“My creatures have filled the rivers like dragonflies” – Ninmah, Enki’s partner in the creation of Adam
Why did Noah build such a humongous maritime vessel that was the size of a stadium? If you are to take Genesis on its word, the raison d’être was to have ample room to accommodate a pair of every creature that existed with a view to perpetuate the species after the flood, which was reckoned to be on such a scale as to destroy virtually every inkling of life. Certainly, estimates of the carrying capacity of the so-called ark – which in truth was a submarine – range from 70,000 to 120,000 animals of the size of a full-grown sheep.
The Sumerian records, which predated Genesis by 2500 years, do attest to creatures being on board the ark but they were in the form of DNA, not in fully-formed physicality. Enki, Ninmah, and Ningishzidda had seen to it that they were packaged in such a way. The notion, therefore, that the ark was designed with a view to accommodate scores of thousands of the animal family just does not wash. So why did Enki conceive of such a colossal submersible vessel?
Once again, the answer can easily be gleaned from the Sumerian records. Enki had anticipated that all the people who would help in the construction of the ark plus their family and friends might opt to come aboard when it was complete. We’re talking in the region of roughly 10,000 people given that Shuruppak was a cult centre and therefore must have been quite populous. Sadly, only a fraction of the craftsmen and their families chose to embark. “Any who to the abode of the lord Enki (Africa) wish to go, let them too aboard come,” Noah appealed to the hundreds of craftsmen who had assisted in the construction effort.
It is part of human nature to dread the unknown and so the overwhelming majority politely declined. Instead, they misguidedly looked forward to a new era of abundance that would be ushered in by Enlil once Noah had set sail for Africa. All they did was help ensure Noah and his family were well-catered to: they donated whatever provisions they could spare to get him to enjoy a hassle-free voyage. “Eager to see Ziusudra (Noah) depart, the townspeople to the boat food and water brought,” Enki relates in Zechariah Sitchin’s The Lost Book of Enki. “From their own mouths sustenance they took; to appease Enlil they were in a hurry! Four-legged animals into the boat were also driven, birds from the field by themselves flew in.”
Enlil, who as yet wasn’t aware Noah was Enki’s son nor that it was Enki who had come up with the idea of a salvavic water-borne vessel, watched indifferently as the ark took shape and as it readied for departure. His carefree attitude stemmed from his sadistic belief that the ark would capsize and all its inhabitants would drown in the raging flood.
ANUNNAKI PREPARE FOR TAKE-OFF
As the countdown to the onset of the Deluge began, Enlil assembled all the Anunnaki at Sippar, the spaceport, to administer to them dispersal instructions. Those destined for planet Nibiru, the rank-and-file Anunnaki, were the first to be briefed. The “celestial boats” (space vehicles) were assigned to them and soon they made their way aboard amid tears of nostalgia and other such sentimental outpourings.
Next were Marduk, the Nefilim (the Igigi who had settled on Earth), and the Anakim (the offspring of the Nefilim and Earthling women). Marduk put it to Enlil that these were his people and he would give them his own dispersal instructions. He accordingly had them airlifted to Mount Hermon, the landing place (airport) in modern-day Lebanon. There, he offered them two choices: either they came with him to Mars or they sought citadel in “distant mountainlands”. Only a few decided to accompany him to Mars: most opted to ride out the Flood right here on Earth as they had fallen in love with the breathtakingly beautiful planet as opposed to the dreary Mars.
The last to be briefed by Enlil were members of his own clan, who included Enki’s second-born son Nergal, who was married to Enlil’s daughter Ereshkigal. Ninurta, Enlil’s firstborn, was assigned to the “mountainlands beyond the oceans” (the Americas) to report on “rumblings”, or earth tremors, if at all. Nergal and Ereshkigal, the meteorological experts, were to keep vigil over Antarctica and alert Enlil on the slightest indication that the Antarctic Ice Sheet was slipping into the sea. Ishkur-Adad, Enlil’s youngest son, was to see to it that Earthlings did not besiege the spaceport as the Anunnaki space vehicles prepared to roar aloft into the inky space.
Utu-Shamash, Enlil’s grandson and the Anunnaki’s lead pilot who was also in charge of the spaceport at Sippar, was to be at the controls of the rocket in which Enlil would head into orbit. The rocket would blast off whilst “showering down a rain of eruptions” as a ceremonial farewell to the planet whose future viability was uncertain in the face of the upcoming Deluge.
