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Opposition beware, BDP is awaking!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

The 2014 general elections saw the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) suffering its worst electoral performance since its formation. While its seats in the National Assembly fell from 45 in 2009 to 37 in 2014, its popular vote declined from 53.26% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2014. For many people this signals the imminent end of the BDP rule, with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) expected to attain state power in 2019.

However, if consideration is had to the BDP’s efforts to regain Batswana’s trust post the 2014 general elections, the Opposition may be well advised to beware for the BDP is awaking. Writing its political obituary and holding a night vigil for its burial may be a costly mistake for the Opposition.

Even pre-2014 the BDP, perhaps sensing loss of popular support, especially among public servants following the 2011 public sector strike, started awaking from its stupor. On 31st March 2014 the then Director of the Directorate on Public Service Management(DPSM), Mr. Carter Morupisi, obviously acting at the behest of his political masters, issued a press release in which he revealed a number of proposed incentives for public servants which he said government had tabled before the Public Service Bargaining Council(PSBC).

These proposed incentives, which were obviously intended to entice public servants at a time when there was a stalemate on the 2014/15 salary negotiations,  included an increase in the repayment period for Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS) housing loan from 10 years to 20 years.

Not only that. The incentives also included free rent for employees in Category 1 Remote Area Service Allowance (RASA) earning areas; free internet and a special Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) scheme for public servants of grade D4 and below; and allowing Public Servants to engage in private businesses.

According to Mr. Morupisi, government, in order to encourage a culture of saving among public servants, initiated the Botswana Public Officers Savings and Credit Cooperative Society which was registered in April 2013. He said for a joining fee of P50.00 and a monthly contribution of P50.00 and above a member enjoys benefits which include loans at a reasonable interest rate of 10% at a ratio of 1:2 of one’s savings; buying shares for P500.00 and above which entitle a member to annual dividends and getting shared interest from one’s total savings on an annual basis.

Still on its crusade to regain public servants’ confidence, it is reported that the BDP has resolved that government should increase public servants’ salaries and, as an incentive, introduce a thirteenth cheque as is the case with some private companies. According to the reports, the BDP is of the view that the thirteenth cheque could be financed through the funds set aside for the ESP.

The few months that Botsalo Ntuane has spent as BDP Secretary General have seen an improvement with respect to the BDP’s relations with some public sector trade unions. Also, BDP’s tone in relation to trade unions has been less accusatory and more reconciliatory. At Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s recent congress Ntuane is reported to have said “we cannot wish the past away because it informs our present and future, but those historical challenges should be a lesson to both sides that we need to do more to find one another.”

Demonstrating that the BDP has taken a conscious decision to improve relations with Labour Ntuane said “it would be incorrect to think the BDP could govern effectively and be responsive to the aspirations, needs and concerns of Batswana without BOPEU, and other worker formations.”

To buttress his point Ntuane revealed that “on the basis of an appeal made to the BDP Labour Sub Committee and the Parliamentary caucus respectively by public sector unions, we caused debate on the Trade Dispute Bill to be delayed pending further consultations. This gesture we consider another step towards generating goodwill and improved relations with Labour.”

While there is no guarantee that these interventions aimed at regaining public servants’ support will tilt the scales in BDP’s favour during the 2019 general elections, the Opposition has to beware and re-engineer its relations with trade unions. The Opposition also has to propagate its manifesto as regards Labour so that workers, including public servants, are continually reminded of what the Opposition will offer to the workers if it is elected into power in 2019.

The UDC cannot rest on its laurels and assume that its partnership with the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will guarantee it success in the 2019 general elections. If workers on the ground believe that the BDP is now responsive to their needs the partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU may become irrelevant since the individual public servants would vote for the BDP despite the partnership.

Even worse for the UDC, BOFEPUSU can withdraw its support for it. After all, if BOFEPUSU really meant what it said its support for the UDC is not a lifelong commitment and it will withdraw it and lend it to any other political party that promotes the interests of the workers if the UDC ceases to do that.   

Recently the BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, was quoted as saying the BDP has resolved that the party, and not the government, will be responsible for policy formulation and direction. If this indeed happens, as traces of it showed with respect to the recently introduced Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), it is likely to benefit the BDP in 2019, especially if it is successful since Batswana will accredit the success to the BDP. The contrary will, however, be true if the programme fails.    

In South Africa, for example, one of the reasons why in the 2014 Parliamentary elections the African National Congress (ANC) won with a majority of 62.1% (though it reduced from 65.9% in 2009) despite the Nkandla and Gupta family scandals by President Jacob Zuma is that the party is in charge of the government’s policy direction. It is the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) which, through the National Working Committee (NWC), runs the country.

If the Opposition, be it the UDC or the Botswana Congress Party(BCP), is to attain state power in 2019 it needs to counter the BDP’s efforts of awaking from near death by presenting itself as an alternative ruling party. For example, the Opposition needs to make Parliamentary debates as vibrant and informative as they were during the days of such political stalwarts as the late Dr. Kenneth Koma, Maitshwarelo Dabutha and Paul Rantao.

Truth be told, remnants of that are beginning to show, especially through the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Honourable Duma Boko, Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central, Dr. Phenyo Butale and MP for Selibe Phikwe West, Honourable Dithapelo Keorapetse.

Because the Opposition cannot implement its policies since it is not in government, the only way to make itself relevant and appeal to more voters is to initiate, through parliamentary motions and questions, robust debates and, in the process, remind the voter of its manifesto while exposing weaknesses in the ruling party’s manifesto.

In addition, the Opposition has to have deliberate programmes which target such sectors of the society as the media, women, youth, people with disabilities and such marginalized groups as minority tribes. More than a year after the 2014 general elections neither the BCP nor the UDC has established itself as a champion for any of these groups. Both political parties have only focused on Labour, but Labour alone cannot ensure that the Opposition attains state power in 2019.    

It is common knowledge that a ruling party, especially in Africa, usually wins elections despite its flaws because of the benefits of incumbency. For an opposition party to win general elections, all hands have to be on deck and it has to work extra ordinarily hard. Nor opposition party can win elections when it conducts business as usual.

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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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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