… but it was not a stairway-to-heaven tower block: it was a rocket-launch tower
The astrological Age of Taurus lasted from 4380 to 2220 BC. Taurus was an Enlilite age, an age in which Enlil, the Bible’s Jehovah/Yahweh, and his brood were mandated to rule. If you recall, Galzu, who King Anu had exposed as a fraud but whose ordinances he declared binding anyway, had stipulated that the Enlilites were to rule Earth for the first three ages after Leo, that is, Cancer, Gemini, and Taurus, which amounted to a mathematical total of 6480 years (a zodiacal age spans 2160 years mathematically), or just under two shars. Taurus was therefore the last age Enlil/Enlilites would exercise supremacy over Earth, after which Marduk/Enkites would take over in the Age of Aries.
Taurus, symbolised by a bull, was in particular dedicated to Enlil himself, the reason why he was known as “The Bull of Heaven”. In 3760 BC, Enlil introduced the world’s first calendar. This was exactly 3600 years – a shar, amounting to 1 year on Nibiru – after the year of the Deluge and exactly 40 years (in honour of Enki, whose rank was 40 and who had tabled the idea of bringing civilisation to mankind) since King Anu had so decreed.
Numerologically, the number 3760 added up to 7, the celestial number of Earth, which was Enlil’s celestial counterpart as the planet’s Chief Executive. The calendar, called the Nippurian calendar since it was announced at Nippur, Enlil’s cult city, was a compromise between the lunar year and the solar year. It comprised of 12 lunar months totalling 354 days (29.5 multiplied by 12) plus 11 days, which brought the number of days in a year to 365 days. To date, the Jews follow the Nippurian calendar: as such, to them the base year, or year 0, is 3760 BC. Resultantly, the year 2017 in Israel is year 5776.
Now, kingship had been conferred on Earthlings by King Anu, with the first human king post-the- Deluge being Nimrod, who ruled in Kish, which was designated as the pilot city-state for human kingship. However, Enlil had decreed that Sumerian kingship was not going to be the preserve of only one city-state: it was going to rotate from city-state to city-state after a certain, appropriate period of time. Kish would be the incipient seat of the human king, followed by Uruk and Ur respectively. The problem was that all these three cities were power centres of Enlilites, a state of affairs that did not sit well with Marduk.
MARDUK SEES RED OVER ENLILITE DOMINANCE IN SUMER
Marduk had only relatively recently returned to Earth after an absence of 4870 years. In 8670 BC, when his younger brother Ningishzidda at the expense of Marduk supplanted Horus as the King of Egypt on the basis of a peace pact between the Enlilites and the Enkites at the conclusion of the Second Pyramid War, Marduk had blasted off from Earth in a fit of revulsion. But before he departed the planet, he had made it clear to Zidda that in truth, he was simply holding fort for him. “Thou art no more than a place taker,” Marduk underlined. “Thou shalt be in my place: that’s all there is to it.” Years later, when Zidda inquired as to exactly where his eldest brother had gone, he received word from Marduk (through a sophisticated inter-stellar communication device) that, “I’m here in the sky, in my proper place”.
The ancient Egyptian text that documents this exchange does not elaborate but it is clear Marduk had gone on an indefinite sabbatical to the SSS World, the throne city of the Orion star system. Marduk was born on the SSS World, what he liked to refer to as “a pure place”. Like Enki, he regarded himself as an Arian (beings of the SSS World, also known as the Serpent race) primarily and a Sirian (beings of the Sirius star system, where his mother Damkina came from) only secondarily. One interpretation of his very name, Marduk, says it means “Son of the Pure Mound”. The “Pure Mound” as per Robert Morning Sky was a metaphor for the pubis of the Orion Queen. It was pure – in a putative sense – because as the Goddess of the Sirian-Orion Empire, the most powerful in the Milky Way galaxy, she was the “Holy Mother”, a title akin to the Pope’s “Holy Father”, or Mary mother of Jesus’s “Virgin Mary”.
During his almost 5000-year absence (but only about 1 year and a third in Anunnaki terms), Marduk, who was the Africans’ most respected god after Enki, became known as Amon to the Egyptians, meaning “The Unseen One” – ha-o-mmone in Setswana. That is to say, although he was present in spirit, he was absent in the physical, where he mattered the most. And as Christians prospect about Jesus, Marduk was expected to return some day in a blaze of glory. He did indeed return but not as an all-conquering, White Horse-borne redeemer with legions of warring angels.