Meanwhile, the Nefilim and the Anakim had at the urging of Enki and Marduk spread word amongst the Earthlings in their community that they relocate to higher ground without spelling out the specifics. In the 2012 book Lost Civilizations & Secrets of the Past, P Von Ward writes that, “The Snohomish of the Pacific Northwest say ETs (the Anunnaki) warned their ancestors to ride the coming tide to the mountaintops. More than 500 similar ‘legends’ have been identified worldwide, warning to prepare for survival after a widespread flood.”
On his part, Enki personally took the trouble to inform Noah as to when he should give instructions to set the ark in motion. "When Shamash who orders a trembling at dusk will shower down a rain of eruptions, board thou the ship, button up the entrance!" Given that the royal rocket would launch at dusk and Shuruppak, where Noah was based, was only 180 km south of Sippar, the “rain of eruptions” spewing forth from the Shamash rocket would be more than amply visible to Noah and his submarine crew.
THE DELUGE IS ON
Finally, the die was cast. “For nights before the calamity struck, in the heavens Nibiru as a glowing star was seen,” relates Enki. “Then there was darkness in daytime, and at night the Moon as though by a monster was swallowed. The Earth began to shake, by a netforce (gravity) before unknown it was agitated. Then the sound of a rolling thunder boomed, lightnings the skies lit up. Depart! Depart! Utu to the Anunnaki gave the signal … The Anunnaki lifted up, their rocketships, like torches, setting the land ablaze with their glare …
Crouched in the boats of heaven (rockets), the Anunnaki heavenward were lofted … In Shuruppak, eighteen leagues away (180 km), the bright eruptions by Ninagal were seen.” The Deluge was in progress. The moment he saw the signal by Shamash, Ninagal, Enki’s fifth-born son with his wife Ninki, rushed to get aboard Noah’s ark.
Known as “Lord of the Great Waters”, that is, the seas, he was the Anunnaki’s greatest navigator and superintended over the shipping of ores from the Abzu (Africa) to the Edin in Sumeria. He was to be the lead pilot of the ark. Ninagal brought with him a “cedarwood box of the life essences and life eggs of living creatures”. This was simply a cryogenic tank in which the DNA of animals and even medicinal herbs were kept.
Noah’s children and their wives, his relations and a few hundred craftsmen along with their broader families, embarked too. Altogether, the number of humans on the ark must have been at least a thousand, and not only Noah and his nuclear family unit as Genesis wrongly suggests. Noah was the very last to come board. He was restless, anxious both for his own fate in case something went wrong and the ark broke apart and for that of the rest of mankind who were certain to perish in the great inundation. Says the Sumerian chronicles: "He was in and out (of the ark): he could not sit, could not crouch … His heart was broken: he was vomiting gall.”
The airborne Anunnaki themselves were far from calm and composed. Says Enki: “Though they were prepared for the Deluge, its coming was a frightening experience: the noise of the Deluge set the gods trembling.” The rage of the Deluge is described in bone-chilling detail in the Sumerian texts. Below is one such snippet:
“On that day, on that unforgettable day, the Deluge with a roar began. In the Whiteland (Antarctica), at the Earth's bottom, the Earth's foundations were shaking. Then with a roar to a thousand thunders equal, off its foundations the Ice Sheet slipped: by Nibiru's unseen netforce it was pulled away, into the south sea crashing. One sheet of ice into another Ice Sheet was smashing, the Whiteland's surface like a broken eggshell was crumbling. All at once, a tidal wave arose, the very skies was the wall of waters reaching.
A storm, its ferocity never before seen, at the Earth's bottom began to howl: its winds the wall of water were driving, the tidal wave northward was spreading. Northward was the wall of waters onrushing, the Abzu lands it was reaching. Therefrom toward the settled lands it travelled, the Edin it overwhelmed. When the tidal wave, the wall of waters, Shuruppak reached, the boat of Ziusudra the tidal wave from its moorings lifted, tossed it about: like a watery abyss the boat it swallowed. Though completely submerged, the boat held firm, not a drop of water into it did enter. Outside the storm's wave the people overtook like a killing battle.”
