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Long live the spirit of QKJ Masire, long live!

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)
BCP Deputy Leader

 

As the country was trying to recover from the shock of losing Patrick Van Rensburg who was an education icon and revolutionary another educationist and political giant fell. To many Batswana the passing of former President Sir Quett Ketumile Jonnie Masire was untimely. This is because it was never in the public domain that he was sickly despite his advanced age. The timing of his death was quite unfortunate.

The country needed him most as we navigate through unchartered waters of excessive looting by those delegated to manage the country’s resources on behalf of citizens.  His voice of reason shall be missed. We still remember very vividly his parting shot over the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) captioned by a newspaper headline “You’re destroying our country.”  In the Setswana culture the word of the late former President Masire is the unwritten law which must be respected.
 

In 1965 Masire was a Member of the first Parliament at the age of 40 years. He was one of the youngest Members of Parliament. At the age of 41 years Sir Ketumile became the first Vice President of the Republic of Botswana and the first Minister responsible for economic planning which was later re-named Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).  When he assumed the office of president of Botswana in 1980 Masire was 55 years.
 

It is worth noting that there are three remaining political veterans who were in the first parliament in 1966. These are Orbert Chilume from Nkange, Kenneth Nkhwa in the North East and Gaerolwe Kwerepe from Ngamiland. The transition from Seretse Khama to Masire was a historical milestone. This is because he was taking over from a charismatic leader who was admired and highly respected as the father of modern day Botswana.

Coming from the royal family of Bamangwato ethnic group had a significant contribution to Seretse Khama’s popularity.  On the other hand Masire was a commoner from Gangwaketsi.  At the time of Khama’s demise Batswana were still rooted in the traditional Bogosi system of governance. Obviously there was anxiety about the future of Botswana under the leadership of a commoner. 
 

Within no time it was clear that under Sir Ketumile’s stewardship Botswana continued to enjoy peace and tranquillity. Multi-party democracy was consolidated and enriched during his time as President of the Republic of Botswana. He ran a truly inclusive system of democracy where the contribution of the opposition and those associated with it were recognized and highly appreciated. 
 

Under his leadership Botswana introduced a consultative institution called All-Party Conference (APC). It was a crucial forum that allowed political leaders to exchange ideas to nurture our democracy.  Rre Masire listened to all sections of the society irrespective of political affiliation. Hence the most transformative electoral reforms were introduced under Rre Masire. These include the introduction of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), external voting, and reducing the voting age from 21 to 18 years.
 

Masire was one of the few remaining founders of the Republic of Botswana. He contributed immensely in laying a solid foundation based on constitutionalism and the rule of law. At the time of Botswana’s attainment of independence from the British rule Southern Africa was predominantly ruled by white racist minority regimes and one-party independent states. However, the founding leaders in their wisdom broke ranks and introduced multi-party democracy, which earned Botswana the title of “a shining example of democracy”.

The founding leaders instilled tolerance in political discourse, a trait that sets Botswana miles apart from the rest of most African countries.  Today the relationship between politicians from the ruling party and the opposition is one between opponents and not enemies.   In fact Masire believed that every Motswana has the potential to be President of the Republic of Botswana.
 

Another feature of pre-independence Africa was the existence of independent ethnic groups. In a few African countries political conflicts were a result of divided nations along ethnic lines. It is against this background that Masire and the founding leaders of Botswana prioritized National Unity as one of the key national principles. Everything they pursued was meant to promote unity.  Hence Setswana was introduced as a national language at the exclusion of other languages to unite the people of Botswana.  Whether this was a wise move in the context of promotion of mother tongue as a medium of instruction is a debate for another day.

 

During the early days of Botswana another strategy used to unite the country was to strike a balance between the North and South. The result of this was that when a President comes from the North the position of Vice President should be occupied by someone from the South. Seretse Khama who originated from the North was deputized by Rre Masire from the South. When Masire became the Head of State in 1980 his Vice President was Lenyeletse Seretse from the North.

 

Another issue that divided some African countries often resulting in civil wars was ethnically biased distribution of national resources. For this reason the founding fathers decided that all natural resources and mineral rights belonged to the state to be shared equitably. Whether this has been satisfactorily accomplished is a matter for another time.  

 

Sir Ketumile used to say that their intention was to set high standards for the rest to follow. As Minister of Finance he ushered in the first balanced budget in 1973 followed by budget surpluses in subsequent years. Hence Botswana received accolades on account of financial prudence. It may be argued that budget surpluses were a result of poor implementation which remained a challenge for decades. Part of the reason for a surplus budget could be attributable to the conservative budgetary approach adopted by MFDP under the leadership of Masire.

 

 Under his charge Botswana successfully introduced the Botswana currency in 1976 replacing the South African Rand. Prior to the Rand, pre-independence Botswana or Bechuanaland as it was called was using the British Pound.  It is for this reason that Seretse Khama used the occasion of 1969 dissolution of parliament to shower Rre Masire with praises for doing a sterling job in managing the national coffers.

 

It was not all smooth sailing for Rre Masire as he faced many challenges during his long service to the nation. Due to limited space one can only enumerate a few examples. One of the early tests to his leadership and negotiation skills was the violent strike at BCL Mine in Selibe Phikwe. He had been despatched by President Seretse Khama on a mission to deal with the crisis that entailed addressing an angry crowd of striking BCL Mine workers.

 

There were physical threats to Vice President Masire which angered President Seretse Khama. It would later emerge that had Seretse Khama been the one who had gone to Selibe Phikwe the state security forces would have been unleashed to disperse the striking miners by force.  If this had happened there was bound to be casualties. Frequent cross border attacks by South African security forces killing innocent citizens and South African refugees gave Rre Masire sleepless nights.

 

The Sedudu crisis brought Botswana and Namibia close to military confrontation. Rre Masire was at the centre of ensuring that the crisis was peacefully defused. I cannot imagine what the country and the sub-region would have gone through had the crisis happened during today’s trigger happy and erratic political leadership. Political icons like Sir Ketumile Masire, Kgalemang Motsete, Philip Matente, Motsamai Mpho and Kenneth Koma deserve national monuments to honour them for their huge contribution to peace and tranquillity which we all enjoy today.  There is no doubt that these were true patriots.
 

Long Live The Spirit of Sir Ketumile Masire, Long Live!

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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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