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Tug-of-War Over Marduk

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER    

Enkites give him a whitewash whilst Enlilites bay for his blood

The marriage of Dumuzi, Enki’s lastborn son, and Inanna-Ishtar, Enlil’s granddaughter, was at once illustrious and tumultuous. It was illustrious because they were so fervently in love. Say the Sumerian chronicles:

“A love that knows no bounds engulfed them, a passion their hearts inflamed. Many of the love songs that for a long time thereafter were sung, Inanna and Dumuzi were the first to sing them, by song their love they recounted.”  At the same time, the marriage was problematic owing, primarily, to Inanna’s rapacious sexual drive: as such, Dumuzi just could not cope. Thus deprived, Inanna was forced into dalliances with anybody she fancied, whether Anunnaki or Earthling, brother or uncle.

Enki, who is the horniest Anunnaki male on record, was one of her conquests, never mind the fact that he was at once her own father-in-law and her grandfather given that her mother Ningal, Nannar-Sin’s wife,  was Enki’s daughter. In one of her love poems, Inanna boasts, in a slightly cryptic way, how her own twin-brother Utu-Shamash made her climax 50 times (befitting, so she implied, of   the Enlilship ranking of 50) in only one night of pulsating passion thus: “My beloved met me, took his pleasure of me, rejoiced together with me. My brother brought me to his house, made me lie on its sweet bed … In unison, the tongue-making in unison, my brother of fairest face made [got me to come] fifty times.”

Inanna was particularly attracted to men who had   freakishly outsized pricks and of that Shamash was very highly spoken of, a gift he actually loved to flaunt without a care in the world as to who was watching. Indeed, one meaning of the name Shamash is “Rocket-like”, an obvious allusion to his fire hydrant-sized penis. Because he was so enormously gifted in this department, Shamash, who was known as Apollo to the Greeks, is depicted stark naked in commemorative statues (Paradoxically  though, the statues do not do him justice as his vitals come across as laughably ordinary). Inanna’s legendary sexcapades had the inevitable result that the couple diddled as much as they engaged in shouting matches with each other.

Whatever differences they had, Dumuzi and Inanna  always patched them up with a torrid round of love-making. This energy-sapping copulation, however, did not yield the most desired result – a baby. A baby was essential: if Dumuzi was going to be to be the god of Egypt, not to mention Africa as a whole,   a heir was of desperate necessity. It is a mystery why  Dumuzi and Inanna just could not produce a child together when each had kids pre-wedlock, post-wedlock, or even extramaritally.

One unnamed King of Aratta, a region around today’s India where Inanna would later rule, is simply identified as “a seed planted in the womb by Dumuzi”. That the king’s mother is not mentioned suggests she must have been no more than an inconsequential concubine, most likely an Earthling as opposed to an Anunnaki. As for Inanna, a text titled The Tale of Zu names a certain “Shara” as “her firstborn,” implying she did have several children.  True, other children, which she had with demigods, included Lulal, Aeneas, and Lugalbanda.

The crux of the matter though is that Dumuzi, notwithstanding the fact that he never fired blanks, and Inanna, who was demonstrably fertile, were unable to procreate with each other. This was to be a constant source of friction between the two love birds. If even reproductive fundis such as Enki and Ningishzidda could not, apparently, help, the only explanation could be that the couple were under a spell, in all probability cast over them by Marduk. Otherwise, there was a whole host of scientific means at their disposal, such as in-vitro fertilisation and a surrogacy pregnancy.

DUMUZI SET UP FOR A FALL

Not long after Dumuzi and Inanna came together in “holy matrimony”, the Enlilites began to tout Dumuzi as the prospective “Shepherd of the Age of Ram”, that is, the forthcoming astrological Age of Aries. In other words, they set out to promote Dumuzi as the next Enlil at the expense of Marduk, who the Enkites had tipped for the loftiest title on Earth. This was not only because Dumuzi was married to an Enlilite: Dumuzi’s mother was not Damkina, Enki’s official wife, but Ninsun. Ninsun was a daughter of Enki with his half-sister Ninmah. Thus to the Enlilites, Dumuzi was more politically palatable, if not manipulable, than Marduk, who was a true-blue, steadfast Enkite.

