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BOT’50: is there reason to celebrate?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

EAGLE WATCH

After fifty years of independence, which coincides with the end of Vision 2016, and the commencement of Vision 2036, it is apposite that we take stock of our successes and failures. As shall be shown below, though Botswana has done well in most facets, there are certain arears that need improvement.

Various international rating agencies such as the Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI) have ranked Botswana highly. The LPI has, for many years, ranked Botswana top of the 142 African countries. In 2013, the African Leadership Index (ALI) placed Botswana 1st in Africa and 41st in the world in good governance while emerging 32nd out of 162 countries in the most peaceful index.

Even our leaders have been ranked highly. In 2008, former president Festus Mogae won the Mo Ibrahim prize which is given to a democratically-elected African head of government who leaves power peacefully, according to their nation’s constitution.  In 2013, the ALI ranked President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama as the best leader in Africa, getting an A grade.

Consistently, under personal wellbeing, which encompasses freedom of speech, and religion, national tolerance for immigrants and ethnic and racial minorities, Botswana has fared well. The area of freedom of press and speech has, however, not been without fault.

Notable was the 2008 enactment of the infamous Media Practitioners’ Act, which, if fully implemented, could curtail both freedom of press and speech. Also of note is government’s refusal to enact the Freedom of Information Act which allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by government.

That notwithstanding, Batswana generally enjoy freedom of press and speech. People are rarely persecuted for criticizing government. There are, however, instances where some government media talk shows have allegedly been censored because the hosts or guests propagated anti-government views.

There has been reports that some journalists, e.g. Sakaeo Jane and Joshua Ntopolelang, have been victimized, maliciously transferred, sidelined and suspended from Botswana Television because they are believed to be pro-Opposition. Fortunately, in both cases our courts, which are truly independent, intervened.

In 2014 Sunday Standard Editor, Outsa Mokone, and reporter, Edgar Tsimane, faced sedition charges for publishing a story which alleged that President Khama was the driver of a car that was involved in a night-time road accident. While Mokone was arrested and charged, Tsimane fled to South Africa to seek asylum.

According to Sunday Standard’s online edition of 3rd May 2015, this resulted in Botswana’s press freedom rankings dropping by three points, from 41 to 44, something which, no doubt, tainted our democratic credentials. 

Also, in the past, private media regarded as sympathetic to the opposition were denied government advertising under the guise of cost saving. In the run-up to the 2014 general elections, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) declined to participate in Parliamentary debates hosted by a private radio station, Gabz FM, accusing it of being pro-Opposition.

Not even the most fervent of government and Khama’s critics can claim there is no freedom of religion in Botswana. All religions practice their faiths without censor. Almost all the world’s religions are taught from primary level though this is contradicted by the fact that school events, e.g. assemblies, are conducted in terms of the Christian faith.

There is, therefore, room for improvement since this suggests Christianity is the state religion. For instance, while in courts Christians make an oath in terms of the Holy Bible, non-Christians, including adherents of other religions, make a non-religious affirmation. Further, only Christian festivals, e.g. Christmas, Good Friday and Easter are recognized as holidays. 

Though some immigrants, e.g. Professor Kenneth Good have been declared Prohibited Immigrants for being critical of government, there is national tolerance for immigrants. Even illegal immigrants, once arrested, are put under secure custody, and are provided with basic needs until repatriation. However, government needs to improve in terms of allowing immigrants access to health care, including AIDS treatment.

It was an embarrassment when our government fought all the way to the Court of Appeal (CoA) to deny non-citizen HIV positive prisoners access to Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication and treatment. This stood against what our country is renowned for, Botho and respect for human dignity.

Thankfully, in 2015, the CoA upheld these values, and ruled in favour of the prisoners, saying the constitutional declarations that the foreign inmates sought only served to bolster the central complaint, which was that they were being denied the right to medical care as per the provisions of the Prisons Act.  

Botswana has fared badly regarding respect for ethnic minority rights, especially Basarwa. Government has trampled on the rights of Basarwa by, among other things, in 1986, attempting to forcibly relocate them from their ancestral land, the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR). Even after the courts ruled that as unlawful government attempted to force Basarwa out of their land by ceasing the provision of such basic services as water.

