Noting that Utu-Shamash was not returning as per schedule from a meeting with Mot, Inanna-Ishtar was perturbed. Scrambling into a flying saucer, she decided to follow after him just in case he had met with grave misfortune.
Arriving at Mot’s courts, she asked for her brother. The response she got from Mot was at once cheeky and ambiguous. “Am I your brother’s keeper Inanna? He was here alright a while ago but I cannot vouch for his whereabouts now.” Inanna knew Mot was spinning a yarn: Shamash’s flying saucer was within the vicinity and therefore he had to be around. She there and then threw up a tantrum, demanding that Mot produce her brother forthwith if he valued his life. The histrionics she put up bore fruit as Mot’s people informed her the two had engaged in “hand combat” and Shamash had been slain.
Inanna was wroth. Drawing on her skills as a martial artist and quivering with rage, she laid into Mot forthwith and downed him. Then reaching for a sword she had cleverly concealed under her clothing, she swung it and in a split second Mot’s head lay beside him with his eyes still staring. Then hollering at Mot’s officials like a heist man who has just staged a hold-up, she demanded, with steel in her voice, that they show her where her brother’s body was otherwise they would all be history.
The officials were wise enough to note the look of murder in Inanna’s eyes and therefore wasted no time in hearkening to her. Shamash’s lifeless body was immediately flown to Baalbek. At the same time, Ningishzidda, Enki’s genius son, was alerted by radio to head for the same destination from where he was as a matter of life and death. Zidda did his “magic” and it worked since Shamash had been dead for less than three days. Within a month, he was fully recovered and was grinding again. As for Mot, it was curtains: he bit the dust alright. Apparently, Zidda wasn’t kin to apply the same reanimating techniques he had used on Shamash.
GILGAMESH WITNESSES ROCKET LAUNCH!
Coming back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, we’re at a stage where Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk who was between two-thirds to three-quarters Anunnaki, at long last arrives at the Cedar Mountain and stands in awe of the magnificent Cedar trees. Gilgamesh, a grandson of Inanna, had undertaken the journey along with his bosom friend Enkidu with a view to access a shem, blast off to Nibiru, the planet of the Anunnaki, partake of King Anu’s Plant of Life and Water of Life, and consequently gain immortality like the Anunnaki were in the eyes of mankind. The trip was a perilous one in that whereas it had the blessings of Shamash, the god in charge of Baalbek, it had not been sanctioned by Ishkur-Adad, the god who oversaw Lebanon in its entirety and under whose political jurisdiction Baalbek fell.
Gilgamesh had arrived at Baalbek, the place where “one could see Shamash rise up the Vault of Heaven”, late in the afternoon and therefore he and Enkidu decided to wait until the following morning before they made further inroads into the Cedar Mountain. Accordingly, they pitched their tents right at the foot of the mountain and at nightfall retired to sleep. Sometime just before dawn, they were awakened by a “thunderous noise and a blinding light”.
Scrambling out of their tent, they stood amid their armed entourage in pitch darkness as they beheld an “awesome” spectacle yonder atop the Cedar Mountain. This is how Gilgamesh describes it in The Epic of Gilgamesh text: “The heavens shrieked, the earth boomed. Daylight failed, darkness came. Lightning flashed, a flame shot up. The clouds swelled, it rained death! Then the glow vanished; the fire went out. And all that had fallen had turned to ashes.”
Needless to say, what Gilgamesh and Enkidu had just witnessed was the launching of a shem– a shuttlecraft. Zechariah Sitchin superbly explicates the event thus: “One needs little imagination to see in these few verses (of The Epic of Gilgamesh) an ancient account of the witnessing of the launching of a rocket ship. First, the tremendous thud as the rocket engines ignited (‘the heavens shrieked’), accompanied by a marked shaking of the ground (‘the earth boomed’).
Clouds of smoke and dust enveloped the launching site (‘daylight failed, darkness came’). Then the brilliance of the ignited engines showed through (‘lightning flashed’); as the rocket ship began to climb skyward, ‘a flame shot up’. The cloud of dust and debris ‘swelled’ in all directions; then, as it began to fall down, ‘it rained death!’ Now the rocket ship was high in the sky, streaking heavenward (‘the glow vanished; the fire went out’). The rocket ship was gone from sight; and the debris ‘that had fallen had turned to ashes’.” The incident did not frighten or deter Gilgamesh: instead, he took it as reassuring evidence that he and Enkidu had come to the right place.
