Connect with us
Advertisement

Let’s Get BPO Industry Out of its Present Limbo

Majakathata “Jax” Pheko

At an economically tumultuous juncture of our country’s history as we presently are, where unemployment has become something of a Gordian Knot conundrum, a promisingly ameliorational pursuit known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is well worth exploring as a salvavic option.

One pundit defines BPO as “a subset of outsourcing that involves contracting the operations and responsibilities for a particular business process to a third-party service provider.” Examples of BPO services, which invariably do not constitute a company’s core or primary mission, include inbound and outbound call centres, live chat, bookkeeping, web development, research marketing, accounting and finance, and after-hours call answering services. BPO is driven, fundamentally, by the imperative of cost-cutting and overrides national boundaries through the employment and deployment of technologies that make human and data communications easier, thus lending credence to the concept of the global village that is today’s world.

BPO had been in existence in its primordial form since as early as the 19th century but it was not until the 1980s that its latter-day incarnation loomed larger and the term outsourcing became part of daily business parlance. Today, every continent is into BPO, including the economic Dark Horse called Africa. The Global IT-BPO Outsourcing Deals Analysis segments BPO buyer regions into three categories. These are North and South America (42 percent); Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (35 percent); and Asia and Oceania 23 percent.

In a Third World country such as Botswana, overseas-oriented BPO is key to bringing in those paramount hard currencies besides engendering a radical turnaround in the all too dingy joblessness picture. But are we up to it folks? Have we gotten aboard the bandwagon or we are virtual spectators watching nonchalantly as the BPO locomotive streaks away at breakneck speed?

JAX’S FLASH-IN-THE-PAN SUCCESS

The extent to which BPO has taken root in Botswana is not apparent. The first time I heard of it was in August 2007, when the Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA), then going by the name Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), put it on record at a one-day IFSC-organised conference that they were in the process of developing standards for the nascent BPO industry in Botswana whilst they benchmarked with Mauritius, the UK, and South Africa. Little, if anything at all, has been heard of their progress since.

In February 2018, The Botswana Guardian reported of the newly-established Direct BPO, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mascom, which was looking to employing 400 people at the very outset. Once again, details as to how Direct BPO, whose establishment coincided with Mascom’s 20-year anniversary, has fared to date remain sketchy.

Perhaps the most spectacular case of a BPO operation in Botswana was that of Oseg, a company begun by Majakathata Pheko, affectionately known as Jax, in 2003 under the Debtsolve franchise umbrella. Oseg, which comprised of three divisions, offered customer management and financial services solutions and operated out of Gaborone and Windhoek in Namibia, where it touted MTN as its principal client. Oseg did receivable management for local financial blue chips such as Barclays Bank, FNB, Bayport, MVA, Botswana Insurance Company, Letshego, and Standard Chartered, and in due course CEDA and Mascom. It also served the Australian offshore market. Its account receivable division was the biggest in Botswana, handling over 60,000 accounts and managing a portfolio of over P400 million.

At its height, Oseg employed 150 people and had spent over P15 million on cutting edge technology and manpower training. In 2007, Oseg was nominated for Best Non-European Contact Centre at the CCF Awards held that year in Birmingham, UK, the “Oscars of the industry”.

Then in 2016, the sky seemed to have fallen. Oseg found itself saddled with an odious P4.4 million debt, with its staff resultantly trimmed to just under 50. According to media reports, Jax pointed to his own bankrollers and their partners in the alleged crime as his rather devious saboteurs. “I have evidence that powerful people in the bank and a cabal of friends both inside and outside the bank were intentionally and aggressively looking for ways to weaken Oseg, tarnish its name and diminish its value as they were in the same competing business interests, in the call centre and the factoring business,” the then youthful entrepreneur, who was only 41 at the time, bemoaned.

Jax reported the matter to NBFIRA and what came of that, not to mention the continued viability of his business, I have not been able to establish. I just hope and trust that Jax personally weathered the tempest as I have it on good authority that he is doing fairly well.

BOTSWANA MISSING OUT ON DOLLAR-DENOMINATED BILLIONS

For emerging economies, and even peripheral Third World countries, the BPO business can be something of a gold mine. According to the latest McKinsey report, the global BPO industry is valued at $163 billon and is expected to grow at $183 billion by the year 2023.

In the Philippines, BPO, which began with a call centre setup way back in 1992, accounts for 11 percent of GDP, the single biggest contributor to the nation’s economic activity. It employs 1.3 million people in over 700 outsourcing companies. One company, called Teleperformance, alone employs 47,000 people in 21 sites. In 2019, the BPO sector generated revenues of the order of $26.3 billion.

In India, the BPO sector, now 30 years old, provides direct employment to 2 million people and indirect employment to 8 million. In 2019, the BPO income overall amounted to $8.6 billon.  In Mauritius, the ICT/BPO sector contributed 6 percent to GDP in 2019, representing a key driver of the Mauritian economy. The BPO sector is responsible for 53 percent of the 27,000 people employed in the ICT/BPO superstructure in 850 companies.

According to the Economic Development Board of Mauritius, leading multinationals such as Accenture, Huawei, Aspen Pharmacare and Allianz have back office operations in Mauritius. In addition, a number of international payroll companies currently use Mauritius as a service delivery centre.

