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Old Age Pensioners Deserve Better

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

BCP Deputy Leader

Non-contributory old age pension is a program that was advocated by the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) for decades.  During that period the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) resisted it using porcupine defensive mechanism.

They only gave in and reluctantly adopted it as a result of mounting political pressure.  For many years the elderly people were subjected to a paltry P300.00 old age pension per month. Clearly its value was far lower than the administrative, opportunity cost to the beneficiaries, and hidden costs.  It would remain a zero-sum game up until today.  Currently the non-contributory old age pension is still as little as around P400 per month which cannot meet the basic needs of the elderly.

In the 2009 elections manifesto Botswana Congress Party (BCP) proposed and vigorously campaigned for the old age pension to be set at P750 per month after a thorough assessment of the socio-economic situation of the target population. The strategy was to align the old age pension with the cost of living at the time.

During the on-going budget session of parliament, the Leader of the Opposition (LOO) advocated for an old age pension of at least P600 per month. Recently a mid-week paper had a full editorial also making a strong case for an improved old age pension.  In addition, Hon Dithapelo Keorapetse who is the Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West is planning to table a motion in parliament calling on government to review non-contributory old age pension scheme considering the high standard of living.

In September 2016 Dikgang Makgelemela who was then an Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration addressed kgotla meetings at Sefhare-Ramokgonami where residents called on government to seriously consider a significant improvement of the old age pension. In his response the Assistant Minister was not averse to the proposal. Specifically he was attracted to the idea of removing double-dipping where former public servants on contributory pensions also benefit from old age pension upon reaching 65 years old.

Currently old age pensioners are estimated to be 5 per cent of the total population which translates into 101 249 people. This number includes the former Presidents, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Chief Executive Officers of parastatal bodies. Removing contributory pensioners from the list of beneficiaries could safe government money to cushion the additional cost of increased non-contributory pension.  

Clearly a middle income country like Botswana can afford an improved old age pension that can restore the much acclaimed dignity. The old age pension should be set at the level where the nutrition and food security of the beneficiary is guaranteed. Using the usual argument of financial constraints must not be allowed to pass.


If government can afford P34 million to build a retirement house for President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, P140 million to purchase Electronic Vote (Rigging) Machine (EVM), P570 million constituency campaign fund, and P300 million to purchase spying cameras for law abiding citizens, it should be possible to revise the old age pension upward. Besides, it is a well-known fact that high official corruption bleeds the domestic economy. Ours is a politics of Lazarus where the few live in affluence while the majority survive on crumbs.

Government must commit to fighting corruption in an aggressive manner. This will go a long way in saving money that can be channelled to improve the social wellbeing of Batswana in general and the elderly people in particular. For example an estimated half of the development budget was lost on account of official corruption over the failed Morupule B Power Plant and Palapye Glass Project during National Development Plan 10 (NDP 10).

Government must fast tract the introduction of universal pension system which was adopted by parliament through a motion tabled by Dumelang Saleshando who was then the Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central. This will reduce the number of people who are eligible for non-contributory old age pension in a fundamental way. In the event of a pensioner whose contributory pension is below the non-contributory old age pension government should augment it to avoid situations where some Batswana are disadvantaged.

A close comparative analysis of old age pensions in the region shows that out of the five countries with the highest GDP per capita Botswana pays the lowest non-contributory old age pension.  The country of Namibia with a lower GDP per capita pays an old age pension of more than R1000.00 per month. Surprisingly even countries which are poorer than Botswana such as the Kingdom of Lesotho pay a higher old age pension.  The situation in Botswana is absolutely unacceptable.

If the old age pension was increased to between P750 and P1200 there will be no elderly person scrambling for other social welfare schemes such as Ipelegeng, Poverty eradication and Destitute Programs.  Household food security among families with an elderly person will improve significantly.  The elderly carry the heavy burden of caring for the sick and vulnerable members of the households.  This is particularly true for female elderly persons.  An improved old age pension has the poten

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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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