THE FIEND MATERIALISES
To tell by the unperturbed way with which Enkidu and Gilgamesh had proceeded thus far, Shamash had done his utmost in smoothing the way for them. The fierce guards “who watch over Shamash as he ascends and descends”, whose “terror was awesome”, and whose “glance was death” were nowhere to be seen. The “shimmering spotlight” that “sweeps the mountains” seemed to have wandered well away. By the same token, Enkidu had done a commendable reconnaissance job when he first came here for the first time around.
The two did not encounter a single living being standing sentry in the manner Lugalbanda did. They were now very much poised to infiltrate their way into the silos in which the shems were kept. At daybreak, Enkidu and Gilgamesh got going. Using a map Shamash had supplied Gilgamesh with, the two made their way in the direction of a private, back door gate that was privy to the Anunnaki only, careful that they did not get into the cross hairs of “weapon-trees that kill”.
Reaching the gate, the more daring Enkidu, who led the way, keyed in the access code provided by Shamash. There was an electronic click, some sort of green light. But it seemed Enkidu’s palm print did not match with what the computer picked up: the moment he tried to push the gate open, some electronic “punch” zapped him and he fell to the ground unconscious.
A frantic Gilgamesh went to work immediately. Using the paraphernalia Shamash had provided him, he managed to revive Enkidu but the damage, seemingly, had already been done: Enkidu remained numb. He had no feeling from the neck downwards. Drawing upon the tips he had learnt from Enki, Enkidu asked Gilgamesh to fetch the roots of the plants that flourished around them. Gilgamesh did likewise and bent down to rub the nectar of the roots all over Enkidu’s limp body. This had the effect of making a “double mantle of radiance” emanate from Enkidu’s body (like the effect of Ormus) and by the 12th day, “paralysis left his body, impotence left the loins”. Enkidu was one whole again and was raring to go but backwards rather than forwards.
Anxious that what had happened to him could also happen to Gilgamesh and maybe worse in his case, Enkidu suggested to Gilgamesh that they make no further attempts at opening the gate and that they retreat and beat a path back to Uruk. Over the 12 days Enkidu had been an invalid, however, Gilgamesh hadn’t just lain idle: he had been ferreting around and in the process had stumbled upon a tunnel leading to the “enclosure from which words of command are issued”.
This was a chamber were the “Stone of Splendour”, the command centre that Shamash had installed, was located. But there was a glitch: the tunnel opening was concealed with a natural overgrowth of trees and bushes as well as soil and rocks and what that meant was that there was a job to be done before they pried open the tunnel.
“Do not stand by friend, “Gilgamesh implored Enkidu. “Take heart. Let us go down together.” Enkidu was galvanised and the two pressed on into the thick of the forest. Reaching the cleverly camouflaged site under the convenient cover of darkness, the two, along with their henchmen, got down to work, with Gilgamesh’s team hewing down the trees, and Enkidu’s digging up the rocks. They had scarcely gotten into stride when they heard a noise not unlike the cascade of water falling from a height. Then a beam of menacing light engulfed them. It was Huwawa!
“I SHALL BITE YOUR WINDPIPE AND NECK”
Huwawa, a humongous mechanical robot with a human-like appearance and who was capable of moving on the ground as well as gliding in the void, threw a shudder into Gilgamesh and Enkidu. When he materialised at a distance of about 200 meters, Enkidu’s first instinct was to issue the cry, “Take cover” and everybody did likewise at once.
Then Huwawa, who was equipped with an electronic voice that sounded like Stephen Hawking’s synthesised voice, spoke out, even pronouncing forth Gilgamesh’s name: clearly, somebody was speaking through him from somewhere within the Baalbek nerve centre. Intelligence had already seeped through and the intruding twosome had long been anticipated. “You are so very small that I regard you as a turtle and a tortoise,” Huwawa boasted, sounding very sentient and rather reasonable. “Were I to swallow you, I would not satisfy my stomach;
so I shall bite your windpipe and neck, Gilgamesh, and leave your body for the birds of the forest and for the roaring beasts.” Of course that was all programmed rhetoric: it was all metaphoric language for the damaged goods he would make of the duo once he had zapped them with his killer beam,
As the great android inched forward, Gilgamesh beheld him with searing alarm and trepidation, his heart thudding against his ribs. In those fraught moments, Gilgamesh considered that what Enkidu had told him was right: Huwawa was “mighty, his teeth as the teeth of the dragon, his face the face of a lion, his coming like the onrushing floodwaters. Most fearsome was his radiant beam, a killing force none could escape.”