Marduk returned to Earth early in 3800 BC, when he heard that King Anu was on his way to Earth, his aim to air his grievances directly to the most powerful of Anunnaki sovereigns. Then in 3760 BC, Enlil made the troubling announcement that kingship would remain in Enlilite territories after Kish and Uruk. Marduk had calculated that by the time the turn of Uruk was over, the Age of Aries will have either dawned or be on the horizon and he would be the new or imminent Enlil. Marduk’s prospective city would then have to be the one to ideally house the Earthling monarch. But Enlil seemed to want to sidestep Marduk’s destiny when he declared that kingship would move to Ur, the cult city of Nannar-Sin, after Uruk, the cult-city of Ninurta. Understandably therefore, Marduk was incandescent with rage. “When Marduk all this did hear, greatly he was enraged, his anger no bounds knew,” the Sumerian records relate.”
Marduk got in touch with his father Enki and wondered aloud to him what on Earth was happening. “Why am I being kept on the peripheries in power politics whilst you just stand by and look?” he demanded of his father. “Aren’t you the one who promised me that you would smoothen the way for me to land the Enlilship?”
Enki straightaway contacted Enlil to register his son’s concerns but Enlil simply wasn’t budging. Marduk then vowed before his father that he wasn’t going to allow himself to be so humiliated indefinitely: he was now going to set about establishing his own fife in Sumer to pave the way for his ascendancy to supremacy in the Age of Aries damn the consequences. After all, King Anu had pardoned all his transgressions of the past and had given him the green light to settle in Sumer in a place of his liking. “When Enlil to Marduk's appeal no heed paid, Marduk fate in his own hands grasped,” the Sumerian texts relate. “Enough has my humiliation been, to his father Enki Marduk shouted. A sacred city of his own in the Edin from Enlil he forthwith demanded.”
MARDUK IS PIONEER OF BABYLON
Kish was to be the seat of kingship for about 400 more years after the inauguration of the Nippurian calendar in 3760 BC. In 3460 BC, there was about 100 more years remaining before kingship was transferred from Kish to Uruk. In that year, Marduk decided to act on his scheme to have a foothold in the Enlilite heartland of Sumer. He was going to found his own cult city in Sumer to bring the number of Enkites who had territory there to two, the other being his father Enki, who was the patron god of Eridu.
Accordingly, Marduk and his firstborn son Nabu set course for Akkad at the head of a huge caravan of followers – comprising of Earthlings and the Igigi – who numbered in the thousands, all armed with implements of all kinds with which to erect new infrastructure on virgin land. This great trek from Eridu, where Marduk had been based to date, to an area in the northwestern part of Akkad, where he was to establish his own city-state, is recorded in a GENESIS 11 passage thus: “And as they (Marduk and his people) travelled from the east, they found a valley in the Land of Shin'ar (Sumer) and settled there.”
The exact site Marduk chose was the one that initially had been earmarked for the construction of Anu’s temple-mansion before it was decided that it should be built at Uruk. This was the very site King Anu had pointed Marduk to when he visited Earth in 3800 BC, which explains why the Enlilites did not make the slightest attempt at thwarting him when he and his people processed into Akkad. Marduk’s city was to be built on the banks of the Euphrates River. Exactly what were his plans for the city?
First, it was intended to be his capital when he superseded Enlil as Earth’s supremo. Secondly, Marduk wanted his city to rival both Jerusalem, the Mission Control Centre, and Tilmun, the spaceport. This hint he did provide when he chose a location that was between Nippur, the prediluvial Mission Control Centre, and Sippar, the prediluvial spaceport. To put it bluntly, Marduk’s desire was to make his city a Mission Control Centre and spaceport rolled into one and thus do away with the Jerusalem and Tilmun facilities when he was the new Enlil.
The name he chose for his city was also a tell-tale. He called it Bab-ili, meaning, “Gateway of the Gods”. It would be a gateway of the gods – the Anunnaki – in that it was there they would ascend and descend in their “celestial chariots” (spaceships) as they to-ed and frong-ed between Earth on the one hand and other heavenly bodies on the other, particularly Nibiru, Mars, the Moon, and Earth’s orbit. Bab-ili is Babel in the Bible and Babylon in English. Its remains are to be found in present-day Hillah in Iraq, about 85 km south of Baghdad. MARDUK SPACEPORT TAKES SHAPE
But first, a temple-residence for god Marduk had to be built. It was called the Esagila, meaning in paraphrase, “House of the Lord of Lords”. The name embodied Marduk’s yearning to become the Enlil when the Age of Aries dawned. The Esagila, a seven-storey ziggurat, “rose within a sprawling sacred precinct, where a plethora of priests hierarchically arranged ranged from cleaners and butchers and healers to administrators, scribes, astronomers, and astrologers”.
Then years later, in 3450 BC, Marduk was ready to embark on his principal, epoch-making project. GENESIS 11 dwells at reasonable length on this one. A passage in there (properly translated) reads: “Come let us build ourselves a city (Babylon), with a tower that reaches to the heavens (a high-rise launch tower), so that we may make a shem (rocket) for ourselves … lest we be scattered upon the face of the Earth.” In the corrupt, English translation, the word “name” (implying “reputation”) is used instead of shem.
