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One ‘flu over the cuckoo’s nest

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

On the news this week was a report that  sales of Jaguar cars in the UK had been halted due to a shortage of key fobs.  Yes, you did read that right!  To alleviate the problem, the report went on, senior staff from the company were flying to China and bringing back stocks of the  items in their suitcases. 

The company is also expected to run out of other essential parts (I had to resist the urge to write ‘key components’!) in its UK factories within two weeks. In addition  JCB has cut working hours and suspended overtime for its  4,000 UK employees after the corona virus outbreak prompted a shortage in parts coming from China.  Factory workers will work a 34-hour week until the disruption ends, although they will still be paid for a 39-hour week and will work them back later in the year. 

Explaining the move, JCB’s chief operating officer, Mark Turner, said: “More than 25% of JCB’s suppliers in China remain closed and those that have reopened are working at reduced capacity and are struggling to make shipments.  It is therefore clear that the inbound supply of certain components from Chinese partners will be disrupted in the coming weeks as they seek to replenish their stocks.” The World Economic Forum issued these statistics on the current and potential knock-on effects of the virus, now renamed Cobid 19

‘Apple’s manufacturing partner in China, Foxconn, is facing a production delay. Some carmakers including Nissan and Hyundai temporarily closed factories outside China because they couldn’t get parts. The pharmaceutical industry is also bracing for disruption to global production.

Many trade shows and sporting events in China and across Asia have been cancelled or postponed. The travel and tourism industries were hit early on by economic disruption from the outbreak as well as global airline revenues. A total of 24 airlines have so far cancelled flights in and out of China, including  British Airways, Air France, and Dutch airline KLM, which axed flights through much of March. In the US, American Airlines and Delta halted flights until the end of April, as did the Spanish carrier Iberia. 

Asian and Middle Eastern airlines were also heavily affected. Emirates and Etihad are among at least 16 to scrap some routes to China. The worst effects  are, of course,  being felt in China itself with thousands of businesses – shops, offices and factories- closed or  on short  time. The boss of China’s biggest listed company, the online sales platform,. Alibaba, described the corona virus outbreak as a “black swan” event that could have a significant economic impact.  CEO Daniel Zhang  said the outbreak would present significant near-term challenges for Alibaba, with many of the merchants who use its facility unable to return to work.

French spirits maker Pernod Ricard said profit growth would be slower than previously expected for the year to 30 June.  “Nightclubs and bars are all closed in China ,and those bars and restaurants that are not closed are empty,” said Alexandre Ricard, the founding family scion who serves as chief executive, according to Reuters.

Ralph Lauren, the US fashion brand, said the outbreak would cost it between $55m and $70m in lost sales. Two-thirds of its stores on the Chinese mainland had been closed for the past week.  Disruption to the company’s supply chain could have a knock-on impact on orders around the world in the first three months of the year, it said.

The EU said the virus was “a source of mounting concern” and a key downside risk to global growth.  The downgraded expectations, particularly for the fast-growing Chinese economy, have dented oil prices.  And according to the IEA  (International Energy Association) “There is already a major slowdown in oil consumption and the wider economy in Chin.,”

Clearly what began as outbreak of a new ‘flu virus has catapulted itself into a major global problem in just a few short weeks.    Much of this slowdown can be attributed to a combination of 2 factors – the fear  felt by the Chinese population  itself of catching the virus and their efforts to self-isolate and the measures taken by the government to contain it, issuing directives concerning workplace initiatives to stem the disease spread. 

However, all of that comes down to a single factor – the global reliance on Chinese goods, whether it be cheap clothing and electronic goods – consumer end use – or manufacture and export of components – start-up and assembly producer consumption in almost every industry worldwide.  Wherever you live, it is fair to assume that if you had not already been affected by the virus, you very soon will be, even though you of course stand only an infinitesimally tiny chance of actually catching the ‘flu strain.

For years it has been clear that if China figuratively caught a cold, the whole world would sneeze, and that has now almost literally come to fruition.   Reliance on parts and products from that country is absolute and everywhere.  Accordingly, global manufacturing has been slowed down, international travel severely disrupted, the entertainment and leisure industry is feeling the pinch, consumers are faced with shortages and all of this has come about through panic and preventative measures.  We’re not just running out of cheap Chinese watches, we’re running out of time!

I would like to say that one upside might be in the production of face masks since shops all over Asia have run out of stocks trying to meet the huge demand but alas, I fear those factories are also on a slowdown, as are the distribution firms carrying  the goods to retail outlets.  Masking the extent of the problem, perhaps?

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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