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Uber Appy

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Although not yet operating in Botswana, many of you who regularly travel overseas for business or pleasure will be familiar with the name ‘Uber’. 

The German word for ‘over’, but sharing a Larin root with the word ‘ubiquitous’ or commonplace, Uber is a mobile application to allow passengers to hail a cab using their smartphone.  Founded in 2009, the company began operations in San Francisco and is now one of the world's biggest ride-hailing services, operating in more than 450 cities in more than 70 countries.

Uber drivers operate independently in their area, under the company umbrella.  To set up as an Uber taxi operator, applicants have only to comply with the following conditions of work:

  • Must own a 4-door sedan, must seat 4 or more passengers excluding driver.
  • Year 2001* or newer.
  • Locally-registerd vehicle.
  • No marked, taxi, or salvaged vehicles.
  • Must pass Uber vehicle inspection.
  • The car must be currently registered, but your name does not have to be on the registration.
  • Drivers must be over 18

Oh, and possession of a Smartphone is a must!  You can easily see the attraction here.  Own any car in reasonable condition, have it inspected, fill out a form and you can be on the road and earning as an Uber=Pop (popular)  – easy as that; own a smart sedan and you can apply to be an Uber-Black driver.  With no effort, special skills or financial output, suddenly you are a semi-independent freelancer, can choose your own working hours and make money in your spare time.  The fare for the Pop  is costed at about half the normal cab fare, for the Black it’s about the same or less.  The driver takes 80% of the fare, 20% goes to Uber.

But the pertinent word there was the prefix ‘semi’.  An Uber driver is not totally free or freelancing.  On the one hand this ensures quality service since there is a rating element on the app for both passenger and driver.  So if the car is dirty or the driver rude, the passenger can let Uber know.  Similarly if the passenger causes problems, he or she is flagged up on the system as a difficult customer.  The rating is out of 5 and a driver with several rating of 4.2 or lower will be called in by Uber for a discussion and is in danger of losing their franchise rights so it pays them to be polite, on time and with a car in tip-top order.

At present there are around 150,000 Uber drivers around the world and everything in the garden is rosy.  

Or at least it was until 2 discontented Uber drivers in the UK decided that they did not care for their partially-freelance status and took Uber to court to argue for minimum wage, or in other words to be treated like low-paid salaried staff, rather than commissioned freelancers.  Their case was concluded this week, judgement awarded in their favour and suddenly those roses are full of nasty thorns.

The Employment Tribunal judge, A M Snelson, found that Uber's UK drivers are performing "unmeasured work", as defined by  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" National Minimum Wage Regulation 45.This means that Uber's previous position, that its drivers were self-employed and therefore not entitled to anything other than their 75 per cent share of passengers' fares, has been overturned and the company must now pay them the British minimum wage.

Before the tribunal, the drivers' lawyer, Thomas Linden QC, argued that the written terms between drivers and Uber "should be read sceptically", with the judge summarising his argument on that point by saying that "they do not properly reflect their relationship. On the contrary, they are designed to misrepresent it” by making it appear as if Uber worked for the drivers, rather than the other way round.

Appearing for Uber, David Reade QC argued that the terms were valid "and fairly define [Uber]'s relationship with the claimants" and said that because the terms were agreed under Dutch law, the tribunal should not consider whether British laws (as opposed to wider EU minimum pay regulations) applied. Uber had argued that the agreement between it and its UK drivers was governed by Dutch law, but the EU's Rome I Regulations 2008 – still in force in the UK until at least 2019 – allowed the drivers to successfully argue that British law should be applied instead.

As Judge Snelson  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" handed down his verdict in the preliminary hearing of Aslam, Farrar and others v Uber BV, Uber London Ltd and Uber Britannia Ltd., he was utterly scathing as he summed up Uber's operations and attempts to avoid liability for paying its drivers the minimum wage.

“Any organisation (a) running an enterprise at the heart of which is the function of carrying people in motor cars from where they are to where they want to be and (b) operating in part through a company discharging the regulated responsibilities of a [private hire vehicle] operator, but (c) requiring drivers and passengers to agree, as a matter of contract, that it does not provide transportation services (through UBV [Uber's Dutch holding company] or Uber London Limited, and (d) resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology, merits, we think, a degree of scepticism… We cannot help being reminded of Queen Gertrude's most celebrated line: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

One of the fictions he referred to was the Uber passenger invoice, "which is not an invoice and not sent to the passenger", while the twisted language was said by the judge to include contract terms that were so warped that Uber, by its own rules, had become a "client or customer of 'Customer'” – 'Customer' being what Uber's terms and conditions uses to describe its drivers.

A lawyer for the firm Leigh Day that represented UK Uber drivers, Annie Powell said in a statement ‘This is a groundbreaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled."

Unsurprisingly Uber is contesting the ruling.  .
"Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss," wrote Jo Bertram, Uber UK's regional general manager, in an email to CNET. "The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want."

No doubt the 2 test-case drivers are enjoying the taste of victory this week but as the old saying goes – ‘be careful what you wish for – you might just get it’.  In this case I would predict that with a wage and employee benefits will come corporate rules and regulations, including an hours of work contract.  No more freelancing out of study hours for students; no more second income in off time for those already employed; no more fitting in some paid chauffering for hard-up housewives filling in hours between the morning and afternoon school runs.  In future their hours will be proscribed, their wings clipped and their ‘app-iness severely curtailed. Pandora ’s Box has been opened and this victory might, alas, be of the Phyrric variety.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank"

You can easily see the attraction here.  Own any car in reasonable condition, have it inspected, fill out a form and you can be on the road and earning as an Uber=Pop (popular)  – easy as that; own a smart sedan and you can apply to be an Uber-Black driver.  With no effort, special skills or financial output, suddenly you are a semi-independent freelancer, can choose your own working hours and make money in your spare time.  The fare for the Pop  is costed at about half the normal cab fare, for the Black it’s about the same or less.  The driver takes 80% of the fare, 20% goes to Uber.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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