ANUNNAKI WEEP AT CARNAGE OF WATERY ORDEAL
The Deluge had a much more harrowing psychological effect on the Anunnaki who were in orbit in several spacecraft than the humans who were riding in Noah’s submarine. The Anunnaki were watching the disaster in real time on satellite television in their spacecraft. With close-up satellite pictures, they were easily able to assess the extent of the tear-jerking destruction of both property and lives.
Talking of tears, Ninmah, who had a direct role in the creation of mankind by way of genetic engineering, was inconsolable, with Inanna-Ishtar, Enlil’s granddaughter, no less so. Say the Sumerian texts: “The Mother Goddess herself, Ninhursag (Ninmah), was shocked by the utter devastation. She bewailed what she was seeing: the Goddess saw and she wept … Her lips were covered with feverishness … My creatures have become like flies, she mourned. They have filled the rivers like dragonflies, their fatherhood taken by the rolling sea."
Inanna “cried out like a woman in travail: the olden days are alas turned to clay,” she whimpered. In his spacecraft, Enki turned off the live feed and buried his face into his hands, his tears as copious as the very floods that had swallowed up his own creation. Ninmah asked herself: why did she have to save her own life when mankind, who she had helped usher into existence, was being devoured by this molten inferno-like flood?
Enlil’s emotions are not documented but from the little that is said about his reaction, it seems he was more concerned about the damage wrought to Earth itself than to mankind as he had to begin life anew on the same wrecked planet. Meanwhile, the flood was on a roll. It was like the world had come to an end altogether and a brand new earth was in the offing. “The Moon disappeared,” says the inscriptions on Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets. “The rains roared in the clouds; the winds became savage. The Deluge set out, its might came upon the people like a battle … It bellowed like a bull: the winds whinnied like a wild ass. The darkness was dense; the Sun could not be seen.”
All the while, Noah’s ark kept afloat, wholly intact: the furious flood had no deleterious effect upon it whatsoever. Why did it hold up amidst the tumultuous waters? Says one expert: “The interesting thing about Noah’s ark is that its construction was on a 1:6 ratio. Naval architecture reveals that this is the most stable ratio for an ocean-going vessel. It could have easily survived even big ocean waves and would be next to impossible to capsize.” The incomparable Enki deserves plaudits for having mathematically taken such ramifications into account when he hunched over his desk to design the vessel.
Yet for all his brilliance, Enki had underestimated the duration of the inundation. It lasted not days or weeks but months. Because of this miscalculation, the Anunnaki had seriously undercut themselves in their rations. As such, when hunger hit, it did so with a vengeance, as if it was the price the Anunnaki had to pay for abandoning mankind to a most sudden and all-consuming demise. “The gods cowered like dogs … The Anunnaki, great gods, were sitting in thirst, in hunger … They sat weeping; crouching like sheep at a trough. Their lips were feverish of thirst, they were suffering cramp from hunger.”
NOAH OFFERS THANKSGIVING SACRIFICE TO ENKI AS DELUGE CONCLUDES
The Deluge was at the peak of its rage for five months. Thereafter, the waters began to recede. At that point, Noah instructed the submarine navigator Ninagal to set course for Mount Ararat in today’s Armenia. Mount Ararat was the highest altitude in that region. The vessel sailed for 2 months and 17 days before it came to rest on what Noah would come to term the “The Mountain of Salvation”. As the waters continued to subside, other mountain peaks became visible on the “11th day of the 10th month” according to Sumerian records, that is, about three months later.
During the next 40 days, Noah continued to assess the situation from within the ark using dashboard instruments, assisted by past navigational master Ninagal. Then he released a raven, a swallow and a dove to help signal whether the waters had diminished to ground level. During the first two days, the three birds returned “empty-handed”, which suggested the ground was still water-logged and the vegetation was still submerged.
But on the third day, the dove returned with an olive twig clipped in its mouth – a sign that the world was almost wholly habitable, that climatic peace was about fully restored. This is the origin of the English phrase “extend an Olive branch”, meaning offer terms of peace. The next time Noah sent out the dove, it went for good. The Deluge was over.
It was at this juncture that Noah disembarked from the ark. This was exactly one year and ten months since the Deluge began. “Opening the watertight hatch, from the boat Ziusudra emerged,” say the Sumerian records. “The sky was clear, the Sun was shining, a gentle wind was blowing. Hurriedly upon his spouse and children he to come out called.”
