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Khama deserves praise for saving on retirement home

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

According to Mmegi’s online edition of 16th August 2017, in a statement from Office of the President (OP), government’s spokesperson, Dr. Jeff Ramsay, has stated that President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama will, from April 2018, occupy the retirement home which had hitherto been occupied by the late former President, Sir Ketumile Masire.

This is indeed commendable considering that in terms of the Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act President Khama could, when he retires in April 2018, demand to have an official residence and office space built specifically for him by the state. By opting to occupy the late Sir Ketumile Masire’s retirement house President Khama will indeed save Batswana the millions of Pula which could otherwise be spent in the building and fittings of a new retirement home.

It is only when such decisions are made by leaders that Batswana can understand when government tells them that the country faces financial challenges that warrant tightening of the belt. It is only when leaders make such sacrifices that workers can understand when government offers them lower salary increase percentages than the ones they seek. It cannot be that only Batswana and workers are implored to make sacrifices when leaders live in extravagance.

Of course, there are those who argue that the retired president house’s refurbishments, which have been going on for about a year now, have resulted in astronomical costs, but the refurbishment costs are unlikely to exceed those of building a new house. If properly appropriated, this saving can go a long way in augmenting the resources allocated for such programmes and/or projects as youth and women empowerment, poverty alleviation initiatives, relief projects as well as intensive public works projects.

In the result, though most of the aforesaid projects may not give rise to long term employment, some would indeed create long term jobs in both the formal and informal sector, reducing the high unemployment which is currently bedeviling our people, especially the youth. By making this option, President Khama has put the country ahead of his own interests. It is because of such selflessness that Khama came to be adored by many Batswana, especially when he was vice president and during his early years as president.

Then, he admonished Members of Parliament (MPs) and called them vultures for lobbying for their own salary increment despite the plight of the voter. He assisted Village Development Committees (VDCs) to recover rentals from tenants who hitherto defaulted in paying rentals at will. However, though President Khama has continued with his selflessness through such projects as the Housing Appeal Project, and giving such gifts as blankets, groceries and wheel chairs to the poor and those living with disabilities, some have argued that he has, over time, become selfish.

Of course, the first blemish on his record was his insistence to fly Botswana Defence Force (BDF) air craft despite the fact that he had retired as a soldier and was now a civilian. This was exacerbated by the fact that, at least on one occasion, there were reports that some of his civilian associates also flew in military aircraft. The recent amendment to the Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act has been used as another case in point. Queried by many was the introduction of a 30% gratuity over and above the tax free monthly pension; and allowing a retired President to be paid monthly pension even if he or she is employed by government, the private sector or international organizations.

Similarly unpopular was the amendment giving the retired president the option of receiving office accommodation allowance using the prevailing Gaborone market rental rates instead of being provided with an office. Also unwanted was the amendment to give the retired president the option to choose between having a residential house and receiving a housing allowance in lieu of the house. Similarly problematic was the amendment to widen the mode of transport provided to a retired president to include air and water and not just road.

Many argued that these amendments were meant to benefit President Khama following his retirement. Some even went to the extent of alleging that President Khama promised MPs a salary increment in exchange for their vote for the amendments to the Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act to be passed into law. President Khama and his younger brothers, Tshekedi and Anthony, have also been blamed for monopolizing the tourism industry and being apportioned vast pieces of land, including tourist attractions and game farms.

These allegations dented President Khama’s credibility and obliterated the admirable record he had set as a selfless leader who puts Batswana’s interests ahead of his own. Many stated that he has, like all other leaders, especially African leaders, relented to the corruption that results from power. Granted, President Khama cannot right this blemished record merely by the decision not to demand the construction of his own retirement home. But, the decision is admirable nonetheless and it will go a long way in returning him to his selfless self. Given the time that remains in his presidency, this may be too little too late to return President Khama to his glory days. But it deserves praise nonetheless for it will, no doubt, save Batswana the millions of Pula that will go a long way in improving its people’s livelihoods at least in the short term.

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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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