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“Go to Abode of Gods”

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER    

Enkidu urges death-plagued bosom-friend Gilgamesh    

The anti-Gilgamesh spooks in the ranks of Uruk’s intelligence community had been alerted about the arrival in town of Enkidu and so were already primed to provide him with all the requisite material support.  Because of his towering size and arresting looks, Enkidu was quick to catch the attention and fascination of the Uruk populace: practically overnight, he was the buzz of the city-state. Word spread about   this mammoth being who was reputed to have fought bears, chimpanzees, and gorillas and wipe the floor with them. Soon there was talk of him challenging Gilgamesh to a wrestling match in a historic clash of the titans.

With Enkidu making waves in his own domain, Gilgamesh got to hear of him but he totally ignored him with typical monarchical ego.  It did not take long, however, for their paths to cross.  A wedding was due and Enkidu was strategically invited as one of the guests of honour. Gilgamesh automatically made a showing with an eye to do his usual deed only this time around there was a spanner in the works.  For when the newly-weds retired to their pad that evening, Enkidu offered to stand guard at their gate to ensure the King did not harass the bride. The couple were ecstatic at the prospect of consummating their marriage without the intrusion of a usurpist third part.

Turning up at the house later in the evening to demand his due, Gilgamesh was stoutly opposed by Enkidu, who told him in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. The King was surprised at Enkidu’s cheek and boldness. Ordinarily, he’d have let loose his security detail on him but he beckoned to them to hold their ground so that he himself teaches the giant rascal a lesson. Stepping forward, Gilgamesh laid into Enkidu and a fight ensued. “They grappled each other, holding fast like bulls,” the Sumerian chronicles relate. “Walls shook, doorposts shattered as the two wrestled.”

The two behemoths tangled for about 45 minutes as a concourse   of onlookers cheered them on, most of them rooting for Enkidu as opposed to their thuggish King. At some stage in the tussle, Enkidu pinned Gilgamesh, putting him in a rather precarious position whereby he had no option but to tap out in submission. For the first time in his life, Gilgamesh had lost a wrestling scrap. The sense of ignominy was harrowing.

The following day, the King’s defeat was the number one  topic of conversation throughout Uruk. There was even conjectural talk that Gilgamesh was so mortified he was contemplating stepping down from the throne to give way to Enkidu. Meanwhile, wherever Enkidu went, he was lauded, feted, and serenaded like a kind of messiah. In a bid to reclaim his fame as a gladiator, Gilgamesh issued a challenge to Enkidu for them to clash again in a Samson-versus-Hercules affair, this time in a formal wrestling setting and not the impromptu one in which he was routed. Enkidu gleefully accepted the challenge.

It was the most heralded and best-attended wrestling match in Uruk’s history, with some people travelling from neighbouring Sumerian city-states to come and witness the contest first hand. They got their money’s worth:  it was a pulsating and engaging  see-saw match in which both men fought their lungs out. Sadly for Gilgamesh, he was made to tap out in surrender once again even after weeks of preparation, with the chant “Enkidu! Enkidu!” rending the air: as always, the popular Hercules had beaten Samson hands down.

Shortly after the umpire had lifted Enkidu’s hand in triumph, Ninsun, Gilgamesh’s mother, came into the ring and announced that she did not wish Gilgamesh and Enkidu to be foes but the very best of friends. Paying heed, a humbled Gilgamesh walked over to Enkidu, gave him a bear hug, and told him from that day on the two would be inseparable, to which Enkidu nodded heartily and the audience applauded in cheerful acknowledgement. Gilgamesh’s dream of yesteryears had come to pass: it  was the beginning of a Damon and Pythias kind of friendship.
     
GILGAMESH  AGAIN FRETS ABOUT DEATH

Enkidu turned out to be Gilgamesh’s luck-bringer. As time went by and as he matured mentally, he showed “wisdom and broad understanding” and being an everyday companion of Gilgamesh, the latter immensely benefitted from his invariably sage advice. Gilgamesh would over time become known as “The wise one, he who has experienced everything”. Gone now were the days when Gilgamesh made an art of sexually molesting brides and teenage girls thanks to Enkidu’s restraining   influence: once again, he was back in the good graces of his subjects as   an exceedingly popular King,  in fact going on to  become Uruk’s first and only celebrity monarch ever.

We noted last week that like his father Lugalbanda before him, Gilgamesh loved and enjoyed life. He wanted to waltz on Cloud 9 in perpetuity. But there was a catch: there would come a time when he’d grow old and at long last die, leaving this wonderful world  behind. But why should he die? The question began to haunt him again just as it did when he saw Utu-Shamash about it last time around.  He wasn’t an ordinary human being: he was at least two-thirds Anunnaki, almost a full-fledged god and gods never died. Surely, with so much Anunnaki blood in him, he was deserving of immortality wasn’t he?  Why should he “peer over the wall” (ancient metaphor for “dying”) like an ordinary mortal?