Drawing nearer, the metallic monster demonstrated that he meant business. From the middle of his forehead, a killer beam shot out and traced a path of destruction that devoured the trees, grass, and thickets in the vicinity in a split second. The clearing that resulted exposed Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and their men like sitting ducks.
Why did Huwawa’s killer beam vapourise vegetation but leave the men unscathed? It was all thanks to Shamash, who had emasculated Huwawa in advance of Gilgamesh’s arrival. Ordinarily, Huwawa operated at seven times his present strength but Shamash had electronically toned him down to about one-seventh of his strength. This tampering made Huwawa incapable of electronically harming anything with flesh and blood.
It also rendered him more susceptible to harm himself as he had been tactfully stripped of “six cloaks” and therefore he effectively had six chinks in his armour. But physically, he still was a formidable foe: just one single blow to any of the men lying supine to the ground would immediately draw the curtain on his life.
ENKIDU SLAYS HUWAWA
As Huwawa loomed, the men from Uruk began to panic in the depressing knowledge that there simply was no way they could escape the clutches of this metallic beast. Just then, there was a sound of an approaching chopper and seconds later a message appeared on Gilgamesh’s timepiece. Alerted by the vibration of the wrist-strapped chronometer, Gilgamesh hastily brought his hand to the side of his head and read the text. It was Shamash. “Down from the skies spoke Divine Shamash,” The Epic of Gilgamesh says. The message read, “Do not try to escape; instead, draw near Huwawa. You can take him on with the weapons in your possession.”
Enkidu and Gilgamesh immediately sprang to their feet, but were unable to venture just one step forward so terror-struck were they by the mechanical creature that leisurely approached. As the two hesitated, Shamash’s chopper swooped low and “raised a host of swirling winds which beat against the eyes of Huwawa”. There and then, “the radiant beams vanished, the brilliance became clouded”. But the dreaded monster was still trudging forward anyway, so determined was he to terminate the daring Earthlings.
Once again, Shamash texted a tremulous Gilgamesh. “Do not run,” he urged. “Let Huwawa come near you, then throw the dust at his face”. This dust was not ordinary dust: it was a special-purpose, neutralising powder that Shamash had provided Gilgamesh with at the outset of his journey.
Ferreting in his pockets, Gilgamesh produced the powder, moved two to three steps closer to Huwawa, and flung the chemical into his nondescript face. The effect was instantaneous: Huwawa stood rooted in one place, as if he had been switched off, whereupon Gilgamesh gleefully observed to Enkidu, “He is unable to move forward, nor is he able to move back.” But the great machine monster had not given up the ghost yet.
Once again, he spoke up, this time imploringly, beseeching Gilgamesh to spare his life in exchange for any amount of the seemingly priceless cedars he’d love to get his hands on. Enkidu cautioned Gilgamesh to be wary that he was sweet-talked into docility by the wily monster. "Finish him off, slay him!" Enkidu hollered out at Gilgamesh. Noting that Gilgamesh was scrupling, as if it was a blood-and-flesh being he confronted, Enkidu reached for an axe, edged forward, and struck Huwawa not once but several times. The monster toppled over, landing with a thud that “for two leagues (about 10 km) the cedars resounded with”. The legendary robotic beast was no more.
In Zambia’s most widely spoken language, Bemba, uwawa means “One who has fallen (from a pedestal of some sort)”. The related term Iciwa, meaning “The Fallen Fiend” refers to a ghost, a demon, an apparition, or a vampire. Clearly, it was the fall of Huwawa at the hands of Enkidu that informed these terms.
GILGAMESH RILES INANNA
Now that the monster that was the most daunting barrier to the Abode of the Gods had perished, Gilgamesh and Enkidu decided to toast to their triumph by indulging in some revelry of sorts. But before they did that, they thought they needed to placate the gods, who had fashioned Huwawa, by according him their own improvisation of a hero’s send-off first thing in the morning. “Lest the gods be filled with fury at them, they set up an eternal memorial,” The Epic of Gilgamesh says. “The comrades cut down one of the cedar trees, made poles of it, and formed of them a raft with a cabin on it. In the cabin, they put the head of Huwawa and pushed the raft down a stream so that the Euphrates carries it to Nippur.”
That done, they stripped off and began to splash about in a brook as they chanted songs of merriment. “Gilgamesh washed his grimy hair, polished his weapons. The braid of his hair he shook out against his back. He cast off his soiled things, put on his clean ones. Wrapped a fringed cloak about, fastened with a sash.” The hunky king was scarcely done when Inanna, who seemed to possess the prescience to turn up at just the most tantalising moment, descended in a chopper.
