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Our Parliamentary independence is a mockery!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

One of the ideals for which our democracy is internationally acclaimed for is respect for separation of powers. The international community has been made to believe that in Botswana the three arms of government, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary are independent of one another. Yet, recent events show that this may not be the case, especially with respect to the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.

Following the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s success after the October 2014 general elections to dethrone Margret Nasha as Speaker of the National Assembly, the Executive has continued to demonstrate lack of regard for the independence of Parliament.

During her tenure, Nasha attempted, in vain, to make Parliament independent from the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and Office of the President (OP). For instance, Nasha had wanted to facilitate the tabling of bills before Parliament that would reduce the President and Executive’s powers in relation to Parliament, thereby enhancing Parliament’s independence.

Obviously, in such pursuit she worked with Parliamentary staff including secretaries, clerks and the Parliamentary legal counsel whom some in the BDP and in government accuse of having exhibited bias towards Nasha’s ideologies.

Reportedly, some Members of Parliament (MPs) and Cabinet ministers have been threatening such employees with transfers and dismissals. Indeed since Nasha’s departure such employees have been transferred, seconded or their employment terminated under questionable circumstances.

How can it not be questionable when the Senior Manager Corporate Services is, on urgency, transferred to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as District Commissioner and shortly thereafter the Secretary to the Clerk and that of the Speaker are transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs?

This is questionable, especially after the Deputy Clerk’s contract has just been not renewed. Don’t such transfers adversely impact on continuity, especially that there is a new Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

Parliament’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Karabo Marumo,’s assertion that the transfers aforesaid were never forced and have nothing to do with Nasha’s departure are devoid of truth. Is it a coincidence that only high ranking officers have been affected? Why were the transfers with immediate effect? Marumo’s contention that the transfers were with immediate effect to address the exigencies of the Public Service is lame.

What exigencies were there at the ministries of Agriculture and Labour and Home Affairs that cannot have waited for normal transfers? Do the skills and experience that the officers acquired in relation to Parliament’s work not count for anything in considering the exigencies of the Public Service?

What exigency can there have been which even when an officer pleaded with the authorities to keep her in Gaborone for a while she was nonetheless transferred to a different Government office in Gaborone? Can’t the officer have continued working at Parliament in the meantime pending the transfer?

Is it not odd that the very month the new Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe, assumed office the Parliamentary Legal Counsel’s secondment from the Attorney General Chambers was terminated? Doesn’t it make sense that he should have remained to assist the new Speaker settle?

Is it unreasonable for one to think that the secondment was terminated because of the legal advice he rendered to Nasha during the constitutional case regarding the elections of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and nominations for the Vice President?

There is no doubt that this action by the Executive is meant to rid Parliament of all the officers whom it suspects are sympathetic to the deposed Nasha or to the Opposition. This flies on the face of Botswana’s long held principle of a neutral public service that should serve the government of the day.

This, if it goes on unchecked poses a serious threat to our democracy. To ensure the independence of Parliament, Parliament needs to be removed from the Office of the President. Parliament should be an independent body which prepares its own budget, procures its own resources and employs, deploys, transfers, promotes and dismisses its own staff. The Speaker’s office should, in relation to Parliamentary staff, be the office of last resort.

Also, at a constituency level the officers in the MPs constituency office should be under the Speaker’s absolute control. Not even the MPs should be in control of their employment, deployment, transfers, promotions and dismissals. If the MPs determine their employment and tenure they will not serve the public fairly, but are likely to serve with bias towards members of their own political party.

For as long as Parliamentary staff serves at the pleasure of the Executive and their terms and conditions of services are controlled by DPSM, independence of Parliament shall remain an enigma. The staff’s loyalty will not be to the Speaker, but to the Director of DPSM whose job is to exercise the will of the President and the Executive. This has serious implications on the law making function of Parliament since the Executive can use such staff members to frustrate, delay or block Parliament’s legislative program.

Botswana, despite being labelled as a mature democracy, still has procedures which treat MPs like employees who are accountable to the Speaker and the Executive. For example, it is the Speaker who sanctions the meetings of Parliamentary portfolio committees. The result is that if the business for which the portfolio committee wants to meet is inimical to the Executive’s policy such meetings are thwarted.

In fact, our Speakers have even been as contemptuous as to disband parliamentary portfolio committees. For example, it is reported that the Speaker recently stopped the portfolio committee on Youth, Sport & Culture from working on issues relating to the mass termination of contracts of employment for Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) employees. It is highly likely that the Speaker acted as such on orders from the President or as a result of being lobbied by the Minister for Youth, Sport & Culture or the BDP Chief Whip.

In such mature democracies as the United States of America, Parliament is so independent that it can, against the Executive’s will, invite a head of state from a foreign country to address it. Recently, Congress invited Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to address it on the impending Iran nuclear deal. This, the Congress did, despite President Barack Obama’s opposition and it had support from across the political divide.

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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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