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Is Masisi’s populism sustainable-the case of Khama and Zuma

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

No doubt, His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, has won the hearts of many, with some adoring him almost to the level of fanaticism.

For his die-hard supporters, especially those who hate his predecessor, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, with a passion, Masisi can do no wrong. He can say no wrong. He can think no wrong. He is mokgweetsi-the driver they have long awaited to take control of the vehicle which had lost direction under the reckless tutelage of Khama the dictator, an exact antithesis of his great grandfather, Khama the Great. According to them o abetswe botautona. Leadership has been bestowed upon him. To them he is God’s favored son is as far as leadership is concerned.

He is perhaps the only president in the world who is called a ‘boy’ since many of his supporters affectionately call him Sisboy, a name he seems to relish because it makes the youth identify with him. During his inauguration it rained so hard that the ceremony which was initially planned to be held outside Parliament was held inside Parliament. On 1st April this year, one year since his inauguration, it drizzled.

To his supporters, this showed that Masisi is in God’s favour. Such statements as Go Masisi have been uttered to show that his being brings reverence and serenity. Multiple songs have been composed in his name by his party, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). With just over a year in office, his party has published a book in his honour. His hitherto critics have become his praise singers. Trade Union veteran, Johnson Motshwarakgole has, at the risk of alienating his base, publicly praised him and, in fact, stated that he can vote for him.

BDP stalwarts who had been alienated by the Khama regime have publicly stated their unequivocal support for him, especially during the build up to the party’s presidential elections from which Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi withdrew on the 11th hour, stating that the elections were a sham and had already been rigged. The question is: is Masisi’s popularity sustainable? To assist you to answer this question we consider the case of Khama and South African former president, Jacob Zuma.

Let us start with Khama. During the dawn of his presidency, he was so loved by many that he had attained a status of a demi-god. Many people, especially the elderly, used to be so overwhelmed by love that they cried when they saw him. His impromptu walk-abouts and house to house visits endeared him to thousands of Batswana who regarded him as the savior they had long awaited. I remember one elderly woman who, after shaking hands with him, stated, on live television, that she will not wash her hands for some days so that Khama’s touch soaks in her.

The old men who used to sit with him around his popular bond fires used to be so elated that they would cry. One of them, also on live television, stated, in tears, that he never thought he could ever bite a piece from the same meat (Lesuhu) that a president ate from. Khama, affectionately called Tshetha from Tshetha ya dikgwa, meaning lion of the jungle, had become so popular that his preferred fisher men’s jacket became the thing to wear, even in offices.

Masisi himself, especially when he was Minster of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, leading the poverty eradication programme, was the dress code’s ambassador. Even today, he wears it. If you did not have the jacket and the farmers’ hat you were not a person. Bachelorship nearly became the in thing since several of his proteges remained unmarried. Those who were married either divorced or became estranged from their wives.

If you spoke ill of Khama you risked being beaten or purged, at least. Desert racing, cultural events, Bakgalagadi’s Polka dance, grass root sport in the form of constituency tournaments, et cetera became the in thing because of his patronage. We turn to Zuma. He used to mesmerize the masses with his singing, especially the popular liberation song ‘A o lethi Mshini wami’, loosely translated to mean bring my machine gun.

His popularity, especially among his tribesmen, the Zulu, was so unprecedented that some believe it even surpassed that of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Even when he faced one of the most heinous crimes, rape, his supporters were undeterred, even threatening harm against his accuser, the late Fezekile "Khwezi" Kuzwayo. Being charged with corruption in fact made him a celebrity, with thousands of his supporters bracing unforgiving weather conditions to gather around court every time he went to court.

The African National Congress (ANC) recalled his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki, simply because he had removed Zuma as deputy president because of the corruption scandals he was facing. One of the charges he was facing was with respect to the Arms Deal, which charges were reinstated by former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shaun Abrahams, in 2018 after former NDPP, Advocate Mokoteti Mshe, dropped them in 2009.

