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BDP’s 2019 victory is doubtful (Part 2)

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

This is the last of the two-part series wherein we discuss circumstances which, in our view, show that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)'s victory at the 2019 general elections is doubtful.

Last week, we considered the Lerala-Maunatlala, Serowe North, Serowe South, Serowe West, Boteti West, Bobirwa, Palapye, Mochudi West, Molepolole South, Francistown South and Gabane-Mankgodi constituencies. This, we did in view of the changes in voting patterns which may be caused by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s debacle, which resulted in the expulsion of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the birth of the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

We also did this in view of the BDP’s current implosion caused by the April party presidential elections acrimony which has resulted in the expulsion of Honourable Sampson Guma Moyo and the suspension of Honourables Biggie Butale and Prince Maele. Of course, the factor which made us conclude that the BDPs 2019 victory is doubtful is the ongoing conflict between former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama and His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi.

As you are aware, this has notably resulted in Dr. Khama and Honourable Butale as well as hundreds of their supporters resigning from the party. A new party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) is reportedly being formed as a result. It is the BPF and such Independent Candidates as Honourable Maele, who has already decided to that effect, which poses the greatest threat to the BDP’s continued rule post-2019.

This week, we discuss the possible impact of the low voter registration; the youth vote; the political realignment of trade unions and/or trade union leaders; the workers ‘vote and the Masisi factor in relation to workers. According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s spokesperson, Osupile Maroba, this year’s voter registration exercise attracted around 933 627 voters who are eligible to vote out of the targeted 1 067 218 million. This means the IEC met 73.2% of its target.

According to Maroba, the 933 627-figure registered as follows:  753 470; 40 738 and 39 354 for the first voter registration, first supplementary registration and the second supplementary registration respectively. According to Maroba, in 2014, 824 073, out of the voting population of 1,067,218 million, had registered to vote by election time, making it 77% of their target which was about 4% higher compared to this year.

The IEC admits that the 2014 general elections were the most anticipated and turned out to be the most successful in terms of voter turnout since independence in 1966. In my view, this was because of such factors as the 2011 public sector strike; the suspected assassination of the late UDC Secretary General and BMD President, Gomolemo Motswaledi; the tyranny of the Directorate on Intelligence & Security Service (DISS) and Dr. Khama’s loss of support.

Reportedly, Maroba attributes this year’s low voter registration to a probable population growth in the country over the last few years. While that may be a factor, I believe the main reason is the ongoing conflicts bedeviling all political parties except the Alliance for Progressives (AP). The other reason is that discontentment with the ruling BDP has reduced. Consequently, the segments of our population, especially the youth and the workers, who, in 2014, may have registered in large numbers to vote for the UDC, have not registered this year.

According to the IEC, by 11th November 2018, the youth who had registered constituted only 30% of the first 750 000 people who had registered to vote. Though the IEC has not presented disaggregated data with respect to workers, it is likely that this year’s numbers will be lower than those for 2014 because the ‘moono’ phoria has, no doubt, fizzled, especially following the Botswana Public Employees Union(BOPEU)’s disaffiliation from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions(BOFEPUSU).

Even BOFEPUSU itself is no longer as pro-UDC as it was in 2014. By this time in 2014, BOFEPUSU had released the so-called hit list targeting Members of Parliament (MPs) it wanted voted out, with His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, top on the list. Veteran trade unionist, Johnson Motshwarakgole, is on record stating that H.E Dr. Masisi has done very well and he can vote for him, a view that is, no doubt, held by many of Motshwarakgole’s loyalists.

The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) too is lukewarm this year, perhaps because of BOPEU’s influence, which many regard as sympathetic to the ruling BDP. One thing is certain: there has been political realignment of trade unions and/or trade union leaders, mostly in favour of the BDP. In my view, therefore, it is not only the youth who have contributed to this year’s low voter registration. It is the workers who have lost the momentum of the 2011 public sector strike, in part because of the conflicts within the UDC, which led to the birth of the AP and the expulsion of the BMD.

The 2011 public sector strike momentum has also been lost because of the Masisi factor. Since assuming power, H.E Dr. Masisi has strived to mend relations between government and trade unions, especially BOFEPUSU. He has held meetings with trade unions, except the Botswana Landboards Local Authorities & Health Worker's Union (BLLAHWU) which reportedly declined the invitation rubbishing it as a public relations exercise. He has urged trade unions and the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) to reconstitute the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC).

Perhaps most importantly for trade unions, this year’s salary negotiations were the smoothest in about a decade, resulting in agreed salary increases of 10% and 6% for A and B scales and C and D scales respectively for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 financial years. Over and above the salary increment agreement, it was agreed that the conditions of service and the findings of the PEMANDU report shall be negotiated upon by 2019 with a view to conclude a collective agreement on them.

Obviously in an attempt to gain the support of the armed forces, H.E Dr. Masisi recently introduced a new pay structure for the Botswana Defence Force(BDF), commonly called Ntlole, which was backdated to April 2012, resulting in the beneficiaries raking back pays which have reportedly had some cashing as much as P60,000 in back pays.

Of course, not all workers and trade unions have been placated by these gestures, but many, including Motshwarakgole, whose constituency of industrial class workers benefited the most, at least superficially, have been appeased enough to be prepared to vote for H.E Dr. Masisi in October 2019.

We all know that H.E Dr. Masisi will not be contesting any Parliamentary seat in 2019 since he is the BDP’s presidential candidate and there are no direct presidential elections in Botswana. So, when one says they will vote for H.E Dr. Masisi they effectively mean that they will vote for the BDP. For this reason, although last week I presented circumstances which I concluded make the BDP’s victory in 2019 doubtful, the aforegoing, coupled with the ailing Opposition, may just see the BDP through.

But already workers have began expressing discontent at the lack of progress regarding the review of conditions of service exercise conducted by PEMANDU. In fact, some workers blame BOFEPUSU for that and are totally against the idea that government and trade unions will be conducting a nationwide consultation exercise, arguing that their concerns are already known.

Ntlole itself is not without controversy. Reportedly, whilst celebrating the adjustment with other employees, BDF nurses received letters instructing them to return to the C1 salary scale they were moved to at the end of April. Their upward move was allegedly reversed because their ranks, being Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), do not warrant movement to C1 scale.

Ntlole is also reported to have further widened the gap between the Botswana Police Service (BPS) and the BDF salary structure, something that may bring division within the armed forces. So, H.E Dr. Masisi has about four months to deal with these issues, failing which, especially if the BPF becomes the force it says it will be, the country may, for the first time in its history, have a hung Parliament, something which can result in the UDC attaining power by entering into a coalition with other opposition political parties, especially the AP and BPF.

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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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