     Thus plagued non-stop by the death conundrum, this time Gilgamesh decided to approach   his mother Ninsun, rather than Uncle Shamash, to seek clarity on the matter and to find out from her whether it was possible for him to retain eternal youth.
     “Mum,” he said, “I am about three-quarters god. Gods don’t die. Why therefore should I be fated to die? Why can’t I live forever like you do?”

     “Well son,” Ninsun answered, “You too could live as long as we do. All you need to do is travel to the Celestial Eden (planet Nibiru) and stay there for at least one full shar. The secret to our longevity lies in the long orbital period of our planet. You want to live forever son? Come to our planet: join us there.”   

     “Wait a minute Mum,” Gilgamesh said.  “I am told that Ziusudra (Noah), the Hero of the Deluge, didn’t go to Heaven (Nibiru) but he’s still alive. He lives somewhere around the Land of Mines (Tilmun in the Sinai Peninsula, the site of the spaceport) with his wife in total bliss. I don’t need to go to Heaven to live forever like Ziusudra do  I?”

     “His is a special case son,” Ninsun replied. “As you say, he was the hero of the Deluge. He did something really extraordinary to merit that idyllic situation in which he finds himself.”
     “Suppose I wish to travel to Heaven, what do I need to get there?”

     “You will need a Fiery Stone we call a shem (rocketship). And since you cannot pilot a shem, you will need Eagles (astronauts) to take you there.  Only at Tilmun are Eagles and shems found. However, it is unlikely that Shamash, who is in charge of Tilmun, would give you the green light to venture to Tilmun and proceed to our planet.”  

     “Why not Mum?” Gilgamesh wondered aloud. “Adapa was taken to Heaven. So was  Enoch and so was Etana. All these were demigods like I am. So why can’t I be taken to Heaven too?”
     “I am afraid those questions can best be answered by the likes of Enlil and Shamash son,” Ninsun regretted. “Much as I’d love you to  travel to my planet and acquire immortality,  my hands are tied: there’s utterly nothing I can do. I’m a goddess all right but I’m insignificant in the greater scheme of things. I’m not even among the Pantheon of the Twelve great gods and goddesses. In fact, we goddesses hardly have any sway over the agenda for this planet and its people: it’s the gods who call the shots.”

ENKIDU  TIPS GILGAMESH ABOUT “ABODE OF GODS”

As Gilgamesh and Enkidu bonded, they confided in each other their secrets as well as their most pressing   preoccupations of mind. On the part of Gilgamesh, his major obsessions still were his fear of death and the implication of the Handiwork of Anu, the rocket booster he encountered in his dream. Gilgamesh told Enkidu about his mum’s interpretation of the dream, which had already been fulfilled in the person of Enkidu, and his own  – that it was King Anu’s way of inviting him to the “Divine Abode”(Nibiru) to gain immortality and that it was essential that he honours the Heavenly Father’s wish. All he needed was access to a shem. “O Enkidu,  even the mighty wither;  they meet the fated end,” he lamented of the human condition. “Even the tallest man (metaphor for a human being like him who had a lot of Anunnaki blood in him) cannot stretch to Heaven (go to Nibiru).”

The emotion Gilgamesh showed as he uttered these words moved Enkidu. “The eyes of Enkidu filled with tears, ill was his heart, bitterly he sighed,” the Sumerian records relate. Once both men had regained their calm, Enkidu at first seemed to concur with his best friend’s view of the fate of a human  being. “Who, my friend, can scale Heaven?" he paused a rhetorical question. “Only the gods, by going to the underground place of Shamash. Mankind's days are numbered; whatever they achieve is but the wind.”

Enkidu then proceeded to relate the snippets he had picked up whilst he was under the tutelage of Enki, that there was a place on Earth where Gilgamesh could access a shem. This place, which  was overseen by Shamash and was known as the Abode of the Gods, was located somewhere in the Cedar Mountains. But since it was a foregone conclusion that the gods would never permit Gilgamesh to  venture there, the only way to do so was to force his way there.

Enkidu, however, was not exactly spot-on. He was talking about Baalbek, the Landing Place, but Baalbek was not the spaceport proper: it was the Heathrow Airport of the day.  The spaceport proper was at Tilmun in the Sinai Peninsula. The mix-up was understandable since Enkidu wasn’t that conversant in these matters. What he said nevertheless did  ring a bell to Gilgamesh: he too had heard about the Land of the Living located not very far from the  Land of Mines (Tilmun) where Noah, his wife and other  consecrated Earthlings  lived happily ever after  in eternal youth. “It is the abode of the forefathers who by the great gods with the Purifying Waters were anointed,” he explained to Enkidu. “There, partaking of the food and beverage of the gods, have been residing princes born to the crown who had ruled the land in days of yore. Like Anu and Enlil, spiced meats they are served; from waterskins, cool water to them is poured.”

There was a chance, Gilgamesh reasoned,  that the Land of the Living and the Abode of the Gods Enkidu was talking about were one and the same given that the Anunnaki were notoriously tight-lipped about these matters: they just never talked about them for fear of triggering a Paradise-bound stampede from Earthlings. Thus both Baalbek and Tilmun were largely received as legends by the greater majority of Earthlings.