The first thing Noah decided to do was to pay tribute to Enki, who alone had made it possible for all who were in the ark to survive the Deluge. “The lord Enki let us praise,” he said. “To him thanks give!” Then reinforced by his sons, he gathered rocks and built an altar. “A fire on the altar he lit, with aromatic incense he made a fire. A ewe-lamb, one without blemish, for a sacrifice he selected. And upon the altar to Enki the ewe-Iamb as a sacrifice he offered.”
Meanwhile, the Anunnaki could not contemplate the totality of the destruction. It was horrendous and unconscionable. Writes Zechariah Sitchin: “The Deluge had ‘swept over’, and an effort of 120 shars (432,000 years) was wiped away overnight. The south African mines, the cities in Mesopotamia, the control centre at Nippur, the spaceport at Sippar – all lay buried under water and mud. Hovering in their shuttlecraft above devastated Earth, the Anunnaki pantheon impatiently awaited the abatement of the waters so that they could set foot again on solid ground. How were they going to survive henceforth on Earth when their cities and facilities were gone, and even their manpower – Mankind – was totally destroyed?”
At an economically tumultuous juncture of our country’s history as we presently are, where unemployment has become something of a Gordian Knot conundrum, a promisingly ameliorational pursuit known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is well worth exploring as a salvavic option.
One pundit defines BPO as “a subset of outsourcing that involves contracting the operations and responsibilities for a particular business process to a third-party service provider.” Examples of BPO services, which invariably do not constitute a company’s core or primary mission, include inbound and outbound call centres, live chat, bookkeeping, web development, research marketing, accounting and finance, and after-hours call answering services. BPO is driven, fundamentally, by the imperative of cost-cutting and overrides national boundaries through the employment and deployment of technologies that make human and data communications easier, thus lending credence to the concept of the global village that is today’s world.
BPO had been in existence in its primordial form since as early as the 19th century but it was not until the 1980s that its latter-day incarnation loomed larger and the term outsourcing became part of daily business parlance. Today, every continent is into BPO, including the economic Dark Horse called Africa. The Global IT-BPO Outsourcing Deals Analysis segments BPO buyer regions into three categories. These are North and South America (42 percent); Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (35 percent); and Asia and Oceania 23 percent.
In a Third World country such as Botswana, overseas-oriented BPO is key to bringing in those paramount hard currencies besides engendering a radical turnaround in the all too dingy joblessness picture. But are we up to it folks? Have we gotten aboard the bandwagon or we are virtual spectators watching nonchalantly as the BPO locomotive streaks away at breakneck speed?
JAX’S FLASH-IN-THE-PAN SUCCESS
The extent to which BPO has taken root in Botswana is not apparent. The first time I heard of it was in August 2007, when the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), then going by the name Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), put it on record at a one-day IFSC-organised conference that they were in the process of developing standards for the nascent BPO industry in Botswana whilst they benchmarked with Mauritius, the UK, and South Africa. Little, if anything at all, has been heard of their progress since.
In February 2018, The Botswana Guardian reported of the newly-established Direct BPO, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mascom, which was looking to employing 400 people at the very outset. Once again, details as to how Direct BPO, whose establishment coincided with Mascom’s 20-year anniversary, has fared to date remain sketchy.
Perhaps the most spectacular case of a BPO operation in Botswana was that of Oseg, a company begun by Majakathata Pheko, affectionately known as Jax, in 2003 under the Debtsolve franchise umbrella. Oseg, which comprised of three divisions, offered customer management and financial services solutions and operated out of Gaborone and Windhoek in Namibia, where it touted MTN as its principal client. Oseg did receivable management for local financial blue chips such as Barclays Bank, FNB, Bayport, MVA, Botswana Insurance Company, Letshego, and Standard Chartered, and in due course CEDA and Mascom. It also served the Australian offshore market. Its account receivable division was the biggest in Botswana, handling over 60,000 accounts and managing a portfolio of over P400 million.
At its height, Oseg employed 150 people and had spent over P15 million on cutting edge technology and manpower training. In 2007, Oseg was nominated for Best Non-European Contact Centre at the CCF Awards held that year in Birmingham, UK, the “Oscars of the industry”.
