establishment a council of commoners can be directly traced to local interest in the Basotho Commoners Association or ‘Lekhotla la Bafo’ (ka Setswana ‘Lekgotla la Batho-fela’), which agitated for popular self-government on the basis of what they insisted should be the restoration of indigenous democracy through dikgotla and a Basotho National Pitso.

While some more educated Basotho Lekhotla la Bafo supporters saw a relationship between the empowerment of commoners in southern Africa and the history of the English House of Commons, a few were in fact inspired to interpret the evolution of indigenous governance in the context of Marxist and/or Pan-Africanist ideology (to be continued).

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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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