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BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU: the political implications?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

At its recent congress, the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) voted to cease its affiliation with Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU). This will, no doubt, have implications for Batswana in general and public sector workers in particular. This week we consider the political implications. Next week we consider the labour implications.

One of the issues which led to BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU is the latter’s decision  to support the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the 2014 general elections, a decision which BOPEU criticized arguing that it will politicize trade unionism and bring divisions among Union members. Indeed it has bought divisions as evidenced by BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU.

As I have argued earlier, politicization of trade unions is prejudicial to trade unions themselves and the workers in general. In South Africa, for example, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is in turmoil and has lost members including the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) because of its alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP).

Because we are unable to know how BOPEU members voted in 2014, the impact of BOPEU’s opposition to BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC will never be known. What is certain, however, is the fact that while some BOPEU members heeded their leaders’ decision and voted according to their own free will, others defied the leadership and voted for the UDC simply because BOPEU was still a BOFEPUSU affiliate and BOFEPUSU had so directed.  

The question is: will the fact that in 2019 BOPEU will no longer be a BOFEPUSU affiliate affect BOPEU members’ voting pattern? No doubt those BOPEU members who were opposed to withdrawal from BOFEPUSU and believe in BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC are likely to vote for the UDC in 2019. But judging by the few votes they obtained during the congress their impact on the elections in UDC’s favour is likely to be insignificant.

On the other hand, those in support of withdrawal from BOFEPUSU and do not believe in BOFEPUSU’s support for the UDC are unlikely to vote for the UDC in 2019. Judging by the many votes they obtained during the congress their impact on the elections in UDC’s favour is unlikely to be insignificant.

But does this necessarily follow? It probably does not because it does not necessarily follow that a member who voted for withdrawal from BOFEPUSU is anti-UDC and pro Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The member could have been influenced by such factors as BOFEPUSU’s style of leadership, BOFEPUSU’s use of the federation’s resources and BOFEPUSU’s alleged ill-treatment of BOPEU.

There is no doubt that the fact that some in BOFEPUSU labelled BOPEU a sell-out citing its opposition to politicization of trade unions; its disinvestment from UNIGEM and its meetings with Office of the President (OP) contributed to BOPEU’s decision to leave BOFEPUSU. So did the alleged sidelining of BOPEU members during the last elections for BOFEPUSU’s National Executive Committee and the plot to oust the BOPEU president, Andrew Motsamai, to replace him with a pro-BOFEPUSU person.

The other reason why BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU will not necessarily affect the outcome of the 2019 general elections is that there are members who are genuinely trade unionists and will vote for their traditional parties despite BOFEPUSU or BOPEU’s influence. Every political party has die-hard supporters who will vote for it regardless of any other factor.

His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, won elections despite an onslaught by BOFEPUSU which had labelled him an enemy to the workers citing his animosity to the workers both pre and post the 2011 public sector strike. Granted, some candidates who had been so targeted, for example, the former minister of Labour & Home Affairs, Peter Siele, lost the elections, but Honourable Masisi’s victory BOFEPUSU’s wrath notwithstanding shows that many public servants defied BOFEPUSU’s instruction.
      
Also, who knows what will happen between now and the 2019 general elections? Circumstances and the BOPEU leadership may change and those in support of BOFEPUSU affiliation and supporting the UDC may gain support in which case their votes may affect the 2019 general elections in UDC’s favour.

Not only that. If the BDP addresses the workers’ grievances many public servants may vote for the BDP in 2019. If the BDP implements such incentives 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; 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 it will get a favorable public employees’ vote than in 2014.  

Also, if the BDP’s resolution to implore government to increase public servants’ salaries and introduce a thirteenth cheque is implemented by government its electoral fortunes among public servants will improve, something which may swing the 2019 general elections in its favour.

In politics, as in life generally, perceptions matter. BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU may create, in some, the perception that BOFEPUSU is disintegrating. Not only that. It may create, in some, the perception that because BOPEU’s membership is so significant, the fact that it has left BOFEPUSU, an ally of the UDC, means that the UDC’s membership and appeal has reduced significantly. If such a perception perpetuates and the BDP effectively uses it as propaganda the UDC’s prospects of victory in 2019 will be diminished.

The implications of BOPEU’s departure from BOFEPUSU will also be influenced by whether or not BOPEU remains without belonging to any federation, joins Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) or, together with some public sector Unions, forms a rival public sector federation to BOFEPUSU.

If BOPEU does not affiliate to any federation and becomes apolitical that may benefit the BDP especially if it delivers on its promises to the workers since the workers who voted for the BDP prior to 2014 are likely to ‘return home’. On the contrary, if BOPEU joins BFTU, a traditionally pro-Opposition federation, that may benefit the Opposition, especially the UDC since that may be perceived as an indirect endorsement of Opposition politics. This may be suicidal for BOPEU since its members and the general public will regard it as hypocrisy because BOPEU will have done what it left BOFEPUSU for, politicization of trade unionism.

This may in fact benefit BOFEPUSU and the UDC since it will validate BOFEPUSU’s view that no trade Union can exist without aligning itself with a political party which is pro the workers’ agenda. Almost inevitably this may also result in a split in the new federation and/or in BOPEU itself.

If BOPEU, together with other public sector Unions which may defect from BOFEPUSU, form a rival public sector federation to BOFEPUSU the political implications will depend on what political direction the federation takes. If such a public sector federation out numbers BOFEPUSU it may deny the UDC victory in 2019 because even if it remains politically neutral its members may vote for the BDP or BCP just to take the glory away from its rival, BOFEPUSU. That may be the case especially if such Unions as Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) join BOPEU in the new federation. Some members of BTU’s National Executive Committee are well known BDP supporters.

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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
Samson

… 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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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

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 www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    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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