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If elections were every year …!

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

Considering the developments of the past year or so, especially since His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, assumed office, one may not help but wish that elections were held every year and not every five years as is currently the case in Botswana.

Recent events have proven that the fear of losing elections may make politicians do things that they ordinarily would not do. Not only that. In some instances, politicians have summersaulted from the views they hitherto held so dearly or supported so faithfully. In so doing, such politicians have claimed that they did not necessarily support such views, policies or programmes, but were merely honouring the dictates of collective responsibility and/or respect for leadership.  

It is common knowledge that prior to the 2014 general elections, the relationship between the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government and the private media was so bad that government imposed an advertising embargo on private media under the guise of cost cutting.
Then, it was almost taboo for the President and ministers to hold press conferences involving the private media.

The Sunday Standard and The Gazette newspapers were raided. In respect of the latter, a then Attorney representing the Gazette newspapers, Joao Carlos Salbany, was, according to Mmegi’s online edition of 24th May 2019, in 2015, arrested and detained at Mogoditshane Police Station following which the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) proposed that he be charged for obstructing its officials from executing a warrant of search and seizure against the paper.

In 2016, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship rejected Salbany’s application for renewal of work and residence permits, making him unable to continue practising law in Botswana despite having obtained his LLB from University of Botswana (UB) and having stayed in Botswana for more than twenty years. According to Mmegi’s online edition of 24th May 2019, in April 2017, the Directorate on Public Prosecutions (DPP) advised the DCEC that Salbany had not committed any offence. That notwithstanding, he was, in May 2018, declared a Prohibited Immigrant (PI) by H.E Dr. Masisi.  

In respect of Sunday Standard, sedition charges were, in January 2017, laid against its Editor, Outsa Mokone, and Senior Reporter, Edgar Tsimane, which led to the latter escaping from the country and seeking political asylum in neighbouring South Africa. Today, press conferences and press releases by Office of the President (OP) and ministers have become the order of the day, with some held at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport immediately upon an official’s arrival.

Before 1st April 2018, when H.E Dr. Masisi assumed office, it was almost inconceivable that the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Service (DISS) could hold a press conference involving the private media. Today, such press conferences are the order of the day. In fact, the DISS Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi, has himself held press conferences. Magosi has also conducted media briefings during operations, though the latter has been condemned by some as having the possibility of compromising the integrity of investigations.

This is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Colonel Isaac Kgosi, who not only failed to employ a Public Relations Officer, but also never held press conferences. The sedition charges against Mokone have been withdrawn. Salbany is no longer a PI, with H.E Dr. Masisi having reversed such. Ironically, Salbany, once an enemy of the state, has been employed by the DCEC itself. If the relationship between the government and the media was bad, that between the government and trade unions was worse.

Especially after declaring its support for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2014, the relationship between government and Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) soured. Thereafter, then President, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, made unilateral salary increases. Fortunately, our judiciary stood guard over labour rights and declared such conduct as unlawful since it was in violation of the Public Service Act, 2008 and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions.


Obviously taking a cue from Dr. Khama, the then unleashed Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) terrorised trade unions, victimising trade union leaders through malicious transfers, recalls from secondment, et cetera. It also effectively made the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) moribund by taking decisions outside the PSBC without involving the trade union party. In fact, in some instances DPSM exploited the rift between trade unions to meet this end.       

Once again, our judiciary came to the trade union’s rescue and quashed such decisions and set them aside, admonishing the DPSM of being intolerant of trade union and workers’ rights as enshrined in our labour laws and ILO conventions to which we are signatory. For the first time in many years, this year, government and trade unions concluded a salary increase agreement in time, an agreement for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 financial years which resulted in an increase of 10% and 6% for those at A and B scales and C and D scales respectively.

Though the increase has been condemned by the Opposition as meagre, it has been generally accepted by the workers, especially because of the expectation of improvement in conditions of service which may be ushered in by the much awaited Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) report on conditions of service. In particular, those at A and B scales were elated by the use of the pyramid method which they have been calling for for many years. Certainly, the fact that they got 4% more than the highly placed C and D scales elated them.  

Though the much awaited PEMANDU report on conditions of service is still pending, the relationship between government and trade unions is at an all-time high, with H.E Dr. Masisi and his ministers addressing almost all of the trade unions’ Congresses. Just recently, we saw government increasing salaries for members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), an increase dubbed Ntlole because it resulted in some officers skipping some salary scales in order to bring them to par with their counterparts in the public service.

Still with respect to labour rights, though the policy has not taken shape in earnest owing to reticence within the bureaucracy, government’s policy on spousal transfers, which was brought in by H.E Dr. Masisi, has gone a long way in placating workers. Also recently, we saw government commencing a legislative plan to remove teaching and other services from the list of essential services, making teachers eligible to strike, a right which was taken from them when the Trade Disputes Act was amended to that effect.

When the current session of Parliament resumed about a week ago, government tabled the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill, a Bill which the BDP, which has enjoyed Parliamentary majority since 1965, has failed to pass into law since it was first tabled by former Minister of Health, Joy Phumaphi, more than twenty years ago. These are but a few examples of the changes which, are no doubt, taking place because the ruling BDP wants to retain state power in this year’s general elections in October.

H.E Dr. Masisi himself wants to win the elections not only for the BDP’s continued reign, but also to prove his mentor turned nemesis, Dr. Khama, wrong. The latter, following the acrimony between the two, has vowed that without his support, the BDP will lose the forthcoming general elections. So, if elections were every year our country would be far in terms of development, considering the progress it has made since 1st April 2018 when H.E Dr. Masisi assumed office. It is yet to be seen whether he will maintain this pace and keep to his promises post the elections or he will renege on them only to revive them in 2024 to secure a win for his second and last term in office. 

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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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