Then in 2016, the sky seemed to have fallen. Oseg found itself saddled with an odious P4.4 million debt, with its staff resultantly trimmed to just under 50. According to media reports, Jax pointed to his own bankrollers and their partners in the alleged crime as his rather devious saboteurs. “I have evidence that powerful people in the bank and a cabal of friends both inside and outside the bank were intentionally and aggressively looking for ways to weaken Oseg, tarnish its name and diminish its value as they were in the same competing business interests, in the call centre and the factoring business,” the then youthful entrepreneur, who was only 41 at the time, bemoaned.
Jax reported the matter to NBFIRA and what came of that, not to mention the continued viability of his business, I have not been able to establish. I just hope and trust that Jax personally weathered the tempest as I have it on good authority that he is doing fairly well.
BOTSWANA MISSING OUT ON DOLLAR-DENOMINATED BILLIONS
For emerging economies, and even peripheral Third World countries, the BPO business can be something of a gold mine. According to the latest McKinsey report, the global BPO industry is valued at $163 billon and is expected to grow at $183 billion by the year 2023.
In the Philippines, BPO, which began with a call centre setup way back in 1992, accounts for 11 percent of GDP, the single biggest contributor to the nation’s economic activity. It employs 1.3 million people in over 700 outsourcing companies. One company, called Teleperformance, alone employs 47,000 people in 21 sites. In 2019, the BPO sector generated revenues of the order of $26.3 billion.
In India, the BPO sector, now 30 years old, provides direct employment to 2 million people and indirect employment to 8 million. In 2019, the BPO income overall amounted to $8.6 billon. In Mauritius, the ICT/BPO sector contributed 6 percent to GDP in 2019, representing a key driver of the Mauritian economy. The BPO sector is responsible for 53 percent of the 27,000 people employed in the ICT/BPO superstructure in 850 companies.
According to the Economic Development Board of Mauritius, leading multinationals such as Accenture, Huawei, Aspen Pharmacare and Allianz have back office operations in Mauritius. In addition, a number of international payroll companies currently use Mauritius as a service delivery centre.
Kenya is also looking to position itself as a hub for global digital BPO, notably through government promotion schemes such as Ajira. According to the ITC Authority of Kenya, the market size for online work was estimated to be $4.8 billion in 2016 and was projected to generate $15 billon by 2020. With only 7000 people employed in the BPO industry in the country, we are talking about a modest figure though it is still brisk compared to the rather lugubrious situation in Botswana. Clearly, there are billions in US dollar terms to be had in BPO and we are missing out on these big time.
MZANZI LEAVES BW IN THE DUST
Yet it is Big Brother next door from whom we have precious much to glean as he is our immediate competitor potentially in the BPO race. Remember, if our IFSC continues to flounder to date, it is largely on account of the fact that in Mzansi, we have a formidable rival right on our doorstep.
As we speak, the South African BPO sector is valued at $461 million going by the invariably authoritative McKinsey survey. It employs 270,000 people in six cities, a figure projected to more than double to 775,000 by 2030. Of the current total staff base, 65,000 serve international clients. That South Africa has made such enormous strides in the BPO arena is meritoriously earned and not simply fortuitous. It has been voted the second most attractive BPO location in the world for three years on the trot.
The South African BPO sector is tipped to grow by 3 percent per annum over the next three years, a rate which is in line with the trends in the global BPO space. There are currently over 100 local and international BPO providers operating in South Africa, with local players in the main serving large multinational customers. The industry’s key offshore business clientele is domiciled in English-speaking countries, notably the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, with 61 percent coming from the United Kingdom, 18 percent from the United States and Canada, and 11 percent from Australia.
In June this year, the $1.5 trillion-strong Amazon announced that it would be signing up a total of 3000 South Africans to help cater to its customers in North America and Europe, which is testament to the fact that the country’s BPO market continues to make waves in the Western world. If Jeff Bizos is impressed, you can count on the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit too sooner rather than later.
A FORGONE OPPORTUNITY TO TURBO-CHARGE THE BPO INDUSTRY IN BOTSWANA
Empowerment Africa is an organisation that boasts a business network that enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long-term value with Africa-based projects. With reportedly 3000 esteemed contacts, it liaises with governments, major corporations, and investors to facilitate business opportunities, deliver deal flow, and provide research across its network to the Empower Africa business community.