Apparently, she had been spying on Gilgamesh with a zoom lens and having watched him undress and bath, she was once again roused by his mighty joystick and his overall virility. She there and then invited him to bed her. “Glorious Ishtar raised an eye at the beauty of Gilgamesh,” The Epic of Gilgamesh relates. “‘Come, Gilgamesh, be thou my lover,’ she entreated on her knees. “‘Do grant me of thy fruitfulness: thou shalt be a husband, I shall be a wife. Come, let us enjoy your vigour! Reach out your hand and touch my vulva!’” As usual, she proceeded to outline a whole series of benefits that would be at the Uruk King’s disposal if he hearkened to her advances.
But for the umpteenth time now, Gilgamesh rejected her. In recent times, she had made hobby of liquidating men who she invited to sleep with her on the anniversary of her husband Dumuzi’s death when they failed to satiate her. Gilgamesh alluded to this curious state of affairs in his spurn of her. “After the death of Dumuzi, the lover of your youth, thou hast ordained a wailing year after year,” he told her point blank.
“Which of your paramours pleased you all the time?” Gilgamesh went on to make mention of some of these poor folk whose death she had caused latterly. They included a shepherd who fell out of a flying craft; one strong man whose lifeless body she had unceremoniously dumped into a pit; and two men she had turned into a wolf and frog respectively using supernatural means, one of whom her own father’s gardener. “And how about me?" Gilgamesh asked rhetorically. “At the end, you will love me and then treat me just like them.” The Gilgamesh rebuff did not amuse Inanna at all. This time, she vowed somebody’s head was certainly going to roll. Exactly what was in store for Gilgamesh?
At an economically tumultuous juncture of our country’s history as we presently are, where unemployment has become something of a Gordian Knot conundrum, a promisingly ameliorational pursuit known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is well worth exploring as a salvavic option.
One pundit defines BPO as “a subset of outsourcing that involves contracting the operations and responsibilities for a particular business process to a third-party service provider.” Examples of BPO services, which invariably do not constitute a company’s core or primary mission, include inbound and outbound call centres, live chat, bookkeeping, web development, research marketing, accounting and finance, and after-hours call answering services. BPO is driven, fundamentally, by the imperative of cost-cutting and overrides national boundaries through the employment and deployment of technologies that make human and data communications easier, thus lending credence to the concept of the global village that is today’s world.
BPO had been in existence in its primordial form since as early as the 19th century but it was not until the 1980s that its latter-day incarnation loomed larger and the term outsourcing became part of daily business parlance. Today, every continent is into BPO, including the economic Dark Horse called Africa. The Global IT-BPO Outsourcing Deals Analysis segments BPO buyer regions into three categories. These are North and South America (42 percent); Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (35 percent); and Asia and Oceania 23 percent.
In a Third World country such as Botswana, overseas-oriented BPO is key to bringing in those paramount hard currencies besides engendering a radical turnaround in the all too dingy joblessness picture. But are we up to it folks? Have we gotten aboard the bandwagon or we are virtual spectators watching nonchalantly as the BPO locomotive streaks away at breakneck speed?
JAX’S FLASH-IN-THE-PAN SUCCESS
The extent to which BPO has taken root in Botswana is not apparent. The first time I heard of it was in August 2007, when the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), then going by the name Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), put it on record at a one-day IFSC-organised conference that they were in the process of developing standards for the nascent BPO industry in Botswana whilst they benchmarked with Mauritius, the UK, and South Africa. Little, if anything at all, has been heard of their progress since.
In February 2018, The Botswana Guardian reported of the newly-established Direct BPO, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mascom, which was looking to employing 400 people at the very outset. Once again, details as to how Direct BPO, whose establishment coincided with Mascom’s 20-year anniversary, has fared to date remain sketchy.
Perhaps the most spectacular case of a BPO operation in Botswana was that of Oseg, a company begun by Majakathata Pheko, affectionately known as Jax, in 2003 under the Debtsolve franchise umbrella. Oseg, which comprised of three divisions, offered customer management and financial services solutions and operated out of Gaborone and Windhoek in Namibia, where it touted MTN as its principal client. Oseg did receivable management for local financial blue chips such as Barclays Bank, FNB, Bayport, MVA, Botswana Insurance Company, Letshego, and Standard Chartered, and in due course CEDA and Mascom. It also served the Australian offshore market. Its account receivable division was the biggest in Botswana, handling over 60,000 accounts and managing a portfolio of over P400 million.
