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Of IEC, EVMs and BDP Elective Congress

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

BCP Deputy Leader


Listening to the Coordinator of the implementation of the controversial Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) one is left with no doubt that his brief from government is that the machine will be used in the 2019 general elections whether Batswana reject it or not.

Suspicious Batswana are being dragged screaming and kicking to 2019. We are being pushed against the wall by a governing party that will stop at nothing to hang to power. The EVM may be the only thing which will push the country to the brink. The peace and tranquillity that has characterised Botswana as a nation, is being put to the test. Botswana has been in the class of peaceful countries like Lesotho and Kenya. Both of these countries were pushed to violent conflict by poorly managed electoral processes, and uncompromising political leadership. Consequently precious lives were lost.


The introduction of the vote rigging machine should be put in its proper context.  Between 2009 and 2014 general elections president Seretse Khama Ian Khama who is also the leader of the ruling party hit the ground running campaigning for his party. Public resources were at his disposal to traverse the country, dishing out food parcels, football material, and chairs to local institutions like Village Development Committee. The traditional institution of the kgotla was exploited to the fullest. The kgotla was virtually turned into a regulated semi-freedom square.  On the other hand the leadership of the opposition parties were denied similar treatment.


The President of the republic conducted house to house campaigns under the pretext of checking Batswana at their homes. The house to house campaign and regulated freedom squares were beamed on Botswana Television daily. In an unethical move donors of the parcels were deliberately never disclosed. The unsuspecting public was made to believe that the president was actually spending his personal money on free gifts when it was not necessarily the case.


Populist government schemes were introduced under the guise of poverty alleviation and youth empowerment. Numbers of Ipelegeng participants were increased even in non-drought years. In agriculture government provided free ploughing, free planting, free seeds, free fertilizers and free chemicals to fight pests and weeds.


To their shock and disbelieve when the results of the 2014 came the ruling party had lost the popular vote. It recorded the biggest decline reaching an all-time low of 47% while the combined opposition vote was 53%. For the first time since 1966 the country was governed by a minority government on account of a fraudulent first past the post electoral system.  Had the country adopted a system of proportional representation we would be having a coalition government and the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will be in the political wilderness. 

 

Out of ten (10) by elections and election re-runs the BDP lost all except only two. Everything being equal the ruling party is likely to lose the 2019 general elections. Like Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Kenya and United National Independence Party (UNIP) of Zambia before it the BDP would never make a come-back. Yet the BDP is governing the country as if they control more than 70% of the popular vote.


It is against this background that the introduction of the Electronic Voting Machine must be understood. There is no way government can introduce changes in the electoral system that will lead to a change of government.  After everything else had failed they had to come up with something that can allow them to manipulate the outcome of the 2019 general elections to remain in power.


Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of the kgotla meetings addressed by Rre Gabriel Seeletso the Coordinator of the EVM project who is also the former Secretary for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).  Following his unpleasant encounters in previous meetings such as Maun and Selibe Phikwe the gentleman appears to have adopted a siege mentality – highly confrontational in his presentation and response to complex technical questions. He is generally evasive and lacks confidence in the subject matter at hand. His approach can be intimidating to the faint hearted. Despite his limited technical knowledge of issues around EVMs the Coordinator is moving around the country without a team of technical experts.


In his presentations the Coordinator dismally failed to justify the introduction of the EVM except that it will quicken the process of voting and counting.  He could not answer elementary questions like why the candidate fees were escalated ten-fold or why supplementary voter registration is terminated in the mist of high voter apathy. He fails to explain why a country with less than a million voters will require a machine that is highly controversial and generally unacceptable among most democratic countries.

 

These include countries with millions of voters such as Nigeria and South Africa. In fact among the 15 SADC countries only Botswana and Namibia are adventuring into the unchartered waters of EVMs. Ironically Botswana and Namibia have less than a million voters. There are less controversial approaches that could have been tried before the introduction of vote rigging machines. In Botswana political parties and election observers have recommended counting at polling stations to reduce delays in releasing the election results. EVMS have never been on the agenda.


The problem with a machine is that it is programmed and yet stakeholders will not be allowed to access the source code to satisfy them that the programming on delivery is the same as the original one. University academics have established that EVMs can be hacked and they have demonstrated this before a court of law. In one of the court rulings in India the judge concluded that EVMs can only be used if they have voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), yet government appears to be unwilling to accommodate this as a compromise.


All political parties in Botswana, except the ruling BDP strongly object to the use of EVMs in the 2019 general elections.  Surprisingly they are not willing to allow the IEC to pilot test the machines at their contentious Elective Congress in Tonota in July 2017. They are fearful of the EVMs because they know that they can be manipulated.  We challenge the BDP to pilot test the EVMs at their next Elective Congress.

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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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