Empowerment Africa recommends seven countries in Africa with thriving outsourcing industries. They are Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, and Madagascar in that order. Botswana is conspicuous by its absence and that must be ample cause for concern to our Monetary Authorities, especially given that at least on paper, we are economically better off than three to four of these countries.
In 2015, Jax approached the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and propositioned a joint partnership with Oseg in unlocking BPO potential in Botswana by looking at the public sector Debt Collection and Call Centre services for government. Jax reckoned that the total market for Receivables and Revenue collections sitting in Government and Parastatal organisations at the time amounted to over P3.5 billion, equivalent to 8% of the National Budget then. If the BPO sector was to be utilised to assist in collecting this debt, over 2700 jobs would be created.
Furthermore, considering that a typical government employee spent half the time attending to inquiries from members of the public, the exercise would result in improved efficiency delivery in government departments in addition to boosting government’s liquidity position.
This is what Jax said in a 50th independence anniversary publication in 2016 on the same subject. “Our estimations are that once all the collections work is outsourced, there is a potential to collect more than P100 million every month for the Government of Botswana.
The opportunity to create more than 2700 exists, which will help to mop out unemployed graduates and upskill them. The economic impact of 2700 jobs would support more than 15,000 people in the economy and also help to create jobs in other industries that support the BPO sector, and will stimulate the whole ICT sector. Over and above that, the outsourcing would stimulate the whole IT sector and help improve Botswana’s position as an ICT and Call Centre hub.”
Once again, I am not privy to what came of this proposition, but I am persuaded that had government acceded to it, the BPO business in the country would have quantum-leaped and we would today be waltzing on the proverbial Cloud 9 in terms of revenues generated. Even the road retarder Oseg encountered with its bankers would not have been a factor at all. As significant, we would in all probability have made it on Empowerment Africa’s short list for the continent’s pre-eminent BPO addresses.
THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF GOVERNMENT IN BOOSTING BPO FORTUNES
Granted, with the advent of the still latent E-Governance, the synergic potential with the Call Centre business is stupendous. As per Jax’s pitch to those who care to hear, “The outsourcing of the E-Governance and collections will greatly improve efficiency in service delivery in the government departments. Directing traffic and enquiries to a Call Centre would empower the BPO sector in such a way that would be able to help the public from all over the country from one central point 24 hours and 7 days week.
The Call Centres would also relieve Government of the pressure to develop brick and mortar representations/offices across the country. This would help to save billions of Pula as the public will be able to access the services from the comfort of their homes and villages. The Call Centre service would bridge the urban and rural division as everyone will now be able to access Government services and receive the same service.”
The real jackpot both to government and the broader citizenry, however, resides in the offshore market. With sales cycles in the BPO business taking up to 12 months, contracts typically run from five to seven years, which is sustained lucrativeness by any measure. It is in the direction of the overseas market that much of our energy should be focused, though wary that we do not recklessly neglect the domestic market, if we are to reinvigorate the BPO industry and get meaningful returns out of it.
Developed countries are all the more keen to outsource as one way to insulate their economies against severe hurt inflicted by globalwide economic tremors. For instance, it was thanks to offshore outsourcing that Australia so ably navigated the 2008 economic crisis. That year, IBM released a BPO report showing that 80% of Australian companies were willing to outsource from offshore companies to save 50% in expenses.
Here in Botswana, I would recommend that government be in the BPO vanguard by splashing on a whole host of catalytic factors. In South Africa, for instance, the Department of Industry, Trade and Competition devoted R1.3 billion between 2007 and 2018 to bolstering the BPO industry in one way or the other and committed a further R1.2 billion in 2019 alone, gestures which no doubt underlie the solid performance of the industry.
Even when the lockdowns were in progress, the industry was accorded essential services status so that it kept the momentum going. As if not to be outdone, the South African BPO industry body, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), has commendably done its part in aiding the growth of the industry by supporting skills development, sharing best practice, and providing its members with access to other business networks and associations that drive and influence the sector’s transition into the digital economy. In Mauritius, the Prime Minister himself, and not a man of lesser stature, directly oversees the BPO sector.