At its height, Oseg employed 150 people and had spent over P15 million on cutting edge technology and manpower training. In 2007, Oseg was nominated for Best Non-European Contact Centre at the CCF Awards held that year in Birmingham, UK, the “Oscars of the industry”.
Then in 2016, the sky seemed to have fallen. Oseg found itself saddled with an odious P4.4 million debt, with its staff resultantly trimmed to just under 50. According to media reports, Jax pointed to his own bankrollers and their partners in the alleged crime as his rather devious saboteurs. “I have evidence that powerful people in the bank and a cabal of friends both inside and outside the bank were intentionally and aggressively looking for ways to weaken Oseg, tarnish its name and diminish its value as they were in the same competing business interests, in the call centre and the factoring business,” the then youthful entrepreneur, who was only 41 at the time, bemoaned.
Jax reported the matter to NBFIRA and what came of that, not to mention the continued viability of his business, I have not been able to establish. I just hope and trust that Jax personally weathered the tempest as I have it on good authority that he is doing fairly well.
BOTSWANA MISSING OUT ON DOLLAR-DENOMINATED BILLIONS
For emerging economies, and even peripheral Third World countries, the BPO business can be something of a gold mine. According to the latest McKinsey report, the global BPO industry is valued at $163 billon and is expected to grow at $183 billion by the year 2023.
In the Philippines, BPO, which began with a call centre setup way back in 1992, accounts for 11 percent of GDP, the single biggest contributor to the nation’s economic activity. It employs 1.3 million people in over 700 outsourcing companies. One company, called Teleperformance, alone employs 47,000 people in 21 sites. In 2019, the BPO sector generated revenues of the order of $26.3 billion.
In India, the BPO sector, now 30 years old, provides direct employment to 2 million people and indirect employment to 8 million. In 2019, the BPO income overall amounted to $8.6 billon. In Mauritius, the ICT/BPO sector contributed 6 percent to GDP in 2019, representing a key driver of the Mauritian economy. The BPO sector is responsible for 53 percent of the 27,000 people employed in the ICT/BPO superstructure in 850 companies.
According to the Economic Development Board of Mauritius, leading multinationals such as Accenture, Huawei, Aspen Pharmacare and Allianz have back office operations in Mauritius. In addition, a number of international payroll companies currently use Mauritius as a service delivery centre.
Kenya is also looking to position itself as a hub for global digital BPO, notably through government promotion schemes such as Ajira. According to the ITC Authority of Kenya, the market size for online work was estimated to be $4.8 billion in 2016 and was projected to generate $15 billon by 2020. With only 7000 people employed in the BPO industry in the country, we are talking about a modest figure though it is still brisk compared to the rather lugubrious situation in Botswana. Clearly, there are billions in US dollar terms to be had in BPO and we are missing out on these big time.
MZANZI LEAVES BW IN THE DUST
Yet it is Big Brother next door from whom we have precious much to glean as he is our immediate competitor potentially in the BPO race. Remember, if our IFSC continues to flounder to date, it is largely on account of the fact that in Mzansi, we have a formidable rival right on our doorstep.
As we speak, the South African BPO sector is valued at $461 million going by the invariably authoritative McKinsey survey. It employs 270,000 people in six cities, a figure projected to more than double to 775,000 by 2030. Of the current total staff base, 65,000 serve international clients. That South Africa has made such enormous strides in the BPO arena is meritoriously earned and not simply fortuitous. It has been voted the second most attractive BPO location in the world for three years on the trot.
The South African BPO sector is tipped to grow by 3 percent per annum over the next three years, a rate which is in line with the trends in the global BPO space. There are currently over 100 local and international BPO providers operating in South Africa, with local players in the main serving large multinational customers. The industry’s key offshore business clientele is domiciled in English-speaking countries, notably the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, with 61 percent coming from the United Kingdom, 18 percent from the United States and Canada, and 11 percent from Australia.
In June this year, the $1.5 trillion-strong Amazon announced that it would be signing up a total of 3000 South Africans to help cater to its customers in North America and Europe, which is testament to the fact that the country’s BPO market continues to make waves in the Western world. If Jeff Bizos is impressed, you can count on the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit too sooner rather than later.