Marduk undertook to construct a space facility atop a platform (launch tower) raised for several feet, maybe hundreds of feet for rockets and jets to land and take off. In Anunnaki times, the spaceships were built and kept in underground silos. Spaceships are a mammoth affair: the Apollo 11 spacecraft, for instance, stood 364 feet (101.5 meters) tall. So if we are to assume, for argument’s sake, that half of this height was catered for by the underground bunker, then the space platform itself was about 50 to 60 meters high.
In order to motivate his people to devote to the project, Marduk told them it was primarily in their interests, that it was a human-empowerment project. First, he wanted to give mankind an opportunity to explore space and visit other planets both in the Solar System and beyond, more so the Orion star system where they could meet their Goddess. Second, as they multiplied in number and spread all over the planet, they would need a faster, more convenient mode of transport to visit and cement links with each other. The spaceport would therefore also serve as the principal terrestrial airport, like Baalbek in Lebanon was. The Earthlings were sold on the idea: they assured their god that they were game.
Says Zechariah Sitchin and pointedly so: “We believe that the answers … become plausible – even obvious – once we read ‘sky borne vehicle’ rather than ‘name’ for the word shem, which is the term employed in the original Hebrew text of the Bible. The story would then deal with the concern of mankind that, as the people spread upon Earth, they would lose contact with one another. So they decided to build a ‘sky borne vehicle’ and to erect a launch tower for such a vehicle so that they, too, could – like the goddess Ishtar, for example – fly in a mu (jet) ‘over all the peopled lands’."
I cannot help laugh my head off when I see the popular sketches of the so-called Tower of Babel by “scholars”. It is a humongous, literally skyscraping edifice that soars into the clouds (where the atmosphere is so thin everybody would die from lack of oxygen). What hogwash! The Tower of Babel was far from a monumental stairway to the abode of God attempted by a whole horde of morons as your pathetically ignorant pastor would belt out from the pulpit. It was a space launch facility, period.
MARDUK DARES ENLIL
Enlil, the Bible’s Jehovah/Yahweh, was alarmed by what Marduk was up to. As far as he was concerned, it was treachery – sin in the Bible. A spaceport could only be built at the pleasure of Earth’s Chief Executive and that was Enlil himself. Moreover, the ramifications were serious. Marduk wanted to create two centres of power on the planet, which was a recipe for conflict and eventually another war between Enkites and Enlilites. Enlil had to act forthwith before things spiralled out of control.
To his credit though, Enlil did not act rashly. First, he approached Enki and asked him to ram sense into his wayward son. “Well,” Enki responded, “You are right when you talk of a wayward son. Marduk no longer listens to me. I know he is deserving of his own cult-city but the idea of a spaceport boggles my mind too.”
Next, Enlil pleaded with Damkina, Marduk’s mother to prevail over his son to halt the abominable project. Damkina, however, stood staunchly by her son. “It’s all your fault Enlil,” she said. “You have treated my son like a lowlife all the while when ideally he is supposed to be the Anunnaki’s highest ranking prince. You are simply reaping what you sowed!”
Finally, Enlil confronted Marduk and his son Nabu. “To thwart the plan Enlil to the place (Babylon) hurried, to placate Marduk with soothing words he tried,” say the Sumerian chronicles. Marduk stuck to his guns. “This project is going ahead,” he insisted. “I’m not doing it as a dare to your authority. It’s simply a headstart project which will be fully operationalised when I am the new Enlil. So take it easy Lord Enlil. You are at liberty to make all the hay whilst the sun shines in the age of Taurus. My turn comes not now but in the Age of Aries. Do you hear me?”
“But the Age of the Ram, Marduk, is at the very least more than 1000 years from now,” Enlil countered. “Why should you be in a hurry to build your space, communications, and aviational facilities? Doesn’t Baalbek, Jerusalem, and Tilmun suffice? Won’t you be the one who will be overall in charge when you become the new Enlil in the Age of the Ram?”
“Well, I can’t trust you guys,” Marduk replied, referring to the Enlilites in general. “What if you renege on your promise? What if you opt to cling to power? What if you sabotage me? How many false starts have I suffered at your hands in the past? This time around, I’m not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I’m not going to allow you to f… with me anymore, do you hear me Enlil? This planet, Earth, is the only bequest there’s for me. I am destined to rule it come what may. If you and your trigger-happy boys try to stop me, woebetide you! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
“You must have gone raving mad Marduk,” Enlil said. “You must have gone off your rocker.” “I don’t care a hoot,” Marduk said before he rose and stormed out of the meeting. “To stop Marduk and Nabu in their endeavor Enlil did not succeed,” regrets the Sumerian texts.
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