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The Dalai Lama, again…

LAWRENCE OOKEDITSE
THE STALLION

Nation states seek their own place under the shine internationally. When engaging with others, the primary guiding principle is often some form of rational self-interest. Both realists and liberals would acknowledge that states pursue their own interests- and perhaps only differ on how and the degree of brutality with which each may pursue what it considers vital national interests. Out of this, comes the Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader of the Tibetan people who have been at loggerheads with China for a long time.

An otherwise good man seeking the right to self-determination for his people. But that China is quite stubborn an unwilling to yield over territories it considers vital to its non-negotiable ‘One China’ policy is clear. Now there is a Mexican standoff, Former President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has an invitation to an event hosted by the Dalai Lama, and the Botswana Government is unyielding in not supporting the trip. A good number of people have been wondering if this is a case of President Masisi making life difficult for his predecessor. And objective answer to this conundrum maybe found.

China incorporated Tibet sometime back in 1951 after an uprising that sought to establish the area as an independent territory. An agreement was entered into by China and the Tibetan leaders to be incorporated- Tibetans largely say such was under duress. This has led to decades of hostility between China and Tibet-a territory China considers her own, and whose leaders (the Dalai Lama is Tibet’s spiritual leader) considers not a part of China.

But note this- this territory had actually been a part of China until a British invasion of the territory in 1904, which paved way to the region gaining a great deal of autonomy in 1913 or thereabout. China has therefore declared that it would not entertain any machinations for an independent Tibet as this would also open up China to similar claims from Taiwan and other territories even. This policy has been subject of major disagreements with the United States, who believe Tibet and other territories should have the right to self-determination.

Given the history of this conflict and its intricate nature, it suffices to say Botswana is of no strategic positioning to solve it. Getting involved- even by proxy- as may be interpreted by a guest facilitated by the Republic of Botswana at such a gathering as the Dalai Lama is having. Our facilitation as a country would serve no purpose more so that conflict with China is not anywhere near the priorities of the current administration.

It matters not whether this administration will achieve good results with China. The bottom-line is that this administration has decided to mend relations with China and make China an important trading ally. Anything that goes against this interest- which forms a part of our national interests- cannot be tolerated. Tolerating any such would be a sign of weakness by the Presidency- the first duty of any Statesman internationally is to seek that which is in the interest of his or her nation. It would be severe dereliction of duty for the Government of Botswana to accept such machinations.

If this were a domestic matter of the Former President seeking to attend a meeting or other such gathering, I would find it fitting that he be facilitated without fuss. If it were a case of him travelling for a gathering that has no potential to upset our relations with a country with which we seek to mend relations and gain much more from trade wise it would certainly be ok that he be allowed to do as he pleases.

But such is not the case and this should not be misconstrued as an affront on his entitlements and privileges. Entitlements may be tempered with where the national interest is judged, in the good judgement of an incumbent President, to be in jeopardy as a result of conferring any such. The collective is more important than any individual, even though individuals have liberties- such liberties must not harm those of the commonwealth. In this particular case, the liberties that duly should be enjoyed by the Former President are in conflict with those of the commonwealth, and as such in this particular case ought to be curtailed. This is not hate and it is not petty- it is a determination in the interest of the Republic.

And it is not like anyone thinks the Former President is not a patriot. There is no greater patriotic duty than serving in the military. The oath itself is one of patriotism and it basically condemns one to death in defense of thy fatherland if need be. A man who has served in the military then cannot quite be said to not be a patriot. But their judgment may be clouded by other considerations- we do know that President Khama previously thought the Chinese had fleeced us of lots of money through shoddy works and incomplete projects. And this was true.

His policy at that point in time may have been to perhaps not look East anymore. And he was well within his rights to do so if that was his judgement as President. The big difference now is that there is a new President and he has made it clear he intends on cooperating with China. The former, who had thought negative of the relationship with Chinese contractors especially, ought to then maintain a safe distance and let the new policy manifest. It need not reflect what he would do or prefer.

And by the way, it is not a case of thinking he will speak ill of the country or the new administration while at the gathering. It is more a case of what our partner in China will perceive such facilitation as. A former President travelling with the facilitation of the state is not ordinary. And as such may be perceived to be doing the bidding of the sending state. This is particularly the case when such a visit touches on interest considered vital by the other party.

But what of the rights of Tibetans? These are important but when acting in the international arena, states are largely guided by what is in their interest. They often pursue a realist approach that premises their selfish interests. Morality in such matters, but no more than when it is convenient. In actual fact, even liberals who often speak of cooperation and win-win situations do know that in reality states act in their self-interest. You are lucky when your interests coincide on matters- and on the matter of Tibet there is absolutely no way that our interests and those of China converge.

And in any case, we have no real chance at bringing about a solution to this decades long conflict. More resourced nations have tried to put pressure on China without success. We have neither the soft nor hard power to bring China to a settlement they vitally oppose. So then, why bother? Or why be seen by China to be meddling? I mean, if we wanted to meddle then we might as well do it in a grand and not low key manner that attracts more sanctions than it brings the conflict to anywhere closer to a solution.

The President of the Republic has made the right call to not sanction facilitation for this particular trip. And this does not mean the next trip if for purposes that would further relations between Botswana and her international partners should not be sanctioned. It should be. We must bear in mind that when parliament conferred entitlements on former Presidents had it in mind that former Presidents are senior Statesmen and women who would actually act in furtherance of the interests of the nation at any particular given point in time- and such is largely as determined by a President in office. President Masisi had to make a call, and he made the right call. It should be seen from that context.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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