A FORGONE OPPORTUNITY TO TURBO-CHARGE THE BPO INDUSTRY IN BOTSWANA
Empowerment Africa is an organisation that boasts a business network that enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long-term value with Africa-based projects. With reportedly 3000 esteemed contacts, it liaises with governments, major corporations, and investors to facilitate business opportunities, deliver deal flow, and provide research across its network to the Empower Africa business community.
Empowerment Africa recommends seven countries in Africa with thriving outsourcing industries. They are Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, and Madagascar in that order. Botswana is conspicuous by its absence and that must be ample cause for concern to our Monetary Authorities, especially given that at least on paper, we are economically better off than three to four of these countries.
In 2015, Jax approached the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and propositioned a joint partnership with Oseg in unlocking BPO potential in Botswana by looking at the public sector Debt Collection and Call Centre services for government. Jax reckoned that the total market for Receivables and Revenue collections sitting in Government and Parastatal organisations at the time amounted to over P3.5 billion, equivalent to 8% of the National Budget then. If the BPO sector was to be utilised to assist in collecting this debt, over 2700 jobs would be created.
Furthermore, considering that a typical government employee spent half the time attending to inquiries from members of the public, the exercise would result in improved efficiency delivery in government departments in addition to boosting government’s liquidity position.
This is what Jax said in a 50th independence anniversary publication in 2016 on the same subject. “Our estimations are that once all the collections work is outsourced, there is a potential to collect more than P100 million every month for the Government of Botswana.
The opportunity to create more than 2700 exists, which will help to mop out unemployed graduates and upskill them. The economic impact of 2700 jobs would support more than 15,000 people in the economy and also help to create jobs in other industries that support the BPO sector, and will stimulate the whole ICT sector. Over and above that, the outsourcing would stimulate the whole IT sector and help improve Botswana’s position as an ICT and Call Centre hub.”
Once again, I am not privy to what came of this proposition, but I am persuaded that had government acceded to it, the BPO business in the country would have quantum-leaped and we would today be waltzing on the proverbial Cloud 9 in terms of revenues generated. Even the road retarder Oseg encountered with its bankers would not have been a factor at all. As significant, we would in all probability have made it on Empowerment Africa’s short list for the continent’s pre-eminent BPO addresses.
THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF GOVERNMENT IN BOOSTING BPO FORTUNES
Granted, with the advent of the still latent E-Governance, the synergic potential with the Call Centre business is stupendous. As per Jax’s pitch to those who care to hear, “The outsourcing of the E-Governance and collections will greatly improve efficiency in service delivery in the government departments. Directing traffic and enquiries to a Call Centre would empower the BPO sector in such a way that would be able to help the public from all over the country from one central point 24 hours and 7 days week.
The Call Centres would also relieve Government of the pressure to develop brick and mortar representations/offices across the country. This would help to save billions of Pula as the public will be able to access the services from the comfort of their homes and villages. The Call Centre service would bridge the urban and rural division as everyone will now be able to access Government services and receive the same service.”
The real jackpot both to government and the broader citizenry, however, resides in the offshore market. With sales cycles in the BPO business taking up to 12 months, contracts typically run from five to seven years, which is sustained lucrativeness by any measure. It is in the direction of the overseas market that much of our energy should be focused, though wary that we do not recklessly neglect the domestic market, if we are to reinvigorate the BPO industry and get meaningful returns out of it.
Developed countries are all the more keen to outsource as one way to insulate their economies against severe hurt inflicted by globalwide economic tremors. For instance, it was thanks to offshore outsourcing that Australia so ably navigated the 2008 economic crisis. That year, IBM released a BPO report showing that 80% of Australian companies were willing to outsource from offshore companies to save 50% in expenses.
Here in Botswana, I would recommend that government be in the BPO vanguard by splashing on a whole host of catalytic factors. In South Africa, for instance, the Department of Industry, Trade and Competition devoted R1.3 billion between 2007 and 2018 to bolstering the BPO industry in one way or the other and committed a further R1.2 billion in 2019 alone, gestures which no doubt underlie the solid performance of the industry.
Even when the lockdowns were in progress, the industry was accorded essential services status so that it kept the momentum going. As if not to be outdone, the South African BPO industry body, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), has commendably done its part in aiding the growth of the industry by supporting skills development, sharing best practice, and providing its members with access to other business networks and associations that drive and influence the sector’s transition into the digital economy. In Mauritius, the Prime Minister himself, and not a man of lesser stature, directly oversees the BPO sector.
