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Remembering the unwanted: Klaas Motshidisi (1932-2015)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

We continue with the series where we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted by government, made immense contributions to the legacy we will be celebrating this year. This week we remember Klaas Motshidisi who passed away in 2015.

According to his obituary published in the Botswana Government Face Book page on 15th March 2015, “Rre Klaas Kebotse Motshidisi was born on the 3rd April 1932 in Serowe… He did his primary schooling in Serowe, completing in 1950. He first went to Masokola Primary School, then Central Primary School and finally Middle School – later renamed Simon Ratshosa School…”

It continues to say “… from 1951-1955 Klaas … did his secondary education by long distance with South African correspondences schools, first with Lyceum and then with Tran-Africa. For his tertiary education he went to High Trade Union College in Moscow in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1965-66…”

“… After joining the public service … he was placed on a professional development programme that saw him being enrolled on a trade union programme at Harvard University in the United States in 1969-70. Some eleven years later, he did an advanced labour administration course at Oxford University in the United Kingdom…”

“…He also did several short courses in labour administration and labour relations in such institutions as the Kennedy School of Governance (Harvard University), International Institution of Labour Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) and the Institute of Development Management (Mbabane, Swaziland and Gaborone, Botswana).”

Writing in Mmegi on 6th March 2015, Dr. Jeff Ramsay said “Motshidisi began his career as a pioneer nationalist politician, labour organizer and human rights activist, while working at the Palapye Garage owned by a certain Tom Shaw… He was a founding member of the Bechuanaland/Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) in 1961, becoming a member of its Executive. In this capacity he travelled with Motsamai Mpho and Phillip Matante to Ghana to secure international support for the fledging movement.”

Dr. Ramsay further writes that “following the Party’s 1962 split he emerged as the Secretary General of the BPP faction led by Mpho, that subsequently contested the first, March 1, 1965, general election as the Botswana Independence Party (BIP). He subsequently found his long term political home in the Botswana National Front (BNF).

Motshidisi served his country in the public service.  Pako Lebanna, in his article published in the Daily News edition of 3rd March 2015, quotes Professor Monageng Mogalakwe as saying “… although he was one of the independence-era opposition pioneers, he temporarily quit party politics and took to the civil service, serving in the Department of Labour, rising through the ranks to become the Commissioner of Labour in the 1970s.”

According to his obituary, “…he rose from Assistant Labour Officer to Chief Industrial Relations Officer, to Assistant Commissioner of Labour, to Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensations to Under-Secretary for Labour, and acted as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Permanent Secretary numerous times…”

Motshidisi was also a pro-labour rights activist. Lebanna quotes Prof. Mogalakwe saying “…Mr. Motshidisi bequeaths upon future generations a legacy in the field of labour rights… He served his country diligently, asserting workers’ rights; he was present when the trade union movement of this country was being established.”

According to Dr. Ramsay, “It was … in the early 1960s that the late Motshidisi first became involved in trade unionism as the Secretary-General of the short lived Bechuanaland Trade Union Congress.”

Motshidisi proved that being an Opposition political activist does not mean that one does not love his or her country and cannot serve it in the public service, when he, after being in Opposition politics for most of his life, rejoined the Public Service under the Tribal Administration Department as deputy Chief in Palapye.

During the apartheid era Motshidisi played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle. It is on record that he assisted Southern African liberation activists, including former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who used Botswana as transit to and from exile as well as going for military training in such countries as neighboring Zambia.

Dr. Ramsay supports this by stating that “… besides his domestic activism, during the 1960s, Mr. Motshidisi also played a key role in securing the movement of political refugees through Botswana. In November 1962 he, along with Mpho, secured the release of Thabo Mbeki and other freedom fighters who were being deported via train from Southern Rhodesia to the apartheid Regime.”

Regrettably, however, Motshidisi is one of those who contributed to the fragmentation of the Opposition. According to Prof. Mogalakwe “…when the BPP split, Motshidisi worked with Motsamai Mpho when he founded the Botswana Independence Party (BIP) in 1964…”

Motshidisi was also to later leave the BIP and join ranks with the late Dr. Kenneth Koma when he founded the Botswana National Front (BNF) in 1965. Motshidisi, however, deserves credit in that he never defected from the BNF, even after the turbulent BNF congress in 1998 in Palapye which led to the BNF split giving birth to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

The history of the BNF would be incomplete without Motshidisi’s name. He served as the party’s Secretary General (1993-97) and later as Chairman before retiring from active politics and rejoining the public service under the Department of Tribal Administration.

According to Dr. Ramsay, “… after retiring he re-entered politics in the 1990s. In 1994 he unsuccessfully stood as the BNF candidate for Palapye against Festus Mogae. During the BNF infighting in the late 1990’s he supported Dr. Kenneth Koma and subsequently the 2001 leadership of Otsweletse Moupo, serving on the 2001-04 BNF Executive.”

After retiring from active politics Motshidisi served his people through the civil society. According to his obituary, “…following his retirement from active politics he became a community activist and leader and participated in several non-political community based organizations…”

It continues to say “… In 1999 he co-founded House of Hope Trust, a Palapye based safe haven, which provides comprehensive family care orphaned and vulnerable children and their caregivers. House of Hope was formed in direct response to the HIV scourge…”

“From 2010 he was patron of Kopano Rehabilitation Foundation, which was founded by his daughter and son-in-law (Leokana and Phemelo Bogatsu respectively), which provides advocacy, economic empowerment and social integration for people with disabilities…”

“His other patronage was of a Palapye choral musical group called Palapye Voices. In Palapye alone, he held chairperson stints at the Village Development Committee, the Palapye Development Advisory Trust and the Palapye Hospital Advisory Committee…”

“At the time of his death, he was involved in a project to preserve the archives of the BaNgwato and Palapye and was a resource person for the 2016 Independence Committee (Bots 50), which he ably assisted with all the relevant historical information needed.”

As is the case in our tradition, Motshidisi’s life was not celebrated when he was still alive. It was only after his death that he was celebrated. Lebanna quotes the then BNF Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, after Motshidisi’s passing, saying “… he was a firm but fair man…. We have lost a valuable assert, an embodiment of the history of the BNF at a time we needed him as we are planning to commemorate our 50th anniversary.”

In the Daily News edition of 16th March 2015, Leungo Rakgathi reported that during his funeral many speakers said Motshidisi was a man of unique caliber who believed in himself and he proved this in the first general elections of1965 when he stood against the first President Sir Seretse Khama in the Serowe constituency. They said even though he lost dismally, he was not discouraged but remained firmly committed to Opposition politics.

Rakgathi continued by saying, “…former BNF leader, Otsweletse Moupo, said Motshidisi was a disciplined and dedicated Opposition leader who was always willing to share his knowledge… He was a down to earth mentor and a great teacher who served as a resource person for party seminars and workshops… He was a man of admirable political honor who strongly detested hypocrisy and intrigue and always strove to practice what he preached.”

According to Rakgathi, Moupo also said “…Motshidisi was overly fastidious in organisational matters, insisting on strict and consistent adherence to the party constitution, rules and principles …. I am thankful to have been one of the people who benefited from Motshidisi as he had a very good memory and was always willing to share with others and respected them despite their age difference.”

Motshidisi’s blemishes notwithstanding, he is no doubt a hero who deserves mention as we celebrate our country’s 50th anniversary of independence. I cannot put it better than Veteran Labour Unionist, Johnson Motshwarakgole, who, according to Rakgathi, during his funeral, “… hailed him as Botswana’s pioneer trade unionist, song writer and accomplished public servant who has inscribed a glorious chapter to the history of the country.”

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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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