Whereas other Enkites hardly gave a damn about the matrimonial union of Dumuzi and Inanna, two were as concerned as they were resentful. This was Marduk and his half-sister Geshtinanna. The two knew the marriage for exactly what it was – a petticoat government in which Inanna wielded disproportionately more influence. Wary as to the ramifications of Inanna’s hegemonic ambitions which knew no bounds, Marduk and Geshtinanna had a tete-a-tete in which they plotted a thunderclap scandalisation of Dumuzi that would make him forfeit all pretences to the Egyptian throne. The success of the plot all hinged on Gestinanna’s cooperation, whose certainty she undertook.

Now, Geshtinanna did have a vested interest in Dumuzi’s possible fall from grace. She was Zidda’s consort (not  legally-wedded wife) and if Zidda was not going to rule Egypt anymore, then Dumuzi, who was much younger than Zidda, ought not to. As significant, Geshtinanna had no Enlilite blood in her being the daughter of Ninmah and therefore had no ties-of-consanguinity sympathies for Inanna whatsoever. So it was that one day whilst Inanna was on tour, Geshtinanna invited herself to one of Dumuzi’s palaces on Philae Island on the Nile River in today’s Aswan, southern Egypt.

There, she wasted no time in hitting on Dumuzi thus: “My brother, with you I will lie down.  A legitimate heir by a sister born you must have. Inanna’s son to succession shall not be entitled.”Geshtinanna’s reasoning struck a chord in Dumuzi. According to Anunnaki succession rules, it was a son born to a half-sister who ascended to the throne and not a son with a legal spouse who was not related to her husband. It followed, therefore, that even if Inanna perchance were to conceive, her son would not inherit after Dumuzi: he would have to give way to Dumuzi’s son with Geshtinanna.

Dumuzi was persuaded and long story short, he had “poured his semen into his half-sister’s womb”. For some reason, however, Geshtinanna suddenly felt for Dumuzi, maybe because he had given her such shattering sexual satisfaction or the fact that Dumuzi was actually the son of her sister by blood (Ninsun) seared her conscience. She burst out into tears and when Dumuzi asked her what was wrong, she with an effort owned up to her little scheme with Marduk. “Marduk of raping me he will accuse you,” she sobbed frantically.  “Evil emissaries will arrest you. To try and disgrace you he will.”   

At first, Dumuzi did not panic though he was cross that Geshtinanna was complicit in setting him up. Geshtinanna nonetheless assured him nothing would come of the conspiracy as she would be his about-face witness when the matter came to trial. Her assurance registered and Dumuzi drifted into a calm sleep after another, reassuring  body-twitching round of intimacy . But at around midnight, Dumuzi had a nightmare in which he saw “seven evil bandits come into his dwelling” and brace to confiscate all his royal property and insignias of office. “They chased away his ewes, his lambs and kids they drove away,” the Sumerian records relate.

“The headdress of lordship they took off his head, the royal robe off his body they tore, the staff of shepherding they took and broke, his cup from its peg they threw down. Naked and barefooted they seized him, in fetters they his hands bound.  In the name of the Princely Bird (Marduk) and the Falcon (Horus, Marduk’s son/grandson) they left him dying.” Geshtinanna’s pleas that he puts a brave face on the matter and regard the dream as simply that fell on deaf ears: seized by a fit of trepidation and of foreboding, he hastily put on the clothes and shouting “Betrayal! Betrayal!”, he hurried out of the house to dodge the hovering dragnet but the dream was already bearing out  even as he moved. Marduk’s seven sheriffs had already closed in. Dumuzi was hardly inches away from the threshold when the cuffs were tightly nipped onto his wrists. He was then remanded in a makeshift cellar pending airlifting to Marduk’s palace in Egypt.