For Botswana to make a mark in the BPO arena, it has to build a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality destination for outsourced business services, attributes all of which South Africa excels in. In addition, South African BPO players provide higher-quality services owing to strength across five key areas: availability of skills, infrastructure, risk profile, business environment, and industry size. In Botswana, we will need to nurture some of these strengths with the instrumentality of government.
With the advent of COVID-19, it is of essence that traditional BPO providers build capabilities to enable rapid deployment and ramp-up of fully functional teams under crisis scenarios. Operational resilience, that is, the ability to pivot when an ordinarily disruptive set of circumstances hits, is key. South Africa demonstrated this capacity most eloquently when 90 percent of the workforce was able to switch to remote work in residential settings, when 50 percent of operations in key competing locations such as the Philippines and India came to a virtual standstill.
Lastly but by no means the least, a competitive currency is a reasonably efficacious undercutting strategy. In recent months, the South African Rand has significantly weakened against the US dollar, in which the cost of outsourcing is typically denominated, and this has enabled South African BPOs to compete more effectively with Asian offerings.
It concerns me that last year, the Pula appreciated by 1.6 percent against the SDR (Special Drawing Right), which is a compound of five currencies, namely the US dollar, the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Yuan. If that relatively ripped Pula trajectory persists, it will not help our BPO competitiveness at all Rre Moses Pelaelo.
Mighty Persian King ends Babylonian exile after 60 years
For all his euphoria and grandiose preparations for Nibiru King Anu’s prospective visit to Earth, General Atiku, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t live to savour this potentially highly momentous occasion. In fact, none of his next three bloodline successors were destined to witness up-close the return of the Planet of the Gods, as Nibiru was referred to in Sumerian and Egyptian chronicles.
Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, having ruled for 43 years, missing Nibiru, which showed up circa 550 BC as we set down in The Earth Chronicles series, by a whisker. During the next 6 years, he had three successors in such an unconscionably short period of time. His immediate one was Merodach, his eldest son.
In Botswana, the Trade Disputes Act, 2016 (“the Act”) provides the framework within which trade disputes are resolved. This framework hinges on four legs, namely mediation, arbitration, industrial action and litigation. In this four-part series, we discuss this framework.
In last week’s article, we discussed the third leg of Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework-industrial action. In this article, we discuss the fourth leg, namely litigation at the Industrial Court. The Act does not define the term litigation. Litigation is generally understood to mean a situation where parties to a trade dispute take their dispute to a court, in this case the Industrial Court, for determination by a judge.
Just like an arbitrator, a judge’s decision is binding on the parties though they can, of course, appeal it. However, while an arbitrator must be acceptable to both parties, a judge does not have to be acceptable to the parties. A party can, however, apply for the judges’ recusal from the case for such reasons as reasonable apprehension of bias.
Before discussing litigation at the Industrial Court, it is apposite that a brief background of the origins and evolution of the Industrial Court be given. The original Trade Disputes Act (No. 19/1982) provided for disputes to be adjudicated, inter alia, by a Permanent Arbitrator. This is confirmed in Veronica Moroka & 2 Others v The Attorney General and Another, Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. CACGB-121-17 at para 11.
The Industrial Court replaced the institution of the Permanent Arbitrator (Dingake Collective Labour Law in Botswana 23) following the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act (No. 23/1997) which, as confirmed in the Veronica Moroka case supra, came into force on 9 October 1997.
As per Kirby JP, in the Veronica Moroka case supra, the Industrial Court’s status “as a court was uncertain and no provision was made for it to be served by a Registrar, with the usual powers and duties of such office”.
The Court of Appeal, in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo and Others, 1996 BLR 763 CA, remedied this defect. It held that the Industrial Court was not a mere statutory tribunal, but was, in line with Section 127(1) of the Constitution of Botswana, a subordinate court, having limited jurisdiction.
Following the change of the definition of subordinate court by Act 2/2002 to exclude the Industrial Court, along with the Court of Appeal, the High Court and a court martial, the Industrial Court became a superior court, albeit still with limited jurisdiction unlike the High Court, for instance, which has inherent unlimited jurisdiction.
Consequently, appeals from the Industrial Court were referred to the Court of Appeal. Perhaps most significantly, according to Veronica Moroka, Industrial Court judges were now, just like High Court judges, protected by, inter alia, security of tenure.