Roused by the Enkidu cue, Gilgamesh decided there and then that he must undertake a daredevil’s journey to the “underground place of Shamash” in the Cedar Mountain so as to “scale Heaven” in the manner the gods did come what may.  “The Land I will  enter. I will  set up my shem. In the place where the shems have been raised up, I a shem I will  raise up.” Gilgamesh put it to Enkidu that even if he perishes in the enterprise, he will have made history anyway. “Should I fall, ‘Gilgamesh against fierce Huwawa had fallen' they will say long after my offspring will be born.” But before he set out on this adventure, it was imperative that Gilgamesh take soundings with the Council of the Elders, the King of Uruk’s highest advisory organ.

ENKIDU WARNS OF ONE-EYED “HUWAWA”

Gilgamesh was just about to call an assembly of the elders when Enkidu stopped him in his tracks. “You know what buddy?” he said as he clasped the great Uruk King’s hand in his. “Let me go check out the Abode of the Gods before you do so that if there are any snares or perils of sorts, you get to know them in advance.  Let me go ahead of you. Let your mouth say to me, ‘Advance Enkidu: fear not’.”

The idea was appealing but Gilgamesh was reluctant to countenance it. It didn’t seem right to throw his best friend into the breach, to use him as cannon fodder. What if something sinister happened to him?  Enkidu, however, was so insistent Gilgamesh at long last caved in.  When he set off, Enkidu was not all alone: he was with a retinue of auxiliary men who were armed to the teeth. And for every day Enkidu was away, Gilgamesh kept an eye out for his safe return.

About a month later, Enkidu was back and in one piece. But he didn’t have particularly good news. He reported that the Cedar Mountain was not easy to breach as it was guarded by a seemingly invincible monstrous creature known as Huwawa, whose principal brief was to keep humans from foolhardily scaling the mountain and stealing into the Abode of the Gods.  Huwawa, said Enkidu, was a “feared monster with the fiery Killer Beam that shoots out from its forehead”. Enkidu also made mention of “weapon-trees that kill”. He said, “I went down into its (the Cedar Mountain) midst. For many leagues extends the forest. The place is guarded by the Cedar Forest's watcher.

The Fiery Warrior is a mighty, never resting guardian artfully created by Enlil, a siege engine whose mouth is fire, whose breath is death, whose roaring is a flood-storm.  The monster's name is Huwawa. As a terror to mortals Enlil has appointed him. And no one can even come near him, for at sixty leagues (330 km) he can hear the wild cows of the forest.”

Exactly who was Huwawa and “weapon-trees that kill”?  From the way he is described, he clearly was not flesh and blood. He was one of a mechanical “race” of cyborgs – sophisticated robotic creatures installed under the aegis of Enlil. Huwawa was programmed to pick up the thermal (infra-red) image of an Earthling as he approached the Cedar Mountains and obliterate him with a Killer Beam, that is, a fatal laser beam, that shot out from the middle of his brow. The “weapon-trees that kill” were tall, upright, laser-equipped remote-controlled surveillance masts that were disguised as trees.  

In Huwawa, also spelt Hwahwa, can be detected an echo of Cyclops, in Greek and Roman mythology  a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the centre of his forehead. The equivalent of Huwawa in Setswana is gu-gu, meaning a “nondescript creature”. In African lore, a scary, nondescript creature which preys on mankind in one way or the other is variously known as a demon, ghost, apparition, or vampire.  In Zambia’s most dominant language, Bemba, a ghost is referred to as a wa without determinatives, or ici-wa (literally “fallen creature”) with a singular determinative. This nomenclature no doubt stems from the Sumerians’  Huwawa. Just as Huwawa was conceived and commissioned as an enemy of mankind, ghosts are also believed to be enemy tormentors/killers  of mankind.  

GILGAMESH SEEKS UTU’S BLESSINGS

Once again, Gilgamesh decided to announce  his intended mission to the Council of Elders and hear their take.  Naturally, they were alarmed at their king’s certain encounter with the death-dealing Huwawa. “We hear that Huwawa is wondrously built,” they voiced their anxiety. “Who is there to face his weapons? Unequal struggle it is with the siege-engine Huwawa.”

A doggedly determined  Gilgamesh assured them that he could take care of himself in the face of Huwawa and that in any case, he was ready to die in his quest to attain immortality. Noting that their great King just would not budge, they proceeded to render him some piece of advice – that he obtains the consent and protection of Shamash before he set out on the journey. “If the Land thou wish to enter,  inform Utu. Inform Utu, the hero Utu! The Land, it is in Utu's charge. The Land which with the cedars is aligned, it is the hero Utu's charge. Inform Utu! Let Shamash grant thee thy desire: what thy mouth hath spoken, let him show thine eyes. May he open for thee the barred path, the road unclose for thy treading, the mountain unclose for thy foot.”

