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jetson or jettison?

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I hear an amusing comment on the radio the other day.  The remark was made by the well-known LBC radio presenter and award-winning journalist, Nick Ferrari who said that when asked by his bank if he wanted to subscribe to internet banking he always replied ‘Why would you want me to put you out of a job’!

This leads into a very interesting and controversial debate, not really around the issue of online banking but of the general topic of technology and employment levels.  However, let’s begin with banking since it’s not only on message but is also a prime example of how advancing technology continues to have a massive influence on how we use a basic service, what effect this has on employment prospects and how much we are being manipulated to change our habits.

It’s fair to say that in many ways Botswana is lagging behind First World countries.  Our first ATM machines only arrived around 1990, when they’d been around for decades overseas but since then they have clearly been breeding like rabbits!    Now, there’s a very good reason that banks like ATM machines.  Unlike human tellers, an ATM is happy to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

They don’t need holidays or maternity leave, they don’t get sick – though they do occasionally break down and need to be serviced from time to time –  and they don’t need to be paid salaries;  further, the more customers use the machine outside the bank, the less they need to come inside and the net result is fewer staff.

But the ATM effect is minor compared with the e-revolution we are experiencing now.  As far as I’m aware,  all our local banks are now offering e-banking  and many  have eliminated hard-copy statements completely for all customers.  This means that they are increasingly able to eliminate more human functions  so that staff levels can be greatly reduced.  Obviously, senior management and board members have a vested interest in such techno changes.  They want to increase their company’s profitability and show a good return for their shareholders where relevant and if that means fewer jobs in the banking industry, so be it.

Of course the fact of technology replacing human effort is as old as the hills.  The mechanisation of farming has been happening for centuries, from crude planting and ploughing machines, to the mammoth, air-conditioned combine harvesters and balers that today make easy work of crop collection and can work quicker and more efficiently than the band of pickers, packers, sorters and gleaners need of yesteryear.’

Away from agriculture, into the world of manufacturing, in the early 20th century car maker Henry Ford is credited with inventing the factory production line, a streamlined method of manufacturing a finished product from start to finish through a series of different stations, each covering a single phase of the process, after which the object, in this instance a Model T ford motor car, moves onto the next stage in a logical progression, with technicians trained to cover their own stage only.  So successful was Ford’s innovation that thereafter it was copied for all manner of goods and gave birth to the phrase ‘mass production’.

A century later there is one major difference and that is that the number of workers on factory assembly lines has been drastically reduced as processes and procedures have been adapted to be carried out by machines, with humans assuming supervisory and quality control capacity and the robot factory worker is becoming a common sight,

And what of the computer?  Just after the end of World War II commercial ‘computers’ were so large they took up an entire office to house, were unreliable, liable to overheating and so prohibitively expensive that they were  only for governments or massive corporations.  The ‘50s saw the first desk-sized, more affordable machines but it wasn’t till the invention of the silicone chip in the  ‘80s that their size and price came down enough for them to become commonplace in every office and now every home. 

And now they are so miniaturised that they are easily portable and even the bottom-of-the-range cellular phone has vastly more memory and functionality in its tiny motherboard than could have been dreamed of 70 years ago.  And whilst this is brilliant on a personal level, computerisation has invaded every field of commerce and industry and the cleverer computers get, the less we have to use humans.  Sure, programmers and operators are still needed (for now!) but for every IT job they throw up, dozens of unskilled and semi-skilled workers are made redundant.

In a perfect world this would be….well, perfect!  In the cartoon series The Jetssons’ , a 1060s take on what life would be like in a high-tech future, machines do all the hard graft and humans enjoy the benefits but the problem is that most of the world’s population needs to work in order to have an income to pay the bills and feed the family.  And even in westernised countries where labour-saving gadgets are easily affordable, the human need to be occupied, to earn an honest living, to put a purpose to life, is still very strong. 

The fact is we don’t want to be replaced by robots because the drive to be functional is an, enduring trait.  The old saying ‘the Devil makes work for idle hands’ is only partly right.  Sure, some idle hands might turn to crime to fill the time but for many, redundancy or retirement is the beginning of a slow death.  Though paradoxically, it’s in the countries with the densest populations, where social welfare is almost non-existent, that human labour is still in demand for the simple reason that workers there are prepared to work for subsistence wages – think Asian sweatshops.  Undoubtedly, those enslaved workers might dream of the day when their jobs are taken over by machines but that dream would soon turn into a nightmare when they found themselves not just jobless but homeless and starving.

It’s a complex subject.  Computerisation, mechanisation and technology have changed our working and leisure lives beyond all recognition in a very short space of time and the pace of change shows no signs of slowing.  We live lives of leisure and luxury when compared to those living a century ago but are we happier, more fulfilled, more gainfully employed now we are liberated from tedious, repetitive work?  Probably.  But as Mr. Ferrari alluded to in his stock retort to online banking, as we are persuaded to sign up to more and more online functions, how long will those persuaders still be in work?

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”


Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”


Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.


Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)


Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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