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UDC’s individual membership: the need for a constitutional review

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Last week I wrote an article on the implications of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s individual membership card issue. Though it was not my intention to have a sequel to the article, events have since unfolded which compel me to have such a sequel.

On Monday this week, Duma FM’s Goaba Mojakgomo, through his Emergency Room programme, hosted a discussion on the topic in which I participated. It was clear from the callers that the Opposition is divided on the matter.  

According to Weekend Post’s edition of 17th September 2016, following a visit by the party Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa, about two weeks ago, Botswana National Front (BNF)’s Kweneng and Southern regions rejected the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s individual membership card project.

This, despite the fact that according to the BNF Youth League (BNFYL) president, Khumoekae Richard, the BNF, at its 2013 Congress, resolved to adopt the UDC constitution which, at articles 6.1.1 and 7.1.1, allows for direct membership by individuals.

This, also despite the fact that the BNFYL, which has significant representation in regions, recently, through a press conference, announced its support for the UDC individual membership card project. One wonders whether this position is truly mandated by the BNFYL’s constituency, the BNF youth.

While not all the BNF’s regions have expressed their views on the individual membership card project, it is worrying that the UDC coalition leader, the BNF, has two of its most influential regions rejecting the project.

Equally worrying are reports that the BNF leadership is divided on the matter. Though it is not a representative sample, the fact that Weekend Post reports that two BNF Members of Parliament (MPs), six Councillors and two Central Committee members are opposed to the project are troubling.

Reportedly, though the BNFYL recently publicly endorsed the project, it is divided, but the divisions are concealed by its unwavering support for the party president, Honourable Duma Boko, especially by its president, Richard, who is Boko’s protégé.  The question is: how long will this last?

The BNF Women’s Wing (BNFWW) has been conspicuously silent on the matter. Can this silence be read as an endorsement for the project or as a rejection for the project? One may never know. Perhaps it is a continuation of the indifference the BNFWW has exhibited on all other party and national issues.

It is not only the BNF which is divided over the individual membership card project. The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) too is divided. Reportedly, the National Executive Committee (NEC) is divided, with party President Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe’s faction in support of the UDC’s individual membership, while the Secretary General, Honourable Gilbert Mangole’s faction is opposed to it.

But, what reasons do those opposed to the project give? Some, it is said, do not support it because there has not been adequate consultation of the members. One wonders why such is the case considering that the BNF, for example, resolved to be bound by the UDC constitution as far back as 2013.

Others, it is said, fear that the project is part of a grand plan for the UDC to ultimately swallow its affiliates. This view, it will be remembered, was prevalent, at the birth of the UDC, especially among the then members of the BNF’s Temporary Platform, who warned that the UDC project will not only result in the dilution of BNF’s political ideology, but will also lead to its peril.

Proponents of this school of thought argue that if this happens it is the BNF which will have lost much because other coalition partners have little to lose. They argue that compared to the BMD, for example, which has been in existence for only six years, the BNF has more than fifty years of existence.

They further argue that unlike the BMD the BNF’s existence is influenced by a real ideological basis. The BMD, they argue, has no political ideology different from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s, but is only made up of members who though BDP at heart only left the BDP because of political purging.

They also argue that though the BNF and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) have been in existence for almost the same number of years, the BNF is more accomplished than the BPP. For example, while the BPP has, for years, not had any representation in Parliament, the BNF has always had MPs and has been the main Opposition in Parliament for decades.

There is also the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) factor. The issue of individual membership has emboldened those who, like many in the BCP Youth League and some who lost at the party’s last elective congress, are opposed to the BCP joining the UDC coalition.

On the contrary, proponents of UDC’s individual membership argue that it will bring income to the UDC through the subscriptions paid by the individual members. Some argue that there are those who, though disgruntled by their political parties, do not want to join the BDP and the UDC would be their home.

Others argue that the UDC’s individual membership will assist with political marketing and data base management, things which will result in membership growth and the possibility of assumption of state power in 2019.    

There is also the confusion on the exact manner in which individual membership will be implemented. For instance, while the UDC constitution provides that individual membership is open to any citizen of Botswana of the age of sixteen (16) and above, it is alleged that Honourable Boko has said that only 1000 membership cards will be issued for fundraising purposes.

If these reports are true, Honourable Boko’s view cannot be correct because no way in the UDC constitution is there mention that individual membership will be limited to a 1000 members. Clause 6.1.1 provides that ‘membership of the Umbrella shall be open to any citizen of Botswana of the age of sixteen (16) and above’.

Its corollary, clause 7.1.1, provides that ‘eligible prospective individual members of the Umbrella may apply either orally or in writing to any authorized official or agent of the Umbrella for enrolment. On enrollment, each member of the Umbrella shall be issued with a membership card and his or her name entered in the membership register.’

Therefore, while the 1000 individual membership limit is not provided for in the UDC constitution, there is no doubt that clauses 6.1.1 and 7.1.1 provide for individual membership. In terms of clause 8.1 of the UDC constitution, the BNF, BMD and BPP are obliged to observe individual membership of their members to the UDC.

Clause 8.1 provides that ‘group members shall remain autonomous bodies governed by their own constitutions but they shall abide by this constitution and the policies of the Umbrella.’ Clauses 6.1.1, 7.1.1 and 8.1 notwithstanding, the fact that there is such a division as regards UDC’s individual membership issue necessitates the matter to be taken back to the members for reconsideration.

Not only that. Prior to the congresses, the UDC itself and all its affiliates as well as the BCP need to embark on transparent nationwide consultations in order to get the views of not only the party members who will not be able to attend the congresses, but also of Batswana in general.

While the congresses and the consultation will cause significant financial expenditure, such expenditure will be worth it considering the adverse effects the Opposition will suffer the longer the issue remains unresolved.

If the views of the general membership are that clauses 6.1.1 and 7.1.1 are a threat to their own existence, it is instructive that the UDC constitution should be amended to only allow for group membership. If the majority are comfortable with the clauses then the status quo should remain, but an inclusive and consultative implementation should be embarked upon.

With only three years before the next general elections, the Opposition cannot afford division and conflict. The BMD conflicts are already causing enough concern. The Opposition cannot afford another debacle, lest it suffers an on goal in 2019.

It will be remembered that the BDP’s selling line has always been that if Batswana elected any opposition party into power they will suffer instability and conflict. With respect to the UDC coalition, the BDP has warned Batswana that there will be conflict on who among the coalition partners governs if the UDC wins elections.

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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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