The King duly hearkened to the advice of the elders. He made a sacrifice to Shamash as was the custom before a mortal saw a god. Then entering the god’s presence and led by a high priest,  the King intoned thus on his knees: “O Utu, my hands are raised in prayer. Bring me to the landing place. The Land which with the cool cedars is aligned I wish to enter, be thou my ally:  let me go, O Shamash! To the Landing Place give command … Establish over me your protection!  Let me enter the Land. Let me set up my shem. In the places where the shems are raised up, let me raise my own shem. Be thou my ally! By the life of my goddess mother who bore me, my step direct to the Land.” Would Shamash heed the desperate King’s prayer?

NEXT WEEK:  THE QUEST FOR A “SHEM”

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Internet Connectivity in Botswana: Time to Narrow Digital Divide

19th October 2020
Elon Musk

On Friday October 9, 2020, President Masisi officiated at a function that most appositely spoke to his passion and desire to kick-start the crystallisation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR in short, in Botswana. In his keynote speech, the President hailed the partnership between Gaborone City Council and BoFiNet to launch free Internet access of one-hour duration daily in selected “Wi-Fi Hotspots” across the city for all and sundry.

The pilot project has actually been years in the making, having been initiated in April 2014, when the BOCRA-supported Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) was established. UASF levies 1 percent on the gross annual turnover of flourishing ICT outfits and is now using this to subsidise the Internet access price in the Hotspots of Gaborone, which are to be found at shopping malls, bus stations, hospitals, and airports in the main. The facility, which is provided courtesy of the BoFiNet Wi-Fi infrastructure, will in the fullness of time be rolled out in Kasane, Maun, Francistown, Palapye, Serowe, and Mahalapye too. As of the end of 2019, UASF collections totalled P43.2 million according to BOCRA’s latest Annual Report.

A point President Masisi underscored at the launch was the imperative that “all citizens have access to the Internet so that the ideal of leaving no one behind as envisioned by the sustainable development goals is realised”. It also exhilarated me that the President underlined that “innovation and creativity will be the bedrock of economic diversification in our country”, a priority I besought government to pursue with impassioned as opposed to rhetorical resolve in one of my earlier articles under this very column.

Certainly, Pillars 1 and 2 of the only minimally accomplished Vision 2016 goals envisaged, amongst other things, an informed and innovative Botswana. With the Wi-Fi Hotspot dispensation now upon us, are we on course to deliver on this sooner rather than later?

FREE INTERNET COULD FULFIL MEGA DREAMS FOR THE CITIZENRY

Granted, one hour of free Internet per day is not that bad as a starting point, but it is a drop in the ocean when juxtaposed with the larger global picture, whereby some countries, which include the industrialised West, the Scandinavian countries, and the Baltic states of Lithuania and Estonia, offer qualitative public Internet service free of charge all-day long. In Finland for one, broadband (high-speed Internet access) has been a legal right since 2010. In other words, if a citizen for one reason or the other does not have the opportunity to surf the web, he or she can sue the state for redress.

For the impecunious individual who wishes to do meaningful and comprehensive research, however, one hour can be very limiting. To just give one example, it takes me up to two full days to gather material for a single one instalment of the contents of this column, of which Internet-sourced data is key. This is because not every bit of worthwhile information is available at just one click of the mouse. In some cases, the requisite information is simply not available at all and by the time that dawns on you, a full day will have gone by.

There is also the question of whether the Hotspots are amply equipped with desktops, let along being sizeable enough, to cater to the stampede of the city residents who will want to be one of the earliest birds to catch the worm given that access is certain to be on a first-come-first-served basis. An Internet Hall under the auspices of government would serve the purpose best, with the unused Orapa House as a possible venue proposition.

As for nationwide and limitless free Internet access, we still have a long way to go being a Third World country but the earlier we get there, the greater the rewards we reap in the long-term. Google, Facebook, Twitter, to mention only a few, are today multi-billion operations thanks to the added benediction of the Internet epoch. Years back, Elon Musk and five others started PayPal – a means of sending money, making an online payment, and receiving money – using the Internet medium. In 2002, E-Bay acquired PayPal for an eye-popping $1.5 billon, with Musk personally garnering $165 million. As I write, Musk is the 6th richest person on Earth, with a net worth of $82.3 billion.

It is the ready platform of the Internet that helped catapult him to the dizzying pecuniary heights he has since scaled.  We will probably never be able to mint a dot.com-facilitated dollar billionaire in Botswana, but even mere Pula millionaires or part-millionaires can do as half a loaf is better than nothing. If Internet was freely available to every citizen, such chances would be greatly enhanced.

WE LIVE OUR LIVES ONLINE

In the past, Internet connectivity may have been a luxury but the advent of COVID-19 has made it an essential component of the new normal – a lifeline. Students have had to receive lessons online amid stop-go lockdowns of huge swathes of a country. Executives have had no option but to network or collectively liaise using teleconferencing or by way of Skype. Telemedicine, or caring for and consulting with patients remotely, has become the order of the day, especially in the developed world. We have seen live-streamed religious services and of course some people have been working from home.

Even before COVID-19 struck, we were routinely conversationally engaging with family and friends on social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp. Some of our monthly transactions, like telephone bill settlements and DStv subscriptions, were effected online. Needless to say, we have literally been living our lives online. Electronic transacting in any case, whether by mobile phones or via the web, substantially curtail queuing time at banks and precious other pay points anywhere, gets people to spend more time in the workplace than out of it, and therefore boosts productivity as personal errands to do a thing or two are notorious for eating into invaluable man-hours.

