Jehovah’s authority over Earth usurped by his own wacko granddaughter
Returning to the Esagil, Marduk’s temple-residence, Marduk took his visiting brother Nergal straight to a “sacred” chamber called the Shuanna. Shuanna means “A Celestially Supreme Place”. It was a high-tech chamber Marduk and his priests had set up to study and observe the cosmic scene.
When dusk came, Marduk sat down Nergal in the Shuanna and using both computer simulations and viewing instruments demonstrated to him that the Age of the Ram “is upon us” and therefore his time to replace Enlil as Earth’s sovereign had arrived. “The heavens my supremacy bespeak,” Marduk said. “The coming Age of the Ram, my sign, my rule proclaims.” As such, he would no longer depart Babylon but would await his coronation there. He was not imposing himself on the Earthly perch: it all was in keeping with the sequence of Enlilship as agreed between the Enkites and Enlilites just after the Deluge courtesy of the enigmatic Galzu’s decree.
Nergal immediately countered Marduk’s assertion that his time had fallen due: he put it to him that his instruments were inaccurate. At the Eanna, Inanna’s palace at Uruk, he and Inanna had sat in the Ehalanki, the equivalent of the Shuanna, and using its equally sophisticated instruments had ascertained that the Age of the Ram was nowhere near, that Taurus was still in progress. “The backdrop of the evening sky is still dominated by the constellation of Taurus,” Nergal insisted to Marduk. “Whilst you are entitled to succeed after Enlil, you cannot do so way ahead of schedule. Taurus has to completely vanish from the night sky before you exercise your right.”
Marduk thought that was nonsensical. He argued that an astrological Age lasted 2160 years and if they were to go by that reckoning, his accession was only about 75 years down the road given that the present year was 2295 BC and Aries was mathematically scheduled for 2220 BC. True, Taurus, being one of the largest constellations (it occupies more than 30 degrees of the celestial arc) was always visible for an extra 200 years (which meant it physically hovered for 2360 years) but it unjustly stole into Aries’ time. It was time that anomaly was righted by adhering strictly to celestial time (the mathematical 2160-year maximum) and not to zodiacal time (the actual time a constellation lingered in the skies).
NERGAL CONVINCES HIS BROTHER TO EXIT BABYLON
It was a stalemate. Nergal said he was the one who was right and Marduk was adamant it was he who was right. In a situation like this, it was Marduk who had the advantage in that he was already ensconced in Babylon and had so fortified and equipped it it was virtually impossible to dislodge him short of bombarding him into submission. But at this stage, the Anunnaki were tired of warring against each other and warfare was out of the question.
Nergal thought quickly and came up with an idea that could wheedle Marduk out of Babylon. “Okay, my brother you win,” he said. “But if you have to become the new Enlil, you need the relevant insignias and instruments of authority. You need the Holy Sceptre. You need the Oracle of the Gods, the mechanism with which to decree fates. Finally, you need the Radiating Stone which disintegrates everything (what we today call the nuclear button that is vested in the head of state). These have been entrusted to my custody.
I therefore urge that you travel to the Abzu (in southern Africa where Nergal reigned) and collect them yourself as no one else can do so in your stead. That done, you can return to Babylon just at the precise time when the Age of the Ram mathematically commences. Then you will have nobody opposing you, not Enlil, not Inanna.” Clearly, Nergal was spinning a yarn here. Enlil simply wouldn’t have deposited such vital instruments of Earthly authority to Nergal: no ruler in his right mind would do such a thing for as long as he was on the throne. But Marduk naively trusted his brother, who had given him the impression he looked forward to an Enkite rising to supremacy. And when Marduk contacted Enlil for confirmation, Enlil indeed affirmed Nergal’s claim.
It was game, set and match: Marduk prepared to set off for Africa. Since Marduk would be gone for 75 years and as always he would be accompanied by his heir Nabu, whose gift of the gab and incisive thinking he valued greatly, who would rule Babylon in his stead whilst he was away? Who would ensure the exhaustive hydrological infrastructure he had laid down and “other works of wonder” operated in good nick?
