Drifting King of Uruk within sniffing distance of Abode of Noah?â€¨
The death of Enkidu weighed heavily on Gilgamesh’s mind. He just could not get over it no matter how hard he tried. His sorrowing was two-pronged. First, he had lost a great friend, in fact the greatest of them all.
Second, he was again confronted with the reality of the enemy he hated and dreaded the most – death. The same dilemma of yesteryears laid siege to him again: why should he die like Enkidu when he was three-quarters Anunnaki, more than a demigod? No, he said to himself, death was something that he had to avoid at all costs ad with every fibre of his being. And if he was indeed to ward it off, he should not trace his way back to Uruk but soldier on to Tilmun, the Anunnaki spaceport in the Sinai Peninsula. There, he’d either plead his way into a space-bound rocket or seek Noah, the hero of the Deluge, to boost him with the Elixir of Youth. Then death would be banished forever!
Now, without a ship, how was he going to get to Tilmun? He could hike a passing ship, which would be all too easy for him being a renowned king, but suppose there was another sabotage shipwreck or chance shipwreck and this time around he died? He just could not afford to take chances when he was on his way to possibly attain immortality. The safer route to take, he reckoned, was the overland one, bang on foot. It would be arduous and likely perilous given the vagaries of weather and the beasts of prey that roamed the vast expanse of the mid-eastern wilds. To get to Tilmun, he would have to traverse a distance of about 550 leagues, roughly 3000 km.
We’re talking months here, not mere days or weeks. But the task at hand far from daunted him. He had made lengthy overland ventures on foot in the past along with his father Lugalbanda as well as Enkidu himself and therefore was a seasoned adventurer. The only difference was that whereas in the past he had been with plenty of company, this time around he’d be all by himself.
Salvaging what he could from the wrecked ship, in terms of both food and weaponry, the familiar bow and arrow and an axe, he set off alone, desolate with sorrow, on arguably the most daring journey of his life. “To Utnapishtim (Noah) the son of Ubar-Tutu (Lamech), he took the road,” says The Epic of Gilgamesh.
THE TRAVAILS OF THE TRAVELLER
The journey was gruelling and bereft of certainty: every direction was a gamble. It was literally a leap in the dark. “He trod unbeaten paths, encountering no man, hunting for food,” the ancient scribes document for us. "What mountains he climbed, what streams he crossed, no man can know.”
As he trudged along, Gilgamesh kept up a mental dialogue with himself and a constant invocation of his gods. During the day, he prayed to Shamash, the Sun God, and during the night, he prayed to Nannar-Sin, the Moon God. And all the while, Enkidu continue to sit astride his mind still. “For his friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh wept bitterly as he ranged over the wilderness.” At the same time, he implored the gods to keep death well at bay, to preserve his life as he journeyed along, as he was determined to reach the Land of the Living.
“With woe in his belly, fearing death, he roamed the wilderness … Must I lay my head inside the earth and sleep through all the years? he wondered to his gods. When I die, shall I not as Enkidu be? Let mine eyes behold the sun, let me have my fill of light, he begged of the gods.”
Although he ate frugally, the food he had carried in his haversack could not sustain him forever. When it ran out, he had only two possible means of sustenance – wild animals and wild fruits. That again depended on how hospitable a habitat was to flora and fauna. So far, he had been matching down generally barren land, with lizards and scorpions as the only creatures he encountered, both of which were not in the least appetising.
During the day, the desert sun blazed down on him, severely taxing his energies, and during the night the extreme cold of the desert stung him to virtual immobility. But if his great friend Enkidu had passed on, boldness now was his friend. He swore to himself he would persevere for as long as he had the merest ounce of energy in him. Occasionally, he’d encounter an oasis and would drink gargantuan quantities of water. Once in a very long while, he’d come across desertic plants and would greedily feed on the sap of their roots.
GILGAMESH TANGLES WITH TWO LIONS – AND TRIUMPHS!
Amid his travails nonetheless, Gilgamesh was gaining ground and instinct – or was it his gods – was leading him in the right direction. He had unwittingly been heading due northwest. “As day followed day, the terrain began to change: the flat desert wilderness, home of lizards and scorpions, was ending and he could see mountains in the distance. The wildlife was also changing.” This development gave him a tremendous fillip, only for his spirits to sag yet again.