There’s also government’s espoused vision of having Botswana transformed into a knowledge-based economy. Without universal access to the Internet, this aspiration will remain a pipe-dream. Knowledge certainly is power, whether this be political, economic, or scientific. Botswana will never come to be anywhere near the economic might of Singapore or the technological feats of South Korea if it relegates knowledge attainment to the back burner of its core aspirations. An Old Testament prophet was spot-on when speaking on behalf of his god Yahweh lamented that “my children perish for lack of knowledge”, HOSEA 4:6.

The paradox is that the digital divide both on the continent of Africa and in Botswana is as glaring as ever. Only four out of ten people in Africa have Internet access and according to the global business data platform Statista, which has insights and facts about 170 industries and more than 150 countries, Botswana has an Internet penetration of only 47.5 percent. It lags 20 other countries on the continent, who include Kenya (the continental leader at 87.5 percent); Mauritius (67 percent); Nigeria (61.2 percent); Swaziland (57.3 percent); Zimbabwe (56.5 percent); South Africa (55 percent); and Zambia (53.7 percent).

A study by the Mc Kinsey Global Institute postulates that if Internet use proliferates in Africa at the rate mobile phones did in the early 2000s, the continent stands to add as much as $300 billion to its economic growth by 2025. The World Bank also says achieving universal, affordable, and good quality Internet access in Africa by 2030 will require an investment of $100 billion. In Botswana, the National Broadband Strategy (NBS) aims to achieve universal broadband by 2023. It is aligned to BOCRA’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan, whose main goal is to deliver the NBS aims at an affordable price tab. Is the time frame realistic?

THE PRICE OF AN ARM AND A LEG!

For universal Internet access to be tenable, first both the access and the medium of access have to be affordable to every literate person out there. Sadly in Botswana, smart phones, which allow for Internet access anywhere where there is a cellular network, do not come cheap. The asking price at the very least is upwards of a thousand Pula. That is a prohibitive price for the greater majority of our population who struggle to eke out a living just to keep body and soul together. The likes of BOCRA and BoFiNet should help out here by subsidising the price of these devices, at least for a period of time till economies of scale result in a natural reduction of the price.

As for the going price of Internet access in Botswana presently, a study of 228 countries earlier this year by cable.co.uk found that Botswana was among the 14 most expensive countries in this regard. I can attest to this myself as I have to fork out a minimum of about P400 a month to enable me the use of the Internet without any hiccup save for the sporadic network downage or the now endemic power outages. To many a people, P400 a month amounts to the proverbial cost of an arm and a leg as it constitutes a substantial proportion of average monthly income. In countries such as Egypt and Mauritius, one can have Internet use every day of the week at any time of the day for only 0.5 percent and 0.59 percent of average monthly income.

In a bid to ameliorate the prohibitive Internet access price in our country, the University of Botswana was forced to shell out a whopping P7.8 million to provide the student populace with free SIM cards to enable them download teaching material under the restrictive COVID-19 climate. Botho University also entered into an arrangement with Orange whereby their students could have online access to learning materials and teaching instruction at only P2 a day, P10 a week, or P30 a month, though data was capped at 200 megabytes a day. Both these initiatives by two of the country’s premier institutions of higher education must be lauded.

If the cost of mobile broadband data has to organically come down drastically, it is essential that we move from a consolidated market – the triopoly of Mascom (with 51 percent market dominance), Orange (34 percent), and Be-Mobile (15 percent) we have in Botswana – to a multi-operator market. In its latest annual report, BOCRA reports that in 2018, the three operators had combined revenues of P4.4 billion and combined profits of P826 million. One wonders why this rather brisk bottom line does not translate to a proportionate paring down of the consumer price or does it have to do with the fact that the operators’ greed knows no bounds?

BOTSWANA NEAR TAIL-END OF GLOBAL BROADBAND SPEED LEAGUE

If the truth may be told, Internet speed in Botswana is no longer as glacially slow as it was a year or two back. That does not mean it is lightning swift. In fact, it is among the slowest both on the globe and on the African continent.  At the download average of 1.92 megabytes per second (mbps), Botswana ranks 165th in the world and is 22nd in Africa according to statistics furnished by cable.co.uk. Our case is all the more stigmatic as we trail even comparatively poorer countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Taiwan has the fastest Internet in the world at 85.02 mbps, followed by Singapore at 70.86 mbps. Whereas it would take 22 hours for one to download a 5 gigabyte movie in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the worst-ranked African country, and 6 hours for Botswana, it would take only 8 minutes in Taiwan.  In Africa, it is not South Africa (8.4 mbps, 75th in the world), the wealthiest country, which leads the pack. It is Madagascar at 22.57 mbps (33rd globally). This is one of the poorest countries on Earth, with four out of every four citizens living on less than $2 a day.