“If anything goes amiss,” Marduk warned his brother, “the day shall be turned into darkness, the flow of river waters shall be disarrayed, the lands shall be laid to waste, the people will be made to perish.” In order to forestall such an eventuality, Marduk needed somebody with his industry and round-the-clock vigilance to rule in his absence.
Nergal was quick to offer his services. He said he would proficiently hold fort, seeing to it that everything was spick and span. Nergal’s assurance was convincing and after consultations with Enki and Nabu, Marduk accepted Nergal’s offer. “He’s family,” Enki said to Marduk. “You have had differences with him in the past for sure but this is not about Marduk or Nergal: it’s about our legacy as Enkites. Trust me, Nergal will make good on his undertaking.”
Before Marduk departed, he called a ceasefire in his hostilities with Inanna. Then after a lull of about a month, he ordered his engineers to restore water to all the lands of Sumer with immediate effect. Shortly thereafter, he and Nabu and a retinue of aides and security men numbering in the hundreds set course for the “Land of Mines” as Africa was referred to. The year was circa 2295 BC.
NERGAL OCCASIONS DISASTER IN SUMER
For a few months, all was well in Babylon and the wider Sumer. Water was aplenty and irrigated agriculture was on a roll. Then all hell broke loose. It seemed Nergal had fooled everybody and was simply biding his time. At exactly the precise time he and his equally diabolical ally Inanna appointed, Nergal went into the Babylon control room in an underground chamber and ordered his men to wreck the intuitive, high-tech device that regulated the water reticulation system as well as the power supply (to the homes and facilities of the Anunnaki gods only) throughout Sumeria. “Nergal tore the luminescent radiating stone that gave the system energy from its socket and from its machine links.”
It was a disaster. “Marduk’s devices stopped humming. Lights went out.” Exactly as Marduk had warned, “the day turned into darkness (metaphorically speaking), the fields and canals dried out: parts of Sumer flooded," and soon "the lands were laid to waste, the people were made to perish." Nergal had in his rage paralysed the fiefs of the very council of Enlilite gods who had sent him to oust Marduk. It was like he had scored an own goal but did he care?
Nergal had calculated that all that would be sabotaged was Babylon only, so that the people would think they had been booby-trapped by Marduk when he left the city and as such rise against him once and for all. But all the cities of Sumer were affected. “The people made sacrifices to Anu and Ishtar but to no avail: the water sources went dry." Soon all the gods other than Ishtar had subjected Nergal to angry tirades and Enki was implored to travel to Babylon and ram sense into his second-born son. The Babylonians were up in arms and were baying for Nergal’s blood, calling for the urgent return of Marduk, whose present whereabouts were not known.
When Enki turned up at the Esagil, he was spitting fire. “What on Earth have you done?” he demanded of Nergal. “What a letdown you have been! To think I spoke so glowingly about you to Prince Marduk!” With Nergal unable to give an intelligible account of what had transpired, Enki gave him the marching orders straightaway. “Go away! Take off to where no gods ever go!" Enki also ordered that the golden statue that had been sculpted to Nergal’s honour not be set up at all in the Esagil as he had turned out to be such a disgrace.
With his powerful father quivering with rage, Nergal had no option but to depart Babylon but not without a spectacular parting shot: he destroyed all of Marduk’s personal effects and set fire to the Esagil. Nergal also ensured a sizeable number of his followers, the Gutians/Kutheans, remained stationed in Babylon and Agade, the former to see to it that Babylon remained subdued and the latter to bolster Inanna. Then he trekked back to Kutha, his Sumerian base, which was not very far from Babylon.
INANNA EXALTS HERSELF ABOVE ANU AND ENLIL
About four years after Nergal was driven away from Babylon by Enki, a virtual leadership void ensued in the major regions of the world. Enlil travelled to Mars. Ninurta went to do business in “the lands beyond the ocean”, today’s South America. Marduk, after discovering that Nergal had sent him on a wild goose chase, decided to go to the Antarctica, where he was to remain for years, once again living up to his epithet of Amon, meaning “The Obscure One”. Ishkur-Adad was his typically aloof and indifferent self; Nannar-Sin his usual calm, collected, and withdrawn self. Utu-Shamash was busy running the space-related facilities.