For Botswana to make a mark in the BPO arena, it has to build a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality destination for outsourced business services, attributes all of which South Africa excels in. In addition, South African BPO players provide higher-quality services owing to strength across five key areas: availability of skills, infrastructure, risk profile, business environment, and industry size. In Botswana, we will need to nurture some of these strengths with the instrumentality of government.
With the advent of COVID-19, it is of essence that traditional BPO providers build capabilities to enable rapid deployment and ramp-up of fully functional teams under crisis scenarios. Operational resilience, that is, the ability to pivot when an ordinarily disruptive set of circumstances hits, is key. South Africa demonstrated this capacity most eloquently when 90 percent of the workforce was able to switch to remote work in residential settings, when 50 percent of operations in key competing locations such as the Philippines and India came to a virtual standstill.
Lastly but by no means the least, a competitive currency is a reasonably efficacious undercutting strategy. In recent months, the South African Rand has significantly weakened against the US dollar, in which the cost of outsourcing is typically denominated, and this has enabled South African BPOs to compete more effectively with Asian offerings.
It concerns me that last year, the Pula appreciated by 1.6 percent against the SDR (Special Drawing Right), which is a compound of five currencies, namely the US dollar, the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Yuan. If that relatively ripped Pula trajectory persists, it will not help our BPO competitiveness at all Rre Moses Pelaelo.
Mighty Persian King ends Babylonian exile after 60 years
For all his euphoria and grandiose preparations for Nibiru King Anu’s prospective visit to Earth, General Atiku, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t live to savour this potentially highly momentous occasion. In fact, none of his next three bloodline successors were destined to witness up-close the return of the Planet of the Gods, as Nibiru was referred to in Sumerian and Egyptian chronicles.
Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, having ruled for 43 years, missing Nibiru, which showed up circa 550 BC as we set down in The Earth Chronicles series, by a whisker. During the next 6 years, he had three successors in such an unconscionably short period of time. His immediate one was Merodach, his eldest son.
In Botswana, the Trade Disputes Act, 2016 (“the Act”) provides the framework within which trade disputes are resolved. This framework hinges on four legs, namely mediation, arbitration, industrial action and litigation. In this four-part series, we discuss this framework.
In last week’s article, we discussed the third leg of Botswana’s trade dispute resolution framework-industrial action. In this article, we discuss the fourth leg, namely litigation at the Industrial Court. The Act does not define the term litigation. Litigation is generally understood to mean a situation where parties to a trade dispute take their dispute to a court, in this case the Industrial Court, for determination by a judge.
Just like an arbitrator, a judge’s decision is binding on the parties though they can, of course, appeal it. However, while an arbitrator must be acceptable to both parties, a judge does not have to be acceptable to the parties. A party can, however, apply for the judges’ recusal from the case for such reasons as reasonable apprehension of bias.
Before discussing litigation at the Industrial Court, it is apposite that a brief background of the origins and evolution of the Industrial Court be given. The original Trade Disputes Act (No. 19/1982) provided for disputes to be adjudicated, inter alia, by a Permanent Arbitrator. This is confirmed in Veronica Moroka & 2 Others v The Attorney General and Another, Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. CACGB-121-17 at para 11.
The Industrial Court replaced the institution of the Permanent Arbitrator (Dingake Collective Labour Law in Botswana 23) following the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act (No. 23/1997) which, as confirmed in the Veronica Moroka case supra, came into force on 9 October 1997.
As per Kirby JP, in the Veronica Moroka case supra, the Industrial Court’s status “as a court was uncertain and no provision was made for it to be served by a Registrar, with the usual powers and duties of such office”.
The Court of Appeal, in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo and Others, 1996 BLR 763 CA, remedied this defect. It held that the Industrial Court was not a mere statutory tribunal, but was, in line with Section 127(1) of the Constitution of Botswana, a subordinate court, having limited jurisdiction.
Following the change of the definition of subordinate court by Act 2/2002 to exclude the Industrial Court, along with the Court of Appeal, the High Court and a court martial, the Industrial Court became a superior court, albeit still with limited jurisdiction unlike the High Court, for instance, which has inherent unlimited jurisdiction.
Consequently, appeals from the Industrial Court were referred to the Court of Appeal. Perhaps most significantly, according to Veronica Moroka, Industrial Court judges were now, just like High Court judges, protected by, inter alia, security of tenure.
The Trade Disputes Act was further amended and replaced by the Trade Disputes Act, 2003 which commenced on 6 April 2004 as Act No. 15 of 2004. Section 16(8) of this Act provided for the appointment of the Registrar and an Assistant Registrar, but still had no section clothing them with specific powers.
