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Celebrating our heroes and heroines: Michael Dingake

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

I have hitherto decried the practice where we fail to recognize our heroes and heroines during their life time only to sing them praise and adulation after their death. This, we often do in eulogies whose genuity is, in my view, doubtful.

In my view, such eulogies are about us the living, not the dead; they are about showing the world how good our English is, not about the departed for if they were about the departed such exaltations would have been sung when the departed were still living. What good is exaltation when its ‘beneficiary’ can no longer relish it? Granted, the living would get inspiration from the tributes, but should it be all about the living? I may be wrong, but I believe it should be more about its progenitor.

In preparation for the funerals of such heroes and heroines, we spend lavishly, not for the fallen hero or heroine, but to show our wealth and cement our status in society. We would rather spend extravagantly on the funeral when we failed to contribute to their medical expenses when in hospital. We would rather call our roads and streets by disparaging names than name those roads and streets after our heroes and heroines. How can we have our roads and streets named after foreign heads of states, some of whom were dictators, when we have so many heroes and heroines?

Why don’t we have a heroes and heroines’ Acre where we lay our heroes and heroines to rest after a life well lived? Why don’t we have a Hall of Fame where the names of our heroes and heroines are etched on marble for future generations to learn about them? In this series I pay tribute to many of our heroes and heroines who have made their God, their country, Botswana, and their families proud. I start with Michael Kitso Dingake, whose last public position was that of president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central.

Born on 11th February 1928 in Bobonong Village, he went to Bobonong Primary School between 1936 and 1941. He then went to South Africa where he did his secondary schooling at St Ansgars Institution, Roodepoort, in the then Union of South Africa from 1942 to 1943. Still in South Africa, he studied at Pax College, in Pietersburg (Polokwane), in 1946. He obtained his senior certificate through private studies from Damelin College in Johannesburg. True to his name ‘Kitso’, which means knowledge, his yearning for education did not end there.

Yearning for more knowledge, Dingake, while serving his jail term on Robben Island, to which he was, in 1966, sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment, obtained his BA (Political Science and Economics), B. Admin (Public Administration and Local Government Accounting) and B. Com (Business Economics and Accounting). It is these qualifications that would later gain him employment at the University of Botswana. Dingake joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1952 during the Defiance Campaign after which he went on to serve in various capacities in different structures of the ANC. In 1957, he was elected Secretary of Alexandra Branch Six.

In 1959, he was elected chairperson of Johannesburg Northern Region; and in 1960, he was appointed member of the State of Emergency Committee for Johannesburg Region following the declaration of the State of Emergency. At the end of 1960, he was co-opted into the underground ANC Transvaal Regional Committee; in 1962, he served in the ANC National Secretariat as Publicity Secretary and was responsible for the production of propaganda material for the liberation movement.

Dingake later assumed the chairpersonship of the ANC National Secretariat, after the Rivonia arrests when the National Secretariat essentially served as the underground National Executive Committee of the ANC. In 1960, he was recruited into the South African Communist Party (SACP) during the State of Emergency. In 1961 he was co-opted into the SACP District Committee. He served on the  Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Johannesburg Regional Structure, responsible for the recruitment of trainees abroad. After Wilton Mkwayi’s arrest, Dingake assumed all responsibility for MK operations, including the infiltration of trained MK cadres.

As a member of the ANC Volunteer Corps, Dingake participated in such campaigns as Against Bantu Education,  Congress of the People, We Stand by Our Leaders, the Alexandra Bus Boycott of 1957, Potato Boycott, Sophiatown removals, One Pound-a-Day, the Women Anti-Pass Campaign of 1959, the Pass Burning after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Anti-White Republic Protests.

In 1962 he narrowly escaped arrest by the notorious Security Police when he went to a hideout under the misapprehension that Mac Maharaj would be there.  He had gone to warn him to escape from that place following the arrest of several of his comrades. After Maharaj was arrested Dingake had to leave South Africa. He was sent on a mission to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Upon his return, many more of his comrades had been arrested, and because of their tips smuggled from prison he learnt of the arrests and he came back to Botswana in February 1965.

Back home, he, between February 1965 and December 1965, served as the external contact with the ANC underground machinery in Johannesburg in which capacity he organised infiltration routes for MK guerrillas from Zambia via Botswana.
Shortly after the establishment of the infiltration route, and only after the first trainees had used it, he was, on 8th December 1965, arrested on his way to Lusaka via Zimbabwe which was then under Ian Smith’s regime. Following his arrest, he was transferred to Pretoria, where, after torture, he was charged for membership and participating in the activities of banned organisations – the ANC and the SACP – and for statutory sabotage. He was, on 6th May 1966, sentenced to a total of fifteen years imprisonment in Robben Island.

That Dingake, an immigrant, rose to such heights in a foreign land is indeed remarkable. He risked his life in defence of democracy. To him, democracy had no boundaries; democracy knew no citizen; it was simply a universal concept for the enjoyment of all humans. The ANC could not have been more right when it, in its profile, wrote, ‘Dingake saw himself first and foremost as an African, duty-bound to fight for the liberation of Africans on their continent.’ Few men can have such a trait ascribed to them for their contribution to a foreign country.

Dingake’s defence for democracy continued when he came back home. In 1992, he entered national politics, becoming vice-president of the BNF in 1993. He was elected to the National Assembly as Member of Parliament (MP) for  Gaborone Central in 1994. Some regard as a blemish to his political career the fact that he was at the center of the BNF split following the infamous Palapye Congress in 1998.  The result was the formation of the BCP for which he became president.

Dingake led the BCP from 1998 to 2001. During his tenure, the BCP, despite its formation from turbulent circumstances, enjoyed admirable peace and stability. He served as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament until Parliament was dissolved in preparation for the 1999 general elections. Electorally though the BCP did not do well under Dingake’s leadership. In the 1999 general elections, it won a mere 11.9% of the popular vote and retained only one seat out of 40. Admirably, when time for his departure came he did not cling to his position. He left the party leadership in 2001.

Dingake is a prolific writer who has contributed to political literature not only through the insightful newspaper articles he has published under his column titled ‘As I See it’ in Mmegi newspaper, but also through the books he has published. He has used his column to right about the plight of such marginalized groups as Basarwa, something which attracted the attention of the international community, resulting in assistance from such international organisations as Survival International (SI).

Obviously inspired by his political activism while in South Africa, he, in 1987, published a book titled ‘My Fight Against Apartheid.’ His incarceration at Robben Island motivated him to, in 2015, publish a book titled ‘Better to Die on One’s Feet: One Man’s Journey from Robben Island to Freedom.’

People are prone to relent to such evils as infidelity, corruption and boastfulness when in positions of power. That has not been heared of Dingake. I am not aware of any scandal in which he was involved. His has been a life of selfless service.
South Africa has recognized his contribution to its struggle against apartheid. On 24th April 2007 he was awarded the Grand Companion of Oliver Reginald Tambo (GCOT), an award reserved for heads of government, ministers of state, supreme court judges, presidents of legislatures, secretaries of state, ambassadors and commanders-in-chief. What about Botswana the land of his birth?

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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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