Having set foot in what he hoped was Nannar-Sin’s territory, that is Canaan, and arriving at a mountain pass at dusk, he from a distance spotted a pride of desert lions lying as if in ambush. He felt an almost numbing chill crawl up his spine. He couldn’t run, for even if he still had the energy to do so, they would catch up with him anyway. And the idea of making a U-turn was simply out of question. He’d rather he was mauled by the lions than make a retreat.
The first thing he did was to pray to the god of the region, Sin. “To the place where the gods rejuvenate my steps are directed … Preserve thou me!” The prayers steadied his nerves and eventually he fell asleep as he sat leaning against a rock. It was a sound sleep in that he dreamt. And the dream was all joy and happiness and not gloom and doom.
When he woke up in the middle of the night, he was buoyed up as he interpreted the dream to mean he would prevail against all odds. Thus inspirited, he advanced to confront the still lingering giant cats, armed only with a bow and arrows and a tucked in axe. He had to be pin-point accurate in his aim: the lions were quite a number and he only had a limited number of arrows.
He had his well-honed hunting skills to thank. “Gilgamesh like an arrow descended among the lions, striking the beasts with all his strength.” Unfortunately, he ran out of arrows when there were two more lions to take care of. To tackle these ones, he had to employ another weapon. Enkidu had taught him how to fight the fiercest beasts but since he wasn’t at full strength, engaging two full-grown lions in combat at one go would be foolhardy.
Bravely inching closer, he drew his axe from his belt and squared up to fight them. He was indomitable. He pole-axed the more menacing one first. When the other saw what he had done to its companion, it charged at him, but he dodged in the nick of time. Minutes later, man had triumphed: the King of Beasts was slain by the King of Uruk. “He smote them, he hacked away at them,” The Epic of Gilgamesh says.
The Gilgamesh feat was commemorated throughout the ancient world by artists who included the Hittites, the Cassites, the Egyptians, and the Mayans of the northern Andes in South America. A Sumerian cylinder seal, from circa 1700 BC, which illustrated scenes from the epic tale, shows a half-naked and unkempt Gilgamesh battling the two lions. The Old Testament’s Samson story – of him killing a lion (JUDGES 14:4-6) – was modelled on the Gilgamesh story.
Having vanquished the lions, Gilgamesh first threw a party, exhilarated that his destruction of the two beasts, practically with his bare hands, was a very good omen indeed. “He ate their flesh as raw meat, with their skins he clothed himself … It was an omen that he will overcome all obstacles, he believed.”
GILGAMESH IN CANAAN AT LONG LAST!
Early the following morning, Gilgamesh proceeded to cross the mountain pass, trekking in a much more purposeful manner now having traversed a distance of over 375 leagues, or 2100 km. A huge sense of relief suffused him when at the foot of the mountain he spotted two major landmarks.
The first was a shimmering body of water, a “low-lying sea that looked like a vast lake” which he would later learn was “driven by long winds.” Gilgamesh knew about what his people called the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Waters of Death”. In the Bible, it is called Yam Hamelalb, meaning “The Sea of Salt”. Today, we call it the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the only one of its kind in the world. At 430 metres below sea level, it is the lowest body of water on the planet. The sea is the world’s most saline (salty) and it is so saturated with dissolved minerals that it cannot sustain plant or marine life, the reason it is called a dead sea.
The second principal landmark Gilgamesh made out about 15 km into the plain adjoining the inland sea was a “closed up about” city “whose temple was dedicated to Sin”. This was a city fortified with a wall. In the Bible, the city is called Yeriho, meaning “Moon City”. This is Jericho in English. Jericho was named in honour of Nannar-Sin, the Anunnaki’s Moon God who was the overall god of Canaan. Jericho was Gilgamesh’s first encounter with civilisation after months of endless wandering. One of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho was in existence as early as 7000 BC and had been a flourishing urban centre since 3500 BC. The saga of Gilgamesh happened circa 2900 BC.
Skirting the Dead Sea, Gilgamesh headed in the direction of Jericho, at whose outskirts he saw what looked like an inn. As he drew nearer, he saw a woman who was holding “a jug of ale, a bowl of golden porridge.” Gilgamesh’s unkempt appearance threw a shudder into her. "He is clad in skins … His belly is shrunk … His face is wind-bitten and battered. His face is like a wayfarer from afar.” Being all alone and concerned that he might be dangerous, she retreated into the inn and bolted herself in.
For some time, Gilgamesh paced up and down the premises before he began knocking on the door intently. When she asked him who he was, he told her he was not a savage but was actually a monarch called Gilgamesh, the famous King of Uruk, and that there was no way he could harm her. In fact, he needed her help. Since he sounded gentlemanly, she unbolted the door and invited him in but not without a residual sense of trepidation.