There is one thing common about Khama and Zuma. When they left office, they were very unpopular, with Zuma suffering the same fate that he engineered against Mbeki when he was recalled by the ANC and resigned as state president, with only six months before the expiry of his constitutional term.

When Zuma was recalled by the ANC and resigned as president many of his cheer leaders abandoned him and aligned with his then deputy, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, whose political career nearly came to an end when Zuma, among others, peddled propaganda that Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sixwale were planning to overthrow the government. Though unlike Zuma, Khama finished his term, many, including his political proteges have forsaken him and are riding the Go Masisi wave. Masisi, who, by all accounts, owes his presidency to Khama, is today Khama’s nemesis.

Khama is no longer referred to as Rraetsho, but he is called with derogatory words that are not worth repeating in this article. But, why has Zuma and Khama suffered this fate? In the case of Botswana, former president Festus Mogae was far less popular than Khama, but after leaving office he did not suffer the humiliation that Khama is suffering. Similarly, in the case of South Africa, Mbeki was not even half as popular as Zuma, but his dignity has remained intact post his retirement.

In my view, the difference is that, by and large, Mogae and Mbeki’s leadership was guided by principle and not sheer political expediency. Of course, like all humans, they erred, but their presidencies were not characterized by folly. Like all politicians they made promises, some improbable to achieve, but they seldom exploited the peoples’ ignorance and trust. Put simply, they did not take the people for granted.

Mogae, for instance, was well known for calling a spade a spade. If, based on evidence, there was no case for salary increments, for instance, he made none despite the political ramification that would ensue. When the Tsolamosese squatters had to be evicted, he ordered their evictions despite the fact that, at the time, the BDP desperately needed to win at least one constituency in or around Gaborone. When people hurled slurs at him, he said le nna ke a le ikomanyetsa, meaning that he will also hurl slurs at them.

That notwithstanding, he has continued to enjoy respect among Batswana more than ten years since he retired. The question is: will Masisi’s popularity endure up to the end of his presidency and beyond? Just this week, after he stated he will not rest until Kgosi Kgafela comes back to Botswana, many Batswana began to question his sincerity. Many asked why he will only do that now when he is in fact the person who contributed to Kgosi Kgafela’s escape to South Africa when he was Minster of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.

Many wondered why he is only saying that now at the eve of the general elections when he failed to do that for the past one year. They wondered whether this is not a ploy to lure Bakgatla to vote for the BDP. Some posed the popular Rapitsenyana question ‘one o le bokgakala bo kae’ when Kgabo was forced to flee his country, leaving his tribe without their Kgosi. Others referred to one of Masisi’s inaugural promises that he will, as a matter of priority, table the long-awaited Declaration of Assets & Liabilities Bill, stating that more than one year since he assumed office the Bill has not been tabled.

In my view, because of Masisi’s over promises; his insincerity at times, his propensity to ride on division, even tribal division, and, in some instances, taking Batswana for a ride for political expediency, his popularity may not last his term and beyond.  Already, beyond the Kang euphoria, some are beginning to realize that there was nothing after all. Of course, he, especially within the BDP, still has momentum because of the forthcoming general elections.

But, beyond the elections, things may change. Batswana are going to start demanding the jobs and better life Masisi has been promising. By then, the Khama question may no longer be the distraction he currently is. Some of his ardent supporters will have been disappointed by not being appointed ministers, specially elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and nominated Councilors, and they would have switched factions.

If things do not change and he lasts his full term, which is likely because of the melancholic state of the Opposition, his lame duck days may be worse than those of Khama. But, that is assuming the BDP will win the forthcoming elections. Things may get worse for Masisi should the new Khama led party be formed. This may result in a hung Parliament, and a coalition between the new party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) or Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) or Alliance for Progressives (AP) may relegate the BDP to the opposition benches.       
  
Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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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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