It, through section 20(3), also bestowed, in the Court, the power to hear urgent applications and, in terms of section 18(1), the power to grant interdicts, thereby remedying the defects identified in Botswana Railways Organization v Setsogo & Others supra, but it still had no provision dealing with writs of execution and sales flowing therefrom.
In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, the Industrial Court’s jurisdiction includes the power to hear and determine all trade disputes except disputes of interest as well as, in terms of section 20(1) (b) of the Act, the power to interdict any unlawful industrial action and to grant general interdicts, declaratory orders or interim orders.
In terms of section 20(1) (c) of the Act, the Industrial Court is also clothed with the power to hear appeals and reviews of the decisions of mediators and arbitrators respectively. It, in terms of section 20(1) (d) of the Act, has the power to direct the Commissioner to assign a mediator to mediate a dispute if it is of the opinion that the matter has not been properly mediated or requires further mediation.
In terms of section 20(1) (e) of the Act, the Industrial Court also has the power to direct the Commissioner to refer a dispute that is before the Court for arbitration. In terms of section 20(1) (f) of the Act, it has the power to refer any matter to an expert and, at the Court’s discretion, to accept the expert’s report as evidence in the proceedings.
The Industrial Court also has the power to give such directions to parties to a trade dispute provided the object of such directions is the expedient and just hearing and determination or disposal of any dispute before it.
In terms of section 20(2) of the Act, any matter of law and any question as to whether a matter for determination is a matter of law or a matter of fact is decided by the presiding judge. In terms of section 20(3) of the Act, with respect to all issues other than those referred to under section 20 (2), the decision of the majority of the Court prevails.
Where there is no majority decision under section 20 (3), the decision of the judge prevails. In terms of section 24(2) of the Act, any interested party in any proceedings under the Act may appear by legal representation or may be represented by any other person so authorised by that party.
In terms of section 28(2) of the Act, a decision of the Industrial Court has the same force and effect as a decision of the High Court, and because, unlike South Africa, Botswana has no Labour Appeal Court, decisions of the Industrial Court, just like those of the High Court, are, in terms of section 20(5) of the Act, appealable to the highest court in the land, that is, the Court of Appeal.
The Trade Disputes Act went through another amendment in 2016. Section 14 of the Act ensures the continuation of the Industrial Court. It outlines its functions as the settlement of trade disputes as well as the securing and maintenance of good industrial relations in Botswana.
In terms of section 15(1) of the Act, the judges of the Industrial Court are appointed by the state President from among persons possessing the qualifications to be judges of the High Court as prescribed under section 96 of the Constitution.
In terms of section 15(2) of the Act, these judges are headed by the President of the Industrial Court designated by the state President from among the judges.
In terms of section 15(4) of the Act, a judge of the Industrial Court who is not a citizen of Botswana or who is not appointed on permanent and pensionable terms may be appointed on contract basis and is eligible for reappointment.
In terms of section 15(5) of the Act, Judges of the Industrial Court sit with two nominated members, one of whom is selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employees or trade unions in Botswana and the other selected by the judge from among persons nominated by the organisation representing employers in Botswana.
In terms of section 15(6) of the Act, where, for any reason, the nominated members are or either of them is absent for any part of the hearing of a trade dispute, the jurisdiction of the court may be exercised by the judge alone or with the remaining member of the Court, whichever the case may be, unless the judge, for good reason, decides that the hearing should be postponed.
In terms of section 18(1) of the Act, An Industrial Court judge vacates office on attaining the age of 70 years, provided that the state President may permit him or her to continue in office for such period as may be necessary to enable him or her to deliver judgment or to do any other thing in relation to proceedings that had commenced before him or her.
In terms of section 18(2) of the Act, in accordance with the provisions of the proviso to section 96(6) of the Constitution, a person appointed to act as an Industrial Court judge vacates that office on attaining the age of 75 years.
In terms of section 19(1) (a) and (b) of the Act, an Industrial Court judge may be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office, whether arising from infirmity of body or mind, or from any other cause or for serious misconduct.
In terms of section 19(2) of the Act, the power to remove an Industrial Court judge from office vests in the state President acting in accordance with the procedure provided under section 97 of the Constitution for the removal of High Court judges.
*Ndulamo Anthony Morima, LLM(NWU); LLB(UNISA); DSE(UB); CoP (BAC); CoP (IISA) is the proprietor of Morima Attorneys. He can be contacted at 71410352 or firstname.lastname@example.org