Botswana in fact is way below the minimum speed of 10 mbps required for consumers to fully participate in a digital society according to tech experts. I need not emphasise that time is money. It is time BOCRA and BoFiNet saw to it that we pulled up our socks in broadband speed to serve on trawling time. Regrettably, in Botswana things move very slowly and it will probably be another ten years or so before we come to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Madagascar. As for ever catching up with Taiwan, well, the less said the better.

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The Babylonian Captivity Ploy

19th October 2020

Nebuchadnezzar has the Jews exiled to his own domain to sabotage Jerusalem’s prospects of hosting King Anu, “Our Heavenly Father”

In 590 BC, General Atiku, King Zedekiah decided he would no longer be the puppet of Babylon. Just like Nebuchadnezzar, he wanted to be in full and unmitigated control of the Holy City in the event King Anu pitched. But he was under no illusion he could throw off the yoke of Babylon singlehandedly. So in the fourth year of his reign he – once again against the advice of the far-sighted prophet Jeremiah – joined a coalition that was being formed by Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon resist Nebuchadnezzar.

Upon getting wind of the rumours of this scheme, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Zedekiah to Babylon to administer to him a warn and caution statement but it seemed he took no heed. The following year, Nebuchadnezzar decided to pounce: he captured all the cities of Judah except three, one of which was Jerusalem and which he proceeded to besiege for the third time.

Finding himself in dire straits, General, Zedekiah made an alliance with Pharaoh Apries of Egypt and indeed the latter rushed to reinforce him. In the ensuing lull in hostilities, Nebuchadnezzar pulled a stunt by lifting the siege and Apries withdrew. No sooner had Apries done so than Nebuchadnezzar hemmed in on Jerusalem once again: Zedekiah was on his own. Jerusalem was under siege from January 587 to July 586 BC. The following, General, are the circumstances and aftermath of the siege according to one chronicler:

“Conditions in the city became increasingly desperate. Although the people had had time to prepare, their food supplies eventually began to run out. Cannibalism became a grim reality. Despite Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender, the King refused to do so and just as the last of the food in the city was exhausted the Babylonians broke through the wall.

“Zedekiah fled with remains of his army, but was overtaken and captured near Jericho. From there, he was brought before Nebuchadnezzar at his field headquarters at Riblah, his sons were executed in front of him, and he was blinded. From there, he was taken in chains to Babylon. The key members of his cabinet were executed before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah shortly afterwards.

“A large part of the population of Jerusalem was put to the sword and everything of value plundered. The bronze articles from the Temple were cut up and removed and the building together with the palace and the important houses were set on fire.  “In order to ensure that the city would never rebel against him again, Nebuzaradan, the commander of the Imperial Guard, ordered that the walls be demolished. All who survived in the city were carried off into exile in Babylon, with the exception of the very poor of the land.

The starving population exchanged whatever riches they had left for food, its leadership and priesthood were gone and the Temple burnt. The Babylonians soldiers oppressed the survivors and forced them to work for their food.” The remnant of poor people that were spared, General, were meant to serve as farmers and wine dressers. These people had previously been landless peasants and presented the least risk to the Babylonians, but were required to work the land to prevent the fields falling into disuse.

WOULD KING ANU CONDONE NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S ACT?

Nebuchadnezzar was not the first King to deport a people from their own country, General. The pace was actually set by the Assyrian King Adad Nirari I (c. 1307-1275 BC), who thought the best way to prevent any future uprising was to remove the occupants of the land and replace them with Assyrians. But Nebuchadnezzar, General, had an ulterior motive for the deportations, which only the “Illuminati” of the day were privy to. He wanted to make Jerusalem desolate and decrepit so that when King Anu arrived, he would avoid it like the plague and instead focus on the glittering Babylon.

His aim was to kill off entirely the competition posed by Jerusalem. Says Zechariah Sitchin: “The expectation, it seems, was that the arriving god (Anu) of the Winged Disk (symbol for planet Nibiru) would come down at the Landing Place (Baalbek) in Lebanon, then consummate the Return by entering Babylon through the new marvelous Processional Way and imposing Ishtar Gate.”  But in the event that he indeed pitched, would the pro-Enlilite Anu take kindly to being deflected to a city (Babylon) other than Jerusalem when it had been specifically designated for his ultimate hosting on the planet by virtue of its geometrical centrality?

Having taken over Nippur’s prediluvial role to serve as Mission Control Center after the Deluge, Jerusalem was located at the center of concentric distances to the other space-related sites. Aptly calling it the “Navel of the Earth” (EZEKIEL 38:12), the prophet Ezekiel had announced that Jerusalem had been chosen for this role by God himself. “Thus has said the Lord Yahweh: ‘This is Jerusalem; in the midst of the nations I placed her, and all the lands are in a circle round about her,” EZEKIEL 5:5. “Determined to usurp that role for Babylon,” Sitchin further notes, “Nebuchadnezzar led his troops to the elusive prize and in 598 BC captured Jerusalem.”