The Trade Disputes Act was further amended and replaced by the Trade Disputes Act, 2003 which commenced on 6 April 2004 as Act No. 15 of 2004. Section 16(8) of this Act provided for the appointment of the Registrar and an Assistant Registrar, but still had no section clothing them with specific powers.
It, through section 20(3), also bestowed, in the Court, the power to hear urgent applications and, in terms of section 18(1), the power to grant interdicts, thereby remedying the defects identified in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo & Others supra, but it still had no provision dealing with writs of execution and sales flowing therefrom.
In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, the Industrial Court’s jurisdiction includes the power to hear and determine all trade disputes except disputes of interest as well as, in terms of section 20(1) (b) of the Act, the power to interdict any unlawful industrial action and to grant general interdicts, declaratory orders or interim orders.
In terms of section 20(1) (c) of the Act, the Industrial Court is also clothed with the power to hear appeals and reviews of the decisions of mediators and arbitrators respectively. It, in terms of section 20(1) (d) of the Act, has the power to direct the Commissioner to assign a mediator to mediate a dispute if it is of the opinion that the matter has not been properly mediated or requires further mediation.
In terms of section 20(1) (e) of the Act, the Industrial Court also has the power to direct the Commissioner to refer a dispute that is before the Court for arbitration. In terms of section 20(1) (f) of the Act, it has the power to refer any matter to an expert and, at the Court’s discretion, to accept the expert’s report as evidence in the proceedings.
The Industrial Court also has the power to give such directions to parties to a trade dispute provided the object of such directions is the expedient and just hearing and determination or disposal of any dispute before it.
In terms of section 20(2) of the Act, any matter of law and any question as to whether a matter for determination is a matter of law or a matter of fact is decided by the presiding judge. In terms of section 20(3) of the Act, with respect to all issues other than those referred to under section 20 (2), the decision of the majority of the Court prevails.
Where there is no majority decision under section 20 (3), the decision of the judge prevails. In terms of section 24(2) of the Act, any interested party in any proceedings under the Act may appear by legal representation or may be represented by any other person so authorised by that party.
In terms of section 28(2) of the Act, a decision of the Industrial Court has the same force and effect as a decision of the High Court, and because, unlike South Africa, Botswana has no Labour Appeal Court, decisions of the Industrial Court, just like those of the High Court, are, in terms of section 20(5) of the Act, appealable to the highest court in the land, that is, the Court of Appeal.
The Trade Disputes Act went through another amendment in 2016. Section 14 of the Act ensures the continuation of the Industrial Court. It outlines its functions as the settlement of trade disputes as well as the securing and maintenance of good industrial relations in Botswana.
In terms of section 15(1) of the Act, the judges of the Industrial Court are appointed by the state President from among persons possessing the qualifications to be judges of the High Court as prescribed under section 96 of the Constitution.
In terms of section 15(2) of the Act, these judges are headed by the President of the Industrial Court designated by the state President from among the judges.
In terms of section 15(4) of the Act, a judge of the Industrial Court who is not a citizen of Botswana or who is not appointed on permanent and pensionable terms may be appointed on contract basis and is eligible for reappointment.
In terms of section 15(5) of the Act, Judges of the Industrial Court sit with two nominated members, one of whom is selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employees or trade unions in Botswana and the other selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employers in Botswana.
In terms of section 15(6) of the Act, where, for any reason, the nominated members are or either of them is absent for any part of the hearing of a trade dispute, the jurisdiction of the court may be exercised by the judge alone or with the remaining member of the Court, whichever the case may be, unless the judge, for good reason, decides that the hearing should be postponed.
In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, An Industrial Court judge vacates office on attaining the age of 70 years, provided that the state President may permit him or her to continue in office for such period as may be necessary to enable him or her to deliver judgment or to do any other thing in relation to proceedings that had commenced before him or her.
In terms of section 18(2) of the Act, in accordance with the provisions of the proviso to section 96(6) of the Constitution, a person appointed to act as an Industrial Court judge vacates that office on attaining the age of 75 years.
In terms of section 19(1) (a) and (b) of the Act, an Industrial Court judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office, whether arising from infirmity of body or mind, or from any other cause or for serious misconduct.
In terms of section 19(2) of the Act, the power to remove an Industrial Court judge from office vests in the state President acting in accordance with the procedure provided under section 97 of the Constitution for the removal of High Court judges.
*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or firstname.lastname@example.org