SIDURI CONFIRMS NOAH’S EXISTENCE
When the two sat across from each other, the lady introduced herself as “Siduri, the Ale Woman”. She was the owner of the tarvern she was running and brewed her own beer and Gilgamesh was quick to note that indeed there were fermentation vats all around them. Siduri then asked him why he looked more like a tramp or criminal than a king. Gilgamesh patiently recounted to her all that he had been through, including encounters with Huwawa at the Cedar Mountains, the Gudanna at Uruk, the shipwreck in the Strait of Ormuz, the death of Enkidu, and the confrontation with the desert lions at a mountain pass.
“I’m still grieving for Enkidu,” he said. “It was he who made me a better man many times over and taught me a whole host of skills, including wrestling with beasts. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have had a prayer against those lions.” Since Gilgamesh wasn’t smelling that great, Siduri prepared him water to bath and whilst he was away she prepared food. About an hour later, Gilgamesh emerged from the bathroom.
Siduri was amazed at his wholesale transformation: he looked one hell of a hunk and almost as light-skinned as the gods – the Anunnaki. She was now coming round to the conviction that he really did mean what he said: he was a king. It were months of hardship, the caked dirt, and the dishevelled hair that made him look so revolting and so disreputable. “I’m impressed,” she said as they ate together, looking at him admiringly now. “You look like a god.”
Gilgamesh smiled. “I’m actually more than two-thirds god,” he said. “My father Lugalbanda was the son of the goddess Inanna-Ishtar. My mum Ninsun is a full goddess: she’s a daughter of the great god Enki and the great goddess Ninmah.” “You surely have a great pedigree,” she said. “So what brings you here?”
“I come in search of my ancestor Utnapistim (Noah), the hero of the Deluge,” he said. “I’m given to understand that he’s still alive and he lives in the Land of the Living near Tilmun. I’m hopeful that if I meet him, he’ll provide me with the Elixir of Life and I too will live forever like him, like the gods. My friend Enkidu was overtaken by the fate that awaits all mankind: he’s turned to clay. I want to avoid ending up like him.””
“Utnapishtim is very much alive yes,” she admitted. “I have it on good authority that he dwells in the Land of the Living and has aged only marginally compared to the way he looked during the Deluge. So you seek immortality Gilgamesh? You too want to be like Utnapishtim?” “Correct. I don’t wish to die. After all, I have more of the gods’ blood in me than a mortal’s.”
GILGAMESH REFERRED TO NOAH’S BOATMAN
Siduri first laughed before she advised him to be content with his condition as a mortal and make the most of his sojourn in this world. But Gilgamesh simply was not persuaded. “What is the quickest way to Tilmun?” he asked. “Is it across the body of water or circling it overland through the desolate mountains?”
Siduri said the quickest route was across the Dead Sea but it didn’t matter anyway: he’d never make it. “The Sea of the Waters of Death is impossible to cross,” she told him. “From days of long ago, no one arrived from across the sea. Valiant Shamash did cross the sea, but other than Shamash, who can cross it? Toilsome is the crossing, desolate is its way. Barren are the Waters of Death which it encloses. How then, Gilgamesh, wouldst thou cross the sea?”
Paraphrased, what Siduri was saying was that only Shamash, the Lord of Tilmun, was able to cross the Dead Sea and that from the beginning of time, no mortal had ever been able to replicate his feat. The sea was so stormy and treacherous that even if Gilgamesh was to survive the ordeal of the crossing, he would still succumb to the poisonous Waters of Death.
For a while, Gilgamesh silently pondered what he had heard. It seemed there was no end to the obstacles on the way to Tilmun, that every ray of hope was immediately nullified by a new road retarder. Noting that the man from Uruk looked troubled, Siduri decided to lift his spirits a bit. She disclosed to him that Noah had a boatman who worked for him and his name was Urshanabi. Urshanabi, she said, lived in the forest where he kept custody of certain treasures of Noah.
He was the only mortal capable of navigating the waters of the Dead Sea. “Urshanabi comes across from time to time for supplies,” she said. “Go and wait for him, let him see your face. If it suits him, he will take you across the sea to Utnapishtim’s abode on a raft made of logs.” The revelation no doubt excited Gilgamesh. He straightaway asked for directions to Urshanabi’s cottage. Siduri did likewise, then said, with a suggestive wink, “If you don’t find him, please come back to me.” Clearly, the lone lady was smitten by the giant and good-looking royal.
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