Of the Anunnaki gods, Utu-Shamash, Inanna-Ishtar’s twin brother and Gilgamesh’s godfather, enjoyed the greatest esteem among the Earthlings at the time. This had to do with the fact that he was in charge of the shems, the rockets, regarded by mankind as the basic medium through which immortality was conferred. His Sumerian name Utu meant “The Resplendent (or Bright) One”. This alluded to his being the Enlilites’ “Sun God”. But it was his Akkadian name, Shamash, that more aptly conveyed the sense of who he really was. It meant, “He of the Fiery Rocketships”. Yet Shamash was not only in charge of the shems; he was also in charge of the Mu’s – all public flying craft that was restricted to plying Earth’s skies only.
Now, although Shamash was the spaceport commander, he was not the overlord of Tilmun, the site in the Sinai Peninsula where the spaceport was located. It was his father Nannar-Sin who was. By the same token, although he was the Landing Place’s Director of Civil Aviation, he was not overall in charge of the Cedar Mountain area. That role belonged to his uncle Ishkur-Adad. So it was not up to him alone to give Gilgamesh the green light to proceed to Baalbek: Adad had to be involved too.
Listening to the impassioned prayers of Gilgamesh, Shamash was touched. He told him he had heard him loud and clear and would be reverting to him in a matter of days. The answer, when it came, was a blow. Gilgamesh did not qualify to set foot on the Landing Place as he was not a full god despite being between two-thirds to three-quarters Anunnaki. What Shamash refrained from divulging to his protégé – lest he be seen as a lame-duck god – was that Adad had stoutly turned down his pleas on behalf of Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh was gutted but he was not giving up. He there and then approached his mother Ninsun and with tears in his eyes implored her to get Shamash to reconsider. “A far journey I have boldly undertaken," he whimpered. "To the place of Huwawa, an uncertain battle I am about to face; unknown pathways I am about to tread. O my mother, pray thou to Shamash on my behalf!"
Ninsun wasted no time in acting on her adored son’s entreaty. “Ninsun entered her chamber, put on a garment as beseems her body, put on an ornament as beseems her breast, donned her tiara,” say the Sumerian chronicles. Then entering the sanctuary of Shamash, she raised up her hands and supplicated thus: “Give him (Gilgamesh) your protection. Until he reaches the Cedar Forest, until he has slain the fierce Huwawa, until the day he goes and returns.”
This prayer she rendered not once but daily. “To take Gilgamesh aloft, to Nibiru journey, Ninsun to Utu the commander appealed,” the Sumerian records relate. “Endlessly Ninsun to Utu appealed, day after day with him she pleaded, ‘Let Gilgamesh to the Landing Place go!’” Ninsun also enlisted Inanna to do her utmost to prevail over her twin-brother to hearken to her son’s pleas. But would Inanna play ball considering there was no love lost between her and Gilgamesh?
GREEN LIGHT FOR GILGAMESH AT LAST
Well, Inanna did play ball. But it was not in good faith as always: it was with the aim of furthering her own interests and fulfilling her own lecherous ambitions vis-a-vis Gilgamesh. At this stage in fact, Inanna’s ego had soared sky-high and her temperament had taken a turn for the worse. Inanna had decided that come the Age of the Ram, she was going to be the new Enlil, by hook and crook, and not Marduk who was rightfully entitled to that. What that meant was that she had to do something spectacular to demonstrate the fact that she had the “balls” to take on all comers, including Enlil himself, as a populist gambit. That entailed treading even where devils dared.
After having been repeatedly snubbed romantically by Gilgamesh, she had become somewhat unhinged. This time, the men she slept with ended up dying not from “sexual sweetness” but by her own foul hand for very obscure reasons. It seemed to her every man was as despicable as Gilgamesh. She in all probability was sacrificing them to her own Luciferian gods.
In Gilgamesh’s mooted journey to the Cedar Mountains, Inanna saw an opportunity to make a huge splash geopolitically and to endear herself to Gilgamesh with a view to clinching him as a permanent bed fellow. It was all too easy for Inanna to lean on Shamash to consent to Gilgamesh’s prayer: all she had to do was strip and lead him to her Eanna love nest. She had in the past not only did it with her own twin brother but had even married him for a brief period of time during the astrological Age of Gemini, which was dedicated to the twins. Again that was not out of pure love: she greatly valued his rocket-like member. Above all, she wanted to secure a ranking among the Anunnaki Pantheon, which she could only merit if she was married to an already ranked Anunnaki.
Whether or not this time around she did actually go horizontal and spread-eagled under Shamash to accomplish her end, he did at long last give Gilgamesh the go-ahead, albeit without the consent and knowledge of Adad. “The tears of Gilgamesh he accepted as an offering; like one of mercy, he showed him mercy,” say the Sumerian records.
