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Jeff Ramsay

As we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our republic it may be noted that modern Botswana as a whole, and not just communities in the north-east, has its ancient Ikalanga roots.

They run deep in our soil, having nurtured our growth as a united and proud nation.

These roots have, moreover, not simply been grafted on to our nation through the vagaries of colonial boundary making. If one goes back in time to the pre-colonial context, one finds evidence of significant interrelationships between the Bakalanga and Batswana, as well as other neighbouring peoples, to the extent that it is not possible to speak of any southern African community’s history in isolation.

The Bakwena royal names “Sechele” and “Sebele”, for example, are apparently of Ikalanga origin. Does this mean that the Bakwena royalty were once Bakalanga? In terms of patrilineal lineage at least, absolutely not!

But, the convergence of names does suggest more than casual contact, which in local Sekwena tradition can be traced at least as far back as the reign of the mid-18th century reign of Kgosi Motswasele I, who is remembered as a renowned traveller.

In the coming weeks we will look at some of the historical traditions of the Bakalanga focusing in particular on the fall of first the Chibundule and subsequent Nichasike dynasties, which together ruled the Bakalanga and neighbouring communities over some four centuries altogether, that is from as far back as c. 1450 until 1842.

The Chibundule dynasty, which was overthrown during the mid-17th century, is associated with the ‘Balilima’ branch of Bakalanga, while the Nichasike or Changamire dynasty that usurped them is associated with the ‘Banyayi’ branch, which prominently incorporates lineages of the Moyo clan.

More broadly, the Bakalanga will in this series be defined to include any and all communities who have historically identified themselves with Ikalanga language and culture.

We will not, therefore, be confined to the traditions of so-called pure or ‘dumbu’ lineages.

In the past Ikalanga, like Setswana, speaking communities have been distinguished by their ability to peacefully incorporate outsiders into their ranks. In this respect what our immediate past President Festus Mogae memorably referred to as our modern ‘omelette’ of multiethnic identity is a product of many centuries of interaction.

A prominent example of such multiple past identities is Bakalanga bakaNswazwi. For many, the late She (Kgosi) John Madawo Nswazwi VIII, who died in exile in 1960, has become a post-colonial icon of colonial era Ikalanga self-assertion.

This has been the case notwithstanding the fact that the She’s not too distant forefathers were Bapedi. During his reign his followers were thus known to have praised their ancestors in a language that they did not otherwise generally speak.

Unfortunately like so much of our indigenous past, the history of the Bakalanga has been relatively neglected. Even where it is cited in passing its cultural identity is often obscured through the use of such external labels as Butwa, Changamire, Rozwi, and Torwa or Tolwa.

As a result there has been little popular recognition of the accomplishments of either the Chibundule or Nichasike dynasties who for nearly half a millennia successively united and expanded the domain of Bukalanga into what was for many generations southern Africa's largest and most sophisticated kingdom.

 It was a kingdom, moreover, whose power was witnessed and undoubtedly to some extent inspired the young prince Sechele and as well as a generation of Bangwato royals.

Of the glory of the Bakalanga kings, who were known by the title ‘Mambo’, let us begin with a sample of a praise poem from the era of the Chibundules.

The text below was originally recorded by the late Masola Kumile, with orthography and translation by Professor P.J. Wentzel:

"Zwitetembelo zwa Mambo Chibundule":

"Inyike yaChibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema; NaZwikono ungapa mbotana; Vunamukuni unoloba nhema ngeganu, Nyati kakuma ngelupa; NaNkami, nkami wedzisina mhulu, Nkami wamapfumba.

"NdizwakaChibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema. Iye Mangula ngonkaka, vule ina nyungula.

Mayile hou, mhuka yezebe hulu. Mbaki wamakomo asingangin"we ngechita. Iye Chibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema."

"Praises of King Chibundule"

"Indeed it is the country of Chibundule, a refuge which gave shelter to the elephant and rhinoceros, With Zwikono like a calf in comparison. Vunakmakuni strikes the rhinoceros with a big axe and the buffalo he reaches out to strike with is shaft. And Nkami the milker of those without calves, the milker who milks before the calves have sucked"

"They are the praises of Chibundule, indeed! The refuge which gave shelter to the elephant and rhinoceros. He the one who washes milk, Because of the water having tadpoles in it.

The one who honours the elephant, the animal of the big ears. The builder of hilltop strongholds that cannot be penetrated by the enemy. He, Chibundule indeed! The refuge which gave shelter to the rhinoceros and the elephant."

Yet for all of its grandeur the realm of the Mambos was ultimately and completely shattered in the early nineteenth century..

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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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