Inanna thought this state of affairs presented an opportunity for her to step into the breach and assume supremacy over all Earth. First, she sat down to consider a new Earthling king who would do her bidding and assist her crusade to seize all the principal lands of the world. This person had to come from the Sargon bloodline naturally. After Sargon had died, she had replaced him with his eldest son Rimush on the throne of Agade. He ruled for only 9 years, having been killed by “his servants”. His younger brother Manishtushu took over as regent but he too lasted for only 15 years: he was killed in a “palace revolt”. Inanna then installed Manishtushu’s son in office.
The new King of Agade was called Naram-Sin. His name meant “Beloved of Sin”, Inanna’s father Nannar-Sin. Indeed, Naram-Sin’s daughter Enmenanna would in future succeed Sargon’s daughter Enheduanna as high-priestess of Nannar-Sin. But Naram-Sin should ideally have been called “Beloved of Ishtar” in that Inanna had doted on him since he was a little kid as he showed the potential to be as great as his grandfather Sargon, whereas Rimush and Manishtushu were largely inclined toward peaceful co-existence with other nations, the reason they had been reluctant to wage war.
Inanna’s brief to Naram-Sin was that he should “seek grandeur and greatness by ceaseless conquest and destruction of my enemies” with a view to expanding her empire. This time around, Inanna was not going to do pinpricks in her quest for world domination: she was going for the jugular. And in Naram-Sin, she had a most loyal and dutiful servant.
In his heyday, Sargon had his share of conquests under the aegis of Inanna, but he was wary that he did not encroach on the territories of either the Enkites or the most powerful Enlilites. For instance, he did not seize the Sinai Peninsula. He did not march into African lands. And in Sumer itself, he steered clear of Lagash, Ninurta’s cult city, and Babylon, Marduk’s domain. The only sensitive area he captured was Baalbek.
Not so with Naram-Sin. His first target prize was Canaan. He captured Jerusalem, the Mission Control Centre; Jericho, the city of “Moon God” Nannar-Sin; and at long last the entire Sinai Peninsula, where Tilmun, the spaceport, was located. Having registered this triumph, Naram-Sin was so euphoric he depicted himself on a stella standing by a rocketship, as if to say he had now attained godly status. Thereafter, he ran rampage through the lands along the Mediterranean Sea to eventually annex Baalbek. “As a Flying Goddess, Inanna was quite familiar with the place,” say the Sumerian records. “She burnt down the great gates of the mountain and, after a brief siege, obtained the surrender of the troops guarding it: they disbanded themselves willingly."
Naram-Sin mixed seizing supremacy with suppression of rebellions. The two Syrian cities of Arman (Aleppo) and Ebla (Tell Mardikh) were particularly stubborn. Naram-Sin set them ablaze and went on to boast that he was the first king to destroy these two great cities. “Never since the time of the creation of mankind did any king whatever set Arman and Ebla to sword and fire,” he wrote in his annals. In fact, he so poisoned the lands of Lebanon by way of chemical warfare that future invading eastern kings scrupulously avoided it for the next one thousand years!
Having overrun the whole of Canaan, Lebanon, and Syria, Naram-Sin now set his sights on the lands of Marduk – Magan (Egypt) and Meluhha (Sudan and Ethiopia). Marduk was still away in the Antarctica and Nergal was the one flexing muscles over these lands. Since Nergal and Inanna were at once political allies and bedfellows, Naram-Sin did not break a sweat at all. At the say-so of Inanna, Naram-Sin had gone out of his way to lionise Nergal with a view to a smooth landing in Egypt.