DUMUZI DROWNS IN RIVER NILE
    

Producing a warrant of arrest, Marduk’s sheriffs announced to a manacled Dumuzi that they were acting under the imperial authority of their master “En Bilulu (His Holiness the Lord Bel), the Master of the Kur (Giza Pyramid),” both of which were Marduk’s epithets. Then they pronounced forth the basis of his arrest – having raped his half-sister Geshtinanna. That done, they proceeded to render him “naked … bareheaded … empty-handed …” and “barefooted”. That is to say, they removed his crown, divested him of his royal robe, pulled off his sandals, and confiscated his staff – his entire regalia as the monarch of Nubia. However, the sheriffs hit a setback. When they interrogated Geshtinanna, she denied that she had been violated and insisted that the sex was consensual. Then she asked that she sheriffs allow her a private confabulation with Dumuzi, which petition was granted.

Entering the makeshift cellar within the palace precincts, Geshtinanna found Dumuzi in a piteously disconsolate state. The moment he saw her, he requested the use of her portable communication device, which was worn on the wrist and doubled as a timepiece, and contacted Utu-Shamash.   “O, Utu,” Dumuzi cried into the wireless communication device. “You are my brother-in-law. I am your sister’s husband … Change my hands into a gazelle’s hands. Change my feet into a gazelle’s feet. Let me escape the evil ones.” In another words, Dumuzi was entreating Shamash to rush and get him out of harm’s way.

It’s clear from the Sumerian chronicles that both Inanna and Shamash were presently too far away to scramble a rescue force to get to where Dumuzi was timeously. But Shamash did provide some very viable tips to both Dumuzi and Gestinanna that made it possible for Dumuzi to make a getaway. Still in cuffs, he made a beeline for the Nile, jumped into a boat, and shot off like a bullet in the dead of night, in the process losing his outsmarted pursuers.  He managed to reach “the great dyke in the desert of E-Mush”, or “Home of the Snakes” as the Sahara Desert was then known, the snakes being a metaphor for the Enkites. This was the First Cataract of the Nile, where the Aswan High Dam is today located. It is the only place throughout Egypt where the Sahara Desert and the Nile River converge at a great dyke.

Encountering heavy rapids, Dumuzi abandoned the boat a long while before daybreak and hid on a boulder behind a thick cascade of a Nile waterfall so that he wasn’t seen by his pursuers. Then at daybreak,  Inanna, his mother Ninsun and a search party pitched. Whilst Ninsun was frantically looking out for his son from the shores of the Nile, Inanna hovered in a chopper. Unfortunately, Dumuzi was already dead by then. Being in handcuffs, his manoevering was erratic. As he tried to climb down the rock on which he had taken refuge, he slipped and was instantly swept away by the rapids, drowning in the process. “Where the gushing waters the rocks to slippery smoothness made, Dumuzi slipped and fell,” say the Sumerian cuneiform texts. “The onrushing waters his lifeless body in a white froth swept away.”

The above was the official version. But what really happened was that he  panicked when one of his pursuers closed in on him in the relative dark of pre-dawn and that’s how he faltered into the Nile waters.  It took several days, if not weeks,   for his body to wash up on the banks of the Nile at Memphis, about  half way between  the Great Pyramid of Giza and Lake Moeris.  "There did the boat-wrecking waters carry the lad towards Kur,” the Sumerian records relate.  “To Kur did the boat-wrecking waters carry the espoused of Inanna."  Sadly, by that time, it was too late for the likes of Enki and Zidda to restore to life the now substantially decomposed body of Dumuzi.

MARDUK NO CASE TO ANSWER?

Dumuzi’s remains were retrieved from the banks of the Nile River by his brother Ninagal and taken to the abode of Nergal and Ereshkigal in today’s South Africa where the body was to lay in state before it was taken to Nibiru, the planet of the Anunnaki and the Bible’s “Heaven”, for interment. When Enki heard of his youngest son’s tragic demise, he was gutted. He wondered why fate so frowned upon him with such sadomasochistic regularity. “Enki rent his clothes, on his forehead he put ashes,” say the Sumerian records.