On his part, Shamash sincerely wished Gilgamesh to reach the Landing Place, not to necessarily proceed to Nibiru but to give him the psychological thrill of having been to the “Abode of the Gods” and having rode a shem. Inanna on the other hand didn’t wish Gilgamesh to set foot on the Baalbek platform: all she wanted was to use him to attain her own strategic ends. That’s how cunning she was.
ENKIDU ADOPTED AS NINSUN’S SON, OFFERED ANUNNAKI VIRGIN
Having given Gilgamesh the go-ahead to fulfil his obsession, Shamash nonetheless did not mince words about what was in store for the King. He told him point blank that it would not be a walk in the park: it was fraught with hardship and peril. “The dust of the crossroads shall be thy dwelling place, the desert shall be thy bed … Thorn and bramble shall skin thy feet; thirst shall smite thy cheeks … The place where the shems have been raised is surrounded by seven mountains, and the passes guarded by fearsome Mighty Ones who can unleash a scorching fire or a lightning which cannot be turned back.” At the same time, Shamash promised that he and Inanna would be keeping vigil over Gilgamesh from the skies, particularly when he entered the cedar forest.
The elders of Uruk, however, were worried sick. Once again, they tried to reason with their beloved king to shelve his mission. “Thou are yet young, Gilgamesh," they reiterated. “Why risk death with so many sure years to live, against unknown odds of success? That which thou wouldst achieve, thou knowest not.” But Gilgamesh held his ground. “Should I fail," he said, “people will remember me: Gilgamesh, they will say, against fierce Huwawa has fallen. At least I will be remembered as one who had tried. But should I succeed I will obtain a shem, by which one attains eternity.”
Gilgamesh was all the more emboldened by the fact of Huwawa being a “mechanical monster” as he was positive Shamash and Adad (he was not sure about Inanna) would check it by remote control if it really threatened his life. Be that as it may, the elders suggested very strongly that he take Enkidu with him. “Let Enkidu go before thee: he knows the way … In the forest, the passes of Huwawa let him penetrate … He who goes in front saves the companion.” Gilgamesh welcomed the idea but he made it clear Enkidu would walk by his side and not as a sacrificial lamb since he was like a brother to him.
Just before he was about to depart, Ninsun summoned him along with Enkidu to her courts for farewell blessings. "Grasping each other, hand in hand,” the Sumerian tablets record, “Gilgamesh and Enkidu to the Great Palace go, to the presence of Ninsun, the Great Queen.” When the two came before her presence, not only did Ninsun place the moral onus of the whole undertaking on the shoulders of Enkidu but she also declared he now was officially and legally his son before an assembly of the Uruk elders. “Although not of my womb's issue art thou,” she said as she placed a necklace depicting her own emblem around his thick neck, “I herewith adopt thee as a son. Guard the king as thy brother!”
As if that was not enough, Enkidu was promised a wife if he returned safely together with Gilgamesh. This was not an Earthling but a goddess – a daughter of Shamash and his wife Aya. He was to choose for himself who among Shamash’s virgins he was to marry. Note that whereas Anunnaki females could marry Earthling men without any repercussions, Anunnaki males when they married Earthlings forfeited their citizenship of Nibiru. When the time for the journey to commence came, a huge crowd of the Uruk populace gathered to bid farewell to their great king, the vast majority of them weeping and wailing. “They pressed closer to him and wished him success.”
“LET’S CALL OFF MISSION”, ENKIDU PLEADS WITH GILGAMESH
Before Gilgamesh and Enkidu set off for Baalbek, the Airport of the Gods, Enkidu once again moved to prime him in respect of the hazards that lay in wait. Although he had readily acceded to accompanying Gilgamesh, he still had a residual concern as to whether Gilgamesh was going to emerge from the adventure in one piece. If it were up to him, Gilgamesh wouldn’t have undertaken the mission at all considering the close shave he himself had when he went to reconnoitre the place.
“Just to recap Gilbert, we’re going to a restricted zone,” he reiterated to the daredevil Uruk King. “It is protected by an electronically operated corps of guards bearing sophisticated weapons and who are incapable of making a mistake when you are in their crosshairs. The place, the Abode of the Gods, is surrounded by an expansive screen of cedar forest that extends for many leagues. The entire forest is watched from a lofty tower by the Monster Huwawa, a terror to mortals like you and I. The mountain of the Gods itself is accessible only through a gateway which can paralyse the intruder who breaches it. Inside the mountain is the very lair of the gods. A tunnel leads to the enclosure from which commands are issued by the god Shamash. Atop the Cedar Mountain is a great platform with a launch tower built of colossal stone blocks. That’s the intelligence I gathered when I ventured there with the assistance of Lord Enki.”