Writes Zechariah Sitchin: “The long text known as The Kuthean Legend of Naram-Sin (or, as it is sometimes called, The King of Kutha Text) attests that Naram-Sin went to Kutha, Nergal's cult centre, and erected there a stela to which he affixed an ivory tablet inscribed with the tale of this unusual visit, all to pay homage to Nergal. The recognition by Naram-Sin of Nergal's power and influence well beyond Africa is attested by the fact that in treaties made between Naram-Sin and provincial rulers in Elam (west and southwest Iran), Nergal is invoked among the witness gods.
And in an inscription dealing with Naram-Sin's march to the Cedar Mountain in Lebanon, the king credited Nergal (rather than Ishkur-Adad) with making the achievement possible.” But Naram-Sin’s main trump card was Inanna, who guided, urged on, and armed him with her ''awesome weapons”. Naram-Sin marched against three major kings of Marduk’s African regions and captured them in person, making a show of them as he thrust further into Marduk territory.
INANNA IS THE NEW ENLIL!
Inanna was on a roll. She was literally spitting fire. Such was her military might that she was virtually untouchable, with fellow gods in dread of her. Said a hymn that eulogised her. “The great Anunnaki gods fled before you like fluttering bats. They could not stand before your fearsome face, could not soothe your angry heart." Whereas before she launched her worldwide campaign she was called “Beloved of Enlil" and “One who carries out the instructions of Anu”, and portrayed in imagery as an enticing Goddess of Love, in the annexed territories she was now depicted as a ruthless and savage conqueror, as a Goddess of War bristling with weapons, on rock engravings.
For donkeys’ years now, she had been based in Agade since the days of Sargon the Great. Her erstwhile temple-abode in Uruk, the Eanna, she had vacated and re-commissioned as a sacred monument to King Anu of Nibiru. Now she targeted this “house of irresistible charm” for dismantling so as to bring to an end its standing as a symbol of Anu’s authority. She set about knocking it down brick by brick whilst she assaulted its staff and threw them behind bars where they defied her.
But she was not yet done. She wanted to be the Goddess of Earth and therefore she needed to send a strong message to her grandfather Enlil, the reigning God of Earth, that she was now the Mistress of the Realm. Accordingly, she ordered Naram-Sin to storm the Ekur in Nippur. This was Enlil’s temple-residence. Descending on the unguarded city, Naram-Sin crushed all who had served Enlil and “like a bandit he plundered it”.
Then arriving at the Ekur, he “erected large ladders against the House, smashed his way in, entered its Holy of Holies.” Extracting the Holy Vessels of an absent Enlil, Naram-Sin cast them into a blazing bonfire. Then he “forged great axes, sharpened double-edged axes of destruction, levelled the Ekur down to the foundation of the land.” That done, he “docked large boats at the quay by the House of Enlil, and carried off the possessions of the city." The sacrilege, the coup against the all-powerful Enlil, was complete.
With the job done, Inanna declared herself the “Supreme Queen” and also assumed a new name, Anat, meaning “(Ruler) of the Cosmos”. In other words, not even King Anu had authority over her anymore. She would be, so she boasted in earnest, “greater than the mother who gave birth to me, even greater than Anu.” She even countermanded all rules, regulations, laws, and ordinances Enlil had promulgated for the planet and announced a new World Order in which her word would hold sway. “The heavenly Kingship was seized by a female!" says a Sumerian text. "lnanna changed the rules of Holy Anu!"
Naram-Sin too did not shrink from lapping up his moment of glory. He declared himself “King of the Four Regions”. These were Sumer (the First Region); Egypt (the Second Region); the Indus Valley (The Third Region); and the Sinai Peninsula (The Fourth Region), all of which together constituted the nerve centre of the planet. He proceeded to proclaim himself a god and appropriated all the trappings of godship (Anunnakiship), donning a horned headdress in mimicry of the gods.
He called himself Dingir.Naram-Sin, meaning “Divine Naram-Sin”. This title was reserved for the Anunnaki but it was also conferred as a honorary title on a demigod subject to the approval of Enlil. In Naram-Sin’s case, it was bestowed by Inanna, the new Enlil! Would Enlil and King Anu take all this lying down?
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 email@example.com