“My son! My son! for Dumuzi he lamented. What have I sinned to be so punished? out loud he asked.” Enki catechised himself as to whether his other name “Ea” had something to do with this unending rhythm of woe where the deaths of members of his clan were typically associated with water. . “When I to Earth from Nibiru came, Ea, ‘He Whose Home Is Waters’, was my name.  With waters did the Celestial Chariots obtain their thrust power. In waters I splashed down.  Then by an avalanche of waters the Earth was swept over. In waters did Asar (Osiris) my grandchild drown. By waters my beloved Dumuzi is now dead! Everything I had done, for righteous purpose did I do it. Why am I punished, why has Fate against me turned?”

In one vein, Enki’s lamentations must elicit sympathy. No single Enlilite died throughout the Anunnaki’s 443,000-year  official stay on Earth. Meanwhile, the widowed Inanna had kicked  up a hell of a storm. She demanded no less than the death penalty for Marduk. “There has been death enough,” she wept before Enki. “Bilulu (Marduk) must be killed.” At the time, authority as to the dispensation of justice no longer vested in the entire Anunnaki pantheon comprising of Enlilites and Enkites. If, for instance, a crime was committed by an Enkite to an Enkite, jurisdiction was to be exercised by Enkites alone,  without the involvement of Enlilites.    Accordingly, Enki convened a judgement panel which included all his sons bar Marduk – Nergal, Gibil, Ninagal, and Zidda, who was recalled from his domain in the Americas just for this purpose.  

As the Enkites deliberated on Marduk’s case, Inanna continued with her fits of fury. “To high heaven she a wailing raised,” relates the Sumerian texts. “Justice! Revenge! Death to Marduk! she cried.” Such was her hysteria  and agitation that the Enlilites were forced to convene their own “war council” to unilaterally decide on the fate of “The Great Serpent” as  Marduk had been branded by the Enlilites. Inanna insisted that the Enlilites were entitled to a say on the matter as being Dumuzi’s widow the injustice of his death had lasting repercussions on her. As far as she was concerned, it didn’t matter whether Dumuzi’s death was an accident or otherwise: what mattered was the fact that he died whilst in flight from an injustice contrived by Marduk and Geshtinanna was an insuperable witness in that regard.

All the Enlilites were pro Inanna’s sentiments. “Ninurta for strong measures argued … Of Marduk, an evil serpent Earth must be rid, Enlil with them agreed.” The Enlilites then sent an ultimatum to the Enkites demanding that Marduk be handed over to them forthwith for justice. Unlike the Enlilites, the Enkites were not unanimous on the fate of Marduk. Enki moved for his unconditional acquittal as there was no hard evidence that he was directly responsible for the death of Dumuzi.  “Marduk an instigator was, but murder he committed not!” Enki pointed out.  “Though for my beloved Dumuzi I am still grieving, Marduk's rights I must defend! Though evil did Marduk instigate, by ill fate, not by Marduk's hand, did Dumuzi die. Marduk is my firstborn, Ninki is his mother: for succession he is destined. From death by Ninurta's gang by us all he must be protected!”

Gibil and Ninagal sided with their father. Zidda, who  scarcely saw eye to eye with Marduk, voted for outright retribution. Nergal, whose relationship with  Marduk kept blowing hot and cold,  endorsed the idea of handing Marduk to the Enlilites but  undertook that if the Enlilites voted for capital punishment, he would oppose it to the death. It was a 3-2 decision in favour of Marduk and so he was to walk free. Sadly, the Enlilites  were not prepared to take the verdict lying down.

NEXT WEEK:  THE THIRD PYRAMID WAR

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Let’s Get BPO Industry Out of its Present Limbo

26th October 2020
Majakathata “Jax” Pheko

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.

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Cyrus Frees the Jews

26th October 2020
In 538 BC, Cyrus, ruler of the Persian Empire

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.

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Understanding Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework: Litigation

26th October 2020

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  anmorima@gmail.com

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