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE EXILE SITUATION

Altogether, General, the Babylonian captivity – the deportation of the Nation of Israel to Babylon – spanned 70 years counting from the first deportation of 598/597 BC.  Meanwhile, Judah was renamed Yehud Province by the Babylonians and a puppet Jewish governor was appointed to administer it. (The post of King was abolished, making Zedekiah [reign: 597-586 BC] the last substantive linear King of the Jews.) His name was Gedalia, whose father had been an advisor to King Josiah (reign: 640-609 BC).

Gedalia set up his capital not in Jerusalem but in Mizpah. That, plus the fact that he didn’t have a drop of Davidic blood in him, made him a marked man to Jewish nationalists and traditionalists from the word go. Not long after his appointment, Gedalia was assassinated by a family member of the deposed king Zedekiah. From that point on, General, no Jewish governor was installed until after the end of the Babylonian captivity.

Exactly what were the circumstances of the deportees, General? The image that immediately comes to mind is that of a concentration camp kind of setting reminiscent of the Jewish people’s fate at the hands of Nazi Germany. That, General, is a gross misconception. In Babylon, the Jews enjoyed every privilege, including citizenship if they so desired. They were not enslaved or in bondage of any kind. Their own individual abilities were even tapped into to help advance Babylon in one way or the other.

Reading PSALM 137:1–2, the surface impression one gets, General, is that the Jews in Babylon were beset by a most disagreeable set of circumstances. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion (Jerusalem). There on the poplars we hung up our lyres.” Well, that was pure nostalgia, which is a natural impulse when a people have been displaced, General. A notable historian presents to us the more accurate picture in the following words:

“The deportees, their labour and their abilities, were extremely valuable to the Babylonian state, and their relocation was carefully planned and organised. We must not imagine treks of destitute fugitives who were easy prey for famine and disease: the deportees were meant to travel as comfortably and safely as possible in order to reach their destination in good physical shape.

Whenever deportations are depicted in Babylonian imperial art, men, women and children are shown travelling in groups, often riding on vehicles or animals and never in bonds … Deportees were carefully chosen for their abilities and sent to regions which could make the most of their talents. Not everyone in the conquered populace was chosen for deportation and families were never separated. Those segments of the population that had actively resisted the Babylonians were killed or sold into slavery, but the general populaces became absorbed into the growing empire and were thought of as Babylonians.”

Another historian has this to say, General: “It is assumed that the Jews had to render labour to the Babylonians, but generally they enjoyed a great deal of freedom. Some of the exiles, like Daniel and his three friends, rose to positions of power within the Royal Court of Babylon and many others became wealthy. Later, during the Persian period Jews like Mordecai, Esther, and Nehemiah all found themselves in key positions in the government and were able to act on behalf of their people because they took Jeremiah’s advice.” Indeed, General, Nehemiah rose to become the cup-bearer of the King, that is, the King’s most trusted official.

The King-in-exile himself, Jeconiah, enjoyed particularly special privilleges both when he was in prison and after his release. Captive kings and high-ranking officials received monthly rations of grain and oil. Archaeological evidence recovered from the Royal palace in Babylon provides support for Jeconiah’s presence there and lists the daily rations set aside for him and the members of his family.

The Bible itself, General, does not shy away from underscoring Jeconiah’s privileged status in Babylon as highlighted in JEREMIAH 52:31-34 thus: “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jeconiah King of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became King of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jeconiah King of Judah and freed him from prison. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jeconiah put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the King’s table. Day by day the King of Babylon gave Jeconiah a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.”

 

JEREMIAH PAINTS SORRY PICTURE OF MARDUK’S FATE

The destruction of Solomon’s Temple by King Nebuchadnezzar, General, was according to the Bible the ultimate blasphemy. Ishkur-Adad, the Jehovah under whose auspices the Temple was built, was not in the least bit amused. He straightaway had the prophet Jeremiah step forward and pronounce the comeuppance both on the King and his colossal empire.

Now, biblical prophecies, General, should not be taken at face value. Their fulfillment were documented after the events they purported to foretell had already taken place, not before they happened. Much of the Old Testament corpus was compiled in the 6th century BC, during and after the Babylonian captivity (the Book of Malachi, the last prophet, was written circa 400 BC, and the Book of Daniel was compiled just after 164 BC). So we have to bear that in mind, General, when we read of fulfilled prophecies so that we decide whether to contemplate the story warily or give it the benefit of the doubt.

Jeremiah announced that the destruction of the Temple was going to be avenged by Yahweh (JEREMIAH 50:28). In addition, Adad instructed him to make the following proclamation: “Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, do not conceal it, say: Babylon is taken; withered is Bel; confounded is Merodach … For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away.” – JEREMIAH 50: 1-3.

Jeremiah, General, made this statement circa 561-60 BC. It can be easily dated because it was in this timespan that Merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, was on the throne. Jeremiah served notice to the world that Babylon was to be supplanted by a new power from the north, who turned out to be Persia. Jeremiah also spelt out the imminent fate of the Babylonian god Marduk, who was also known as Bel, meaning “The Lord”: he was to “wither”, or cease to be a factor in the affairs of mankind. In the case of Merodach, all Jeremiah said of him was that he was to be “confounded”, that is, so overwhelmed by problems as to lose a sense of focus. One wonders, General, why Jeremiah, if he was the great prophet he was touted to be, didn’t foresee the assassination of Merodach and directly allude to it in his prophecy.

