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The Fighting Becs Part 4 – Passage to Egypt

Jeff Ramsay

We left off in the middle of 1941 with dikgosi throughout the Bechuanaland Protectorate calling up their mephato or age regiments for enlistment in the African Pioneer Corps (APC).  Batswana ultimately accounted for just over 10,000 men out of the 25,000 who served in the APC, which also included troops drawn from Lesotho and Swaziland.

Officially, the APC was an all-volunteer force. But, for most people the word of the kgosi was law, although a few politicized migrants back from Gauteng refused. Others avoided service by either hiding or migrating to South Africa, where their labour was in heavy demand in the burgeoning war time industries. In many areas such dodgers became known as "Maseapitse", as in those who ran from the horses of the dikgosi.

Notwithstanding the resistance of some to enlistment, many others readily volunteered for kgosi and country. In the post-war years there would be some tension between those who did and did not go.

After signing papers and swearing in before a local D.C., often in their kgosi’s presence, the recruits were sent to the Pioneer Corps Group Headquarters and Depot (camp) at Lobatse. There they were divided into Companies, units of about 350 men each.

The officer corps at Lobatse H.Q. was headed by Lt. Colonel R.S. Boothby (later replaced by Lt. Colonel J.H.M. Edye), who was assisted by five additional senior officers from the Royal Pioneers Corps (UK) plus five Assistant District Commissioners, who were commissioned as lieutenants. The depot’s senior Motswana NCO was Company Sergeant Major Phillip G. Matante

In the winter months of 1941 seven Companies were rapidly formed at Lobatse, which ultimately supplied all of the Batswana who went on to serve as gunners during the war. They were 1971 Company (Bangwaketse) 1972 (Bangwato) 1973 (Bakwena) and 1974 (Bakgatla, Balete, Batlokwa) 1975 (Bangwaketse) 1976 (Bangwato) and 1977 (Bangwato).

Once in uniform the main activity for the men at Lobatse was drilling. With guns in short supply family weapons were initially pressed into service. The British officers who led the basic training soon realized that the Batswana were readily able to adapt skills and patterns of teamwork they had in most cases acquired as migrant labourers in South Africa, as well as their own communities, to their new role as soldiers.

In September 1941, the 2500 men of 1971-77 Companies left Lobatse for Durban. After a week's wait, they boarded ships bound for Port Suez, Egypt. Some spent a couple weeks en-route, with stopovers in Mombasa, Kenya and Aden, southern Yemen, which involved inland marches.

Others aboard the R.M.S. Mauritania (II) took only nine days to reach Suez. Launched in 1938 as the first of a new generation of luxury liners, the Mauritania had been converted into a transport vessel in 1940, in which role she ultimately carriers over 340,000 troops. Even when stripped down for military service the Mauritania had a grace and, perhaps more importantly to Batswana at sea for the first time, stability all her own.

By the end of November 1941, 1971-77 companies had all arrived in Egypt. According to the former APC Major R.A.R. Bent, who’s 1952 book "Ten Thousand Men of Africa" is the earliest published account of Batswana troops in the war, many Batswana initially called the local Arabs "Mangaria". This name was derived from the Arabic word "mangariya", food, which was then in short supply for the civilian population of British occupied Egypt. Beggars would thus surround His Majesty's troops in the streets asking for "mangariya".

Once landed, the Batswana companies were taken by lorry to Qasassin, a dusty town some 35 kilometres west of the Suez Canal that was the location of the main Pioneer Corps Depot for the British forces in the Middle East. There the Batswana joined some 20,000 other Pioneers drawn from throughout the Empire.

In addition to the British there were men from such places Cyprus, Kenya, Malta, Mauritius, Palestine (then divided into separate Arab and Jewish units), Seychelles, Sudan, Tanganyika (Tanzania), Uganda, and Yemen. These units were able to mix freely, but international contact for most of the Batswana was limited by the language barrier. Few then spoke the imperial lingua franca, English.

The Batswana APC quickly made a good impression on the Qasassin Commander, Brigadier Picot-Moodie, who assigned them to exclusively perform critical guard duties until their 1943 redeployment to Italy.

Upon arrival each Motswana was issued full battle kit which included fatigues (combat dress), steel helmet, gas mask, and canteen. The two protruding ammunition poaches that one strapped across one's chest were instantly dubbed "mabele".

For many troops the most prized piece of equipment was their Mannlicher Carcano 6.5 mm assault rifle. These captured Italian guns were substitutes for the modestly higher calibre British Lee Enfield Mark 3 rifle, which were then in short supply.

The Lee Enfield’s subsequently became the standard armament of Batswana, as well as most British and other imperial troops. For the more suspicious Batswana the provision of guns were proof that they, unlike their predecessors in the First World War, were indeed now proper soldiers.

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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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