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Is our Parliament failing Batswana?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

EAGLE WATCH


Ours is a democracy which, true to the doctrine of separation of powers, has three spheres of government, namely the Legislature or Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary. Save for the principle of checks and balances, each of these spheres operates independent of others.


In this three part series, I, of course using case studies, attempt to investigate the efficacy of these spheres of government. I start with the Legislature after which I will discuss the Judiciary and the Executive respectively. Besides making laws, the role of Parliament in any democracy, including Botswana, includes, inter alia, voter representation and the promotion of good governance. This, it does by making the Executive to account through such means as parliamentary questions and motions.  


In addition, Parliament uses various Parliamentary Committees, e.g. the Public Accounts Committee to play its oversight role on the Executive. It also plays its oversight role, thereby providing checks and balances, through active engagement in the development and implementation of policies and programmes. Therefore, a Parliament’s efficacy in serving its people is judged through, among other things, the number of Bills it deliberates upon; the number of questions asked by Members of Parliament (MPs) and the number of motions tabled by MPs.


It is worth noting that as regards Bills passed into law and motions adopted it is not only the number that matters. It is also, and perhaps most importantly, the quality of such Bills and motions that is of primal importance. Even with questions it is the quality that matters. Against this background, this article seeks to investigate whether, within its constitutional mandate as provided for in Part V of the Constitution, our Parliament is serving Batswana with distinction or it is failing them. We use the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament as a case study.


With respect to motions, the fact that out of 77 motions only 4 were adopted and 3 withdrawn is a concern. In this case, Parliament’s success rate is a meagre 5.4 %. This is dismal performance indeed since this means that Parliament only made a 5.4% effort towards such things as service delivery, and fighting such socio-economic ills as maladministration, corruption, economic crime, e.t.c.


As regards Parliamentary Questions, if out of 474 questions asked by different MPs only 334 were answered it is a concern since that only represents a 70% answer rate. Here, Parliament needs to be commended because these questions were many and diverse enough to elicit accountability from the Executive.


However, the same cannot be said about the Executive. Inability to answer about 100 questions from MPs cannot be referred to as anything else but failure. This is troubling because it means that the Executive, at a 30% rate, failed to account to Parliament and, therefore, to Batswana.


This is disconcerting because it is not simply about failure to answer questions. It is more about the reasons for such failure. Is it simply because the relevant Ministers slept on the job or it is because government was hiding something, including corruption and maladministration?


Though the former is not necessarily excusable it would be more concerning if it is because of the latter because the Executive would, with ulterior motives, have unlawfully denied Parliament the right to exercise its constitutional mandate as provided in the Constitution. The 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament has, just like past Sessions, suffered from absenteeism by some MPs. This not only delayed Parliament’s business, but also affected the quality of debate since, in an effort to cover up for lost time, some discussions were hurried at the expense of exhaustive contributions from MPs.


The 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament was also bedeviled by a hitherto unfamiliar practice where at least three Bills were deliberated upon and passed late at night. It is not clear whether this was because of time constraints or because of tactics to pass certain laws away from the public eye. Though I have no empirical evidence to support my view, I am tempted to conclude that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) dominated Parliament ensured that these Bills are discussed and passed late in the night in order to keep them away from the public eye.  


It certainly cannot be a coincidence that most of the Bills which were discussed and passed late in the night were marred by controversy. The President’s Pensions and Gratuities (Amendment) Bill, for example, was coming to Parliament for the second time having suffered overwhelming opposition at its first appearance.


When the Bill was first published there was public outcry against such amendments as the introduction of the payment of gratuity; and allowing a retired President to be paid monthly pension, for example, even if he or she is employed by government, the private sector or international organizations.


There was also opposition to the proposed amendment to give the retired president the option to choose between having an office, where he or she prefers, of the standard and size specified by the President or receiving office accommodation allowance using the prevailing Gaborone market rental rates.


Not only that. Many were uncomfortable with the proposed amendment to give the retired President the option to choose between having a residential house of the standard and size specified by the President and receiving a housing allowance in lieu of the house. These concerns notwithstanding, the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament disregarded the voters’ voice and, in the dark of night, passed the Bill which effectively makes a retired President to continue living the life he or she lived as a sitting President.   


The Judges of the Court of Appeal (Amendment) Bill is another controversial Bill which was passed under the cover of darkness. While the proposed amendment to prescribe the number of Justices of Appeal to be twelve was welcome, the proposed amendment to increase the tenure of office of Justices of Appeal from 70 to 80 years elicited immense public outcry.


Also, despite such public outcry the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament disregarded the people’s will and passed the Bill into law, unconscionably acceding to the dictates of the Executive at the expense of Parliament’s constitutional duty to provide checks and balances to the Executive’s indiscretions.


I do not remember a time, at least in recent memory, when our Parliament, including the 11th Parliament, because of public outcry, rejected a Bill tabled by the Executive. Therefore, it is either the public’s outcry is always ill-informed or our Parliament is failing our people.  
In view of the aforegoing, it can be safely concluded that our Parliament, including the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament, failed Batswana through such ills as truancy and the failure to make the Executive account. Our Parliament effectively convenes to legitimize the Executive’s predetermined legislative agenda.

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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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