The prophet Daniel says in his waning days, Nebuchadnezzar had his mind taken away and ate grass like an ox. This, General, is a fanciful story which is found only in the Bible and nowhere in the Babylonian annals. “There is no independent support for the tradition in Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years’ madness, and the story probably arose from a fanciful later interpretation of texts concerned with events under Nabunaid, who showed apparent eccentricity in deserting Babylon for a decade to live in Arabia,” says Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Meanwhile, did Marduk indeed get to wither, General?

NEXT WEEK: FROM EXILE TO EXIT

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Understanding Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework: Industrial Action

19th 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 second leg of Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework-arbitration. In this article, we discuss the third leg, namely industrial action.

Industrial action is generally defined as a situation where the employer and employees use their bargaining power to exert pressure on the other to achieve a particular result. It entails such things as strikes and lockouts.  In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, Industrial action means “a strike, lockout or action short of a strike, in furtherance of a trade dispute”.

In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, “a strike means the cessation of work by a body of employees in any trade or industry acting in combination or under a common understanding or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common understanding by such body of employees to continue work.”

A lock-out is the employees’ equivalent of a strike. In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, a lock-out is defined as “ the closing of a place of employment by an employer in any trade or industry or the suspension of work by such an employer or the refusal by such an employer to continue to employ any number of his or her employees in that trade or industry.”

While on a strike, employees use their numbers to inflict economic pain on the employer by withdrawing their labour, in a lock-out, the employer uses its power by not providing employees with work, thereby inflicting economic harm on them in terms of the ‘no-work, no pay’ principle.
In terms of section 2(1) of the Act, an action short of a strike means “any method of working (other than the method of working commonly known as working to rule) undertaken by a body of employees in any trade or industry acting in combination or under a common understanding, which method of working slows down normal production or the execution of the normal function under their contracts of employment, of the employees undertaking such method of working.”

In terms of section 42(1) (a) of the Act, it is obligatory to refer a dispute of interest for mediation before resorting to a strike or lockout. Also, in terms of section 42(1) (b) of the Act, a party must give the other party a 48-hour notice before the commencement of a strike or lockout. In terms of section 43(1) of the Act, before a strike or lockout commences, the parties have to agree on the rules regulating the action, failing which the mediator must determine the rules in accordance with any guidelines published in terms of section 53 of the Act.

These rules include those concerning the conduct of the strike or lockout and any conduct in contemplation or furtherance of the strike or lockout including picketing and the use of replacement labour. In terms of section 43(2) of the Act, the latter is, however, subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of the Act.

Employers are not allowed to engage replacement labour if the parties have concluded an agreement on the provision of a minimum service. In terms of section 43(3) of the Act, such prohibition also applies if no minimum service agreement is concluded within 14 days of the commencement of the strike or lockout.

In terms of section 43(4) of the Act, a trade union is allowed to picket outside the employer’s premises during a strike or lockout if the parties have concluded an agreement on the provision of a minimum service or if no such agreement is concluded within 14 days of the commencement of the strike or lockout.

The Act prohibits strikes and lockouts that do not comply with the aforesaid provisions or an agreed procedure. The prohibition also applies if the strike or lockout is in breach of a peace clause in a collective labour agreement.

In terms of section 45(1) of the Act, strikes or lockouts are also regarded as unprotected if the subject matter of the strike or lockout is not a trade dispute, is regulated by a collective labour agreement, is a matter that is required by the Act to be referred for arbitration or to the Industrial Court for adjudication, or is a matter that the parties to the dispute of interest have agreed to refer for arbitration.

In terms of section 47 of the Act, employees in essential services are not allowed to take part in a strike. Similarly, employers in essential services are not allowed to take part in a lockout. It is, however, worth noting that, although an essential service employee who engages in a strike commits an offence and is, in terms of section 48(1) of the Act, liable to a fine not exceeding P 2 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both, there is no punishment for an essential service employer who locks out its employees.

In terms of section 48(2) of the Act, the punishment applicable to an essential service employee who engages in a strike, is also applicable for any person who causes, procures, counsels or influences any essential service employee to engage in a strike.

Where there is a trade dispute involving parties in an essential service, it should be reported to the Commissioner by an organisation acting on behalf of the employer, employers or employees. The provisions of section 6(3) apply in respect of a report of the trade dispute made in accordance with section 6 (1).

Where a trade dispute is reported in accordance with that section, it is deemed to have been reported to the Commissioner under section 6. Where there is failure to settle a trade dispute reported to the Commissioner in accordance with section 6 (2) within 30 days from the day on which the trade dispute was reported, the Commissioner may immediately refer the trade dispute to an arbitrator if the dispute is a dispute of interest, except in the case of a collective dispute of interest where the employees are represented by a trade union, or to the Industrial Court if the trade dispute is a dispute of right.

*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 HYPERLINK “mailto:anmorima@gmail.com” anmorima@gmail.com

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