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Lessons from the Sekoma bye elections

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

On 5th March 2016 the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), supported by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), contested the Sekoma Council bye elections against the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Contrary to popular expectation the BDP won the elections and wrestled the seat from the Botswana National Front (BNF) which had held it for more than two decades. This result, or rather upset, which was not even foreseen by political commentators, including me, clearly has lessons for all of us.

The first and perhaps most important lesson is that Batswana have awaken and their vote can no longer be taken for granted. One of the reasons the UDC lost the seat could be that the Councilor who held the seat after the 2014 general elections failed to serve the voters.

If that is the case, the people of Sekoma deserve commendation for they sent a very strong message that no person or political party should take their vote for granted. Even the BDP should, as it celebrates the victory, know that if it fails to fulfill the promises it made to the voter it may lose the next elections.

The second equally, if not more cardinal lesson is that political parties should respect the voters’ will. Reports are that the members of the BNF had implored the party to field a candidate from Mahotshwane, Keng or Khonkhwa and not Sekoma because the seat had for many years been held by a Sekoma resident.  

If it is true that the UDC refused such a seemingly reasonable request, it is conceivable that some party members either abstained from the vote or voted for the BDP candidate in protest to the party’s decision. This could possibly have been exacerbated by the allegation, if true, that the candidate did not enjoy the support of those aligned to the person he beat during the primary elections.

The third lesson is that no matter how a political party thinks it has a tight grip on a particular constituency it should not undermine its opponent(s). Reportedly, the UDC campaign team arrived late in the constituency and waged a lackadaisical campaign compared to the BDPs.

Not only that. It is alleged that one of the blunders that cost the UDC was the sudden postponement of the launching of the candidate. Reportedly, the launch was initially planned for 13th February, but was postponed at the 11th hour to 20th February. As if that was not enough, the BNF leadership, it is reported, was focused on the 50th anniversary celebrations and this is said to have diminished many volunteers’ spirits.

Worse still, it is reported that the UDC campaign team was mainly made up of people from outside the ward. It is likely that the campaign team’s lack of knowledge of the socio-economic and political dynamics in the ward cost the UDC the ward.

In electioneering as in most other social phenomena, messaging is key. It is, therefore, inconceivable how people who have limited or no knowledge of a people’s way of life can develop winning campaign messages for the people.

The BDP’s strategy, which the campaign manager and former Member of Parliament(MP) for Ngwaketse West, Mephato Reatile, says involved each village member having his or her own campaign team no doubt contributed to the BDP winning the bye elections.

Reatile is reported as having said “we wanted our campaigns to be led by people from that area, not us. Our job was simply to help them where they had a shortfall. … Of course our party was focused on this ward and we stopped certain activities because we knew the ward belonged to the opposition. That worked for us greatly.”

It appears that the few outsiders the BDP used in the campaign team were for strategic reasons. For example, former BCP members, Lotty Manyapetsa and Thato Osupile, likely swayed the elections in BDP’s favour because of their knowledge of Opposition campaign tactics.

Manyapetsa and Osupile are also likely to have convinced many of their former comrades in the BCP, especially the youth since they were high ranking members of the BCP Youth League, not to support the UDC since they were opposed to the BCP’s proposed coalition with the UDC.

Fortunately, the UDC seems to have learnt this lesson because the UDC Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe, has been quoted saying “… there are murmurings that those involved at different levels of the campaign management should have deployed a different set of tactics or personnel to secure a win. These feelings are natural, and in some cases justified…”.

The fourth lesson is that an agreement by the party leadership that the political parties would support each other in an election does not necessarily mean that the members of the supporting party will support the party contesting the elections. No wonder the agreement between the UDC and the BCP that the latter will support the former did not result in the former winning the bye election.

Clearly, there are many BCP members who, perhaps because they are against any form of cooperation with the UDC, did not, and may never, vote for the UDC. Every political party has die-hard supporters who can never vote for any political party other than theirs no matter what the leadership says.

Related to this point, the fifth, and perhaps more disconcerting lesson is that the much anticipated Opposition coalition will not necessarily unseat the BDP in the 2019 general elections. Seemingly, the Opposition needs to do more than joining forces through contracts.

The fifth lesson is that if, despite suffering a loss, a political party stays focused and immediately develops strategies to regain its fortunes, the voter is always willing to forgive it. It is incontrovertible that the BDP’s hard work following the losses it suffered in the 2014 general elections is beginning to pay.

In July 2015 I wrote an article entitled “Opposition beware, BDP is awaking” in which I warned that if the Opposition becomes complacent, as it seems to be, the BDP will return to the pre-2014 days when it enjoyed more than fifty percent popular support among Batswana.

This is especially true if regard is had to the fact that the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) and/or public officers’ influence seems to have been lacking in the Sekoma bye elections. Could it be that public servants voted for the BDP because of late it has demonstrated willingness to address public servants’ grievances?  

On its crusade to regain public servants’ confidence, the BDP has reportedly resolved that government should increase public servants’ salaries and, as an incentive, introduce a thirteenth cheque to be financed through the funds set aside for the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). Did this influence the Sekoma bye election? Or did the ESP itself influence the bye election results?

The BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, has tried to improve the BDP’s relations with Labour. At Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s 2015 congress 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 Disputes Bill to be delayed pending further consultations. This gesture we consider another step towards generating goodwill and improved relations with Labour.” Did these placate the workers during the Sekoma bye elections?

If these gestures by the BDP tilted the scales in favour of the BDP in Sekoma the lesson for the UDC is that it cannot bank on its relationship with BOFEPUSU for victory in 2019.   It has to, especially through questions and motions in Parliament, continuously show public servants that if elected to government the workers’ agenda will be a priority.

If the 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 as they likely did in Sekoma.

After all, BOFEPUSU itself has said that 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.

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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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