Mother tongue education and recognition of cultural diversity can go a long way in improving respect for ethnic minority rights. That notwithstanding, government has resisted calls to introduce mother tongue education. However, government needs to be commended for amending the constitution to entrench ethnic parity though tribal discrimination still subtly exists at a practical level.   

Under the Social Capital sub index, which includes the percentage of citizens who volunteer, give to charity, help strangers and feel they can rely on family and friends, Botswana has, over the years, also fared well. This is in fact the hallmark of our being as Batswana.

It is these attributes that form the basis of such institutions as Home Based Care, Village Development Committees, Parents Teachers Associations, Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations. In fact, it can be argued that were it not for such attributes our economic prosperity and peace and stability would have been diminished.  

Under the Economy sub index, which measures performance in the areas of macro-economic policies, economic satisfaction and expectations, foundation for growth and financial sector efficiency, Botswana has also fared well. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and such rating agencies as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have repeatedly rated Botswana as one of the most stable economies.

That notwithstanding, Botswana needs to do better in such areas as economic diversification, poverty reduction, employment creation, rural development, etc. While government hand-outs and such relief programmes as Ipelegeng are of assistance to the poor and vulnerable, emphasis on them at the expense of real economic development can only be to our detriment.

Under the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity sub index, which measures entrepreneurial environment, innovative activity and access to opportunity, Botswana has also fared well. Though corruption hampers delivery, such agencies as Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency, Local Enterprise Authority, Youth Development Fund and Young Farmers Fund, avail entrepreneurial opportunities for Batswana.

The easing of the company registration process; tax regime liberalization and establishment of such regulatory entities as the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority and the Competition Authority have also gone a long way in entrepreneurship development. There is, however, need to improve access to entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth, women, people with disabilities, and those in remote and rural areas.

Under the Governance sub index, which measures effective and accountable government, fair elections, political participation and the rule of law, Botswana has also fared well. We have regular elections; there is multi-party democracy; no political party has ever been banned and we do not have political prisoners.

However, Botswana needs to deepen its democracy through political party funding; direct presidential elections; abolition of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Nominated Councilors; fair delimitation of constituencies; making the Independent Electoral Commission truly independent of government; respect for trade unions, and increased representation in governance for women, the youth and other marginalized groups.

The Ombudsman, though in existence, is toothless and has not effectively addressed issues of maladministration within government. For instance, despite the then Ombudsman, Lethebe Maine, in 1999, finding that it was wrong for the then Vice President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, flying Botswana Defence Force (BDF) aircraft, his finding was not taken heed of.

That there is access to justice and judicial independence means there is respect for the rule of law. However, the rule of law is threatened by politically motivated presidential pardons, and the occasional disregard for procedural propriety by the Directorate on Public Service Management, especially in relation to trade unions.

One issue which has left a stain in our judicial independence was the 2015 suspension of four judges, justices Key Dingake, Modiri Letsididi, Ranier Busang and Mercy Garekwe, who were suspended on allegations of misconduct and bringing the name of the judiciary into disrepute.

According to Mmegi online edition of 23rd September 2016, “The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has challenged President Ian Khama’s government to respect the independence of the judiciary following the suspension and impeachment proceedings…” We can, however, not comment more on the matter since it is still before the courts.

Under the Health sub index, which measures performance in basic health outcomes, health infrastructure, preventative care, physical and mental health satisfaction, Botswana has also fared well. There are health posts and clinics in almost all villages and settlements; hospitals which include 16 primary, 7 district, 3 referral, 2 mission and 2 private hospitals.

There is free preventative vaccination; there is free treatment for such diseases as AIDS, etc. We also have such world class mental and/or psychiatric health care facilities as Jubilee and S’brana hospitals in Francis town and Lobatse respectively.

Under the Safety & Security sub index, which measures performance in national security and personal safety, Botswana has also fared well. There is no civil strife; no civil wars; no curfews; no terrorist attacks, etc.

There has, however, been troubling incidents of torture and extra judicial killings, notably the 2009 murder of John Kalafatis by security agents. That when the Directorate of Public Prosecutions prosecuted the accused the BDF paid for the accused’s legal fees, and following conviction, President Khama pardoned them, diminished some Batswana’s sense of security and safety. It also brought into question the President’s respect for judicial independence.

In view of the aforegoing, one can conclude that though there is much to celebrate as we look back at fifty years of independence, there is need for improvement in the areas highlighted above if we are to celebrate our independence in full.

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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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