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BDP Youth League deserves praise on EVMs!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

According to the Botswana Gazette’s edition of 6th June 2017, the Botswana Democratic Party Youth League (BDPYL)’s National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC) has resolved that its Chairman, Simon Mavange, informs the party’s Central Committee (CC) of its opposition to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Not only that. The NYEC is reported to have expressed discomfort, even outrage, at the fact that there are some in the BDP leadership who are so reckless as to make unpopular propositions, putting the party on a back foot.  Reportedly, the NYEC has decried this, stating that the party cannot afford such gaffes, especially in view of the 2019 general elections, where, for the first time in the country’s electoral history, the BDP’s victory is not certain.

This uncertainty is caused by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s admirable performance in the 2014 general elections as well as its continued growth, especially that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has finally joined it. Indeed, the NYEC deserves commendation for reminding its mother body that it should respect the will of Batswana who have, across the political divide, spoken in unison in condemnation of the BDP’s introduction of EVMs.

In this day and era where such party structures as the Youth Leagues and Women’s Wing have become stooges of the party leadership and seldom challenge party resolutions for fear of being victimized and sidelined, it is commendable for the NYEC to have taken such a decision.

Next door in South Africa, we have seen the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) led by Collen Maine supporting President Jacob Zuma despite such scandals as Nkandla, the Spy Tapes and the current state capture by the Gupta family. Obviously in an effort to be assured of political protection after Zuma’s term ends in 2019, or his early retirement in 2018 as it has been reported, the ANCYL is now supporting Zuma’s ex-wife, Dr. Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, to succeed Zuma ahead of Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa.     

No doubt, in making the resolution, the NYEC members should have been aware of the possible ramification to their political careers, but they, or at least the majority of them, have put country above party and resolved to speak truth to power. This is what Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings are meant to do. They are meant to provide checks and balances in the party and provide alternative views when the party wanders into the wilderness.

Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings who, because of personal political ambitions, fail to bring the party to account have no place in our democracy. Cardinal to the democratic project is strong inner party democracy, an ideal which Youth Leagues and Women’s Wings should strive to promote.  

There is no doubt that if the BDP goes ahead with the use of EVMs in the 2019 general elections it would have betrayed many Batswana, including some of its own current and former leaders. Former president Sir Ketumile Masire, for example, is on record advising the BDP to desist from introducing EVMs.

Given his democratic credentials, I have no doubt in my mind that our founding father, the late Sir Seretse Khama, would be opposed to EVMs. He would be the first to know that though they have the advantage of returning results quickly, they pose a danger to our peace and stability because of their lack of reliability. Former cabinet minister and longtime BDP Secretary General, Daniel Kwelagobe, has also joined the thousands of Batswana, including some in the BDP, who have argued that the BDP’s decision to introduce EVMs is ill-advised and poses a threat to our democracy.

Though as Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane is obliged to defend the party position with respect to the EVMs, knowing his liberal thinking, I am convinced that he too is personally opposed to EVMs, at least with respect to the manner in which it was introduced. I am also certain that there are many more BDP stalwarts who are opposed to EVMs, but have not expressed themselves publicly for fear of political reprisal and being accused of wanting to rule from the grave.

The NYEC is, therefore, not alone in pleading with the BDP to abandon the EVM project. Over and above the condemnation from these stalwarts, there are reports that even the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) itself has, in its report following a bench marking visit to Namibia, noted the pitfalls posed by EVMs. Not only that. According to the reports, the IEC did not, in its report, make a recommendation for the use of EVMs.

If this is true, the BDP’s credibility is brought into question because the party’s Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, was quoted in Sunday Standard’s 21st May 2017 edition saying “I can confidently tell you that the BDP did not initiate the EVM…” He further stated that “… during the BDP National Council we invited the IEC to come and make presentations about these EVMs…. Delegates asked questions about the EVMs and the President…. stated to the delegates that the BDP did not initiate the EVMs.”

The fact that the NYEC’s resolution is targeted at the BDP and not the IEC proves that the NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is not the IEC which initiated the use of EVMs since it is the BDP which, through the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance & Public Administration, Honourable Eric Molale, tabled the Bill in Parliament.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is the BDP and not the IEC which, under the cover of darkness, used the certificate of urgency procedure to table the Bill, effectively denying opposition MPs and Batswana the opportunity to debate the Bill and expose its malafides.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that it is the BDP government which has allocated funds for use by the IEC in the implementation of the EVM project. They know that the IEC is not independent from government in as far as funding and administration are concerned.

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, and as Ntuane admitted that there was no need to rush the Bill through a certificate of urgency. He has been quoted as saying “we recognize that the passage of this Bill into a law was a bit controversial. Perhaps things could have been done differently. The elections are three years away. Was there need to rush the Bill really…?  

The NYEC knows, as many Batswana do, that if the BDP government wants it can use its Parliamentary majority to repeal the Act which introduced EVMs, bringing an end to the divisions currently obtaining among our people.  Some issues are so integral to our democracy and national security that we should all put our political differences aside and act in the public interest to champion them. Opposition to EVMs is one such issue, hence the need to commend the NYEC for championing it despite the political risks attendant thereto.

One can only hope that the NYEC will go beyond presenting its position on EVMs to the CC, but will, if the CC refuses to listen to Batswana, take the matter to the forthcoming party congress and lobby party members to vote against it. By so doing, the NYEC will not only be acting in the best interest of the country, but will also be acting in the BDP’s best interests since if the BDP abandons the EVM project, it may be saved from losing the votes of some who would vote against it in 2019 in protest to the EVM project.

The Women’s Wings is implored to rise above personal and sectarian interests and join the NYEC’s efforts to save the BDP from wandering further into the wilderness. Clearly, the NYEC, Masire, Kwelagobe and so many other Batswana cannot all be wrong.

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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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