Enkidu’s emphasis on these nether aspects of their destination was to get Gilgamesh to develop cold feet and scrap the mission, particularly that Ishkur-Adad, who had overall jurisdiction over the whole of what we today call Lebanon, had not given assent to the mission. However, the more Enkidu spelt out the snares of the journey, the more galvanised Gilgamesh became to fulfil it.
To begin with, Shamash had given him comprehensive tips on all the possible loopholes about Baalbek and its robotic guard that he could exploit. He had also supplied him with the antidotes and paraphernalia he needed to protect himself against the deleterious effects of the electronic weapons to which he might fall victim. Moreover, Shamash had armed him to the teeth: it was like he was going to battle. “Gilgamesh ordered (i.e. requisitioned) weapons with which to fight Huwawa”, say the Sumerian records. The requisite hardware Shamash provided Gilgamesh and Enkidu included “divine sandals that enabled them to reach the Cedar Mountains in a fraction of time”, we’re told.
Of course there’s an element of hyperbole in the statement as the party did not move that fast but what the Sumerian chronicles are talking about here are armoured vehicles with wheels that moved on chains so that they could navigate every terrain. The party was thus very well-equipped and was escorted by a sizeable contingent of trained warriors: if you recall, Gilgamesh had turned Uruk into Sumer’s most powerful city-state militarily.
As they continued on their journey, Enkidu’s premonition about what might transpire in the encounter with Huwawa continued to haunt him. Once again he pleaded with Gilgamesh that he call off the mission. “Huwawa can hear a cow moving sixty leagues away,” he yet again reminded the King. “His net (radar) can grasp from great distances. His call (electronic warning system) reverberates from the Place Where the Rising Is Made (Baalbek) as far back as to Nippur. Weakness lays hold on him who approaches the (Cedar) forest's gates. Let us turn back.” Gilgamesh simply smiled and said, “What was destined to happen will happen Enkidu. Fate is inescapable.”
GILGAMESH’S PORTENDOUS DREAM
On average, Gilgamesh and his party traversed a distance of 50 leagues, or 280 km, a day. At this rate, they should have reached the Cedar Forest, which was a distance of 1245 km, in about 5 days. However, it took them 17 days to get there, which suggests the terrain was particularly atrocious, entailing a lot of detours around mountains and rivers, and the capricious weather must have militated against them for the most part.
Gilgamesh was ecstatic that they had come this far all in one piece and for that a thanksgiving exercise was in order for the “overseeing” god Shamash. Accordingly, he and Enkidu squared up to make a ritual offering to the god. The ritual involved the use of blood and barley in what we would today call an occultic way. From the legible but broken portions of the relevant tablet of The Epic of Gilgamesh, the ritual is described thus in six verses: “Enkidu arranged it for him, for Gilgamesh. With dust … he fixed … He made him (Gilgamesh) lie down inside the circle and … like wild barley … blood … Gilgamesh sat with his chin on his knees …”
These kinds of rituals whereby a circle is drawn (around a pentagram) on the floor and the supplicant positions himself inside the circle are done for purposes of summoning demons from their abode in the Lower Fourth Dimension with a view to assign them a desired task. What this clearly demonstrates is that the Enlilites were Devil-worshippers. No wonder the thoroughly enlightened Gnostics of the first century called Jehovah (Enlil) a Demiurge – an impostor god who worked in league with the forces of darkness.
The twin object of the ritual was to request Shamash to point to what may transpire in the days ahead through an omen dream by Gilgamesh. “Bring me a dream, a favourable dream,” Gilgamesh entreated the demon that temporarily manifested in the course of the ritual. The ritual did pay off as that very night, “sleep which spills out over people overcame Gilgamesh; in the middle of the watch sleep departed from him. A dream he told Enkidu.”
This is how Gilgamesh recounted the dream to Enkidu, who shared the same tent with him: “In my dream, my friend … which was extremely upsetting … the mountain toppled. It laid me low, trapped my feet … The glare was overpowering! A man appeared; the fairest in the land was he. From under the toppled ground (the landslide) he pulled me out. He gave me water to drink; my heart quieted. On the ground he set my feet.”
The dream had two basic features: a man with a very beautiful countenance, a kind of saviour, and the overwhelming glare that numbed the muscles. What did it all mean? Gilgamesh wondered aloud to his bosom friend. On hearing of the dream, Enkidu was heartened. “Your dream is favourable mate,” he gushed as he high-fived the King. “The mountain that toppled represents the slain Huwawa. The overpowering glare is Huwawa’s net force (laser blast). You will survive it: the fairest man, likely Shamash, will redeem you from its effects. Now I’m positive about this mission buddy.” But would Gilgamesh’s dream pan out exactly as Enkidu had interpreted it? Was Enkidu simply putting a positive spin on the dream?
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.
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?
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:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org