Kenya is also looking to position itself as a hub for global digital BPO, notably through government promotion schemes such as Ajira. According to the ITC Authority of Kenya, the market size for online work was estimated to be $4.8 billion in 2016 and was projected to generate $15 billon by 2020. With only 7000 people employed in the BPO industry in the country, we are talking about a modest figure though it is still brisk compared to the rather lugubrious situation in Botswana. Clearly, there are billions in US dollar terms to be had in BPO and we are missing out on these big time.

MZANZI LEAVES BW IN THE DUST

Yet it is Big Brother next door from whom we have precious much to glean as he is our immediate competitor potentially in the BPO race. Remember, if our IFSC continues to flounder to date, it is largely on account of the fact that in Mzansi, we have a formidable rival right on our doorstep.

As we speak, the South African BPO sector is valued at $461 million going by the invariably authoritative McKinsey survey. It employs 270,000 people in six cities, a figure projected to more than double to 775,000 by 2030. Of the current total staff base, 65,000 serve international clients. That South Africa has made such enormous strides in the BPO arena is meritoriously earned and not simply fortuitous. It has been voted the second most attractive BPO location in the world for three years on the trot.

The South African BPO sector is tipped to grow by 3 percent per annum over the next three years, a rate which is in line with the trends in the global BPO space. There are currently over 100 local and international BPO providers operating in South Africa, with local players in the main serving large multinational customers. The industry’s key offshore business clientele is domiciled in English-speaking countries, notably the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, with 61 percent coming from the United Kingdom, 18 percent from the United States and Canada, and 11 percent from Australia.

In June this year, the $1.5 trillion-strong Amazon announced that it would be signing up a total of 3000 South Africans to help cater to its customers in North America and Europe, which is testament to the fact that the country’s BPO market continues to make waves in the Western world. If Jeff Bizos is impressed, you can count on the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg to follow suit too sooner rather than later.

A FORGONE OPPORTUNITY TO TURBO-CHARGE THE BPO INDUSTRY IN BOTSWANA

Empowerment Africa is an organisation that boasts a business network that enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long-term value with Africa-based projects. With reportedly 3000 esteemed contacts, it liaises with governments, major corporations, and investors to facilitate business opportunities, deliver deal flow, and provide research across its network to the Empower Africa business community.

Empowerment Africa recommends seven countries in Africa with thriving outsourcing industries. They are Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, and Madagascar in that order. Botswana is conspicuous by its absence and that must be ample cause for concern to our Monetary Authorities, especially given that at least on paper, we are economically better off than three to four of these countries.

In 2015, Jax approached the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and propositioned a joint partnership with Oseg in unlocking BPO potential in Botswana by looking at the public sector Debt Collection and Call Centre services for government. Jax reckoned that the total market for Receivables and Revenue collections sitting in Government and Parastatal organisations at the time amounted to over P3.5 billion, equivalent to 8% of the National Budget then. If the BPO sector was to be utilised to assist in collecting this debt, over 2700 jobs would be created.

Furthermore, considering that a typical government employee spent half the time attending to inquiries from members of the public, the exercise would result in improved efficiency delivery in government departments in addition to boosting government’s liquidity position.

This is what Jax said in a 50th independence anniversary publication in 2016 on the same subject. “Our estimations are that once all the collections work is outsourced, there is a potential to collect more than P100 million every month for the Government of Botswana.

The opportunity to create more than 2700 exists, which will help to mop out unemployed graduates and upskill them. The economic impact of 2700 jobs would support more than 15,000 people in the economy and also help to create jobs in other industries that support the BPO sector, and will stimulate the whole ICT sector. Over and above that, the outsourcing would stimulate the whole IT sector and help improve Botswana’s position as an ICT and Call Centre hub.”

Once again, I am not privy to what came of this proposition, but I am persuaded that had government acceded to it, the BPO business in the country would have quantum-leaped and we would today be waltzing on the proverbial Cloud 9 in terms of revenues generated. Even the road retarder Oseg encountered with its bankers would not have been a factor at all. As significant, we would in all probability have made it on Empowerment Africa’s short list for the continent’s pre-eminent BPO addresses.

THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF GOVERNMENT IN BOOSTING BPO FORTUNES

Granted, with the advent of the still latent E-Governance, the synergic potential with the Call Centre business is stupendous. As per Jax’s pitch to those who care to hear, “The outsourcing of the E-Governance and collections will greatly improve efficiency in service delivery in the government departments. Directing traffic and enquiries to a Call Centre would empower the BPO sector in such a way that would be able to help the public from all over the country from one central point 24 hours and 7 days week.

The Call Centres would also relieve Government of the pressure to develop brick and mortar representations/offices across the country. This would help to save billions of Pula as the public will be able to access the services from the comfort of their homes and villages. The Call Centre service would bridge the urban and rural division as everyone will now be able to access Government services and receive the same service.”

The real jackpot both to government and the broader citizenry, however, resides in the offshore market. With sales cycles in the BPO business taking up to 12 months, contracts typically run from five to seven years, which is sustained lucrativeness by any measure. It is in the direction of the overseas market that much of our energy should be focused, though wary that we do not recklessly neglect the domestic market, if we are to reinvigorate the BPO industry and get meaningful returns out of it.

Developed countries are all the more keen to outsource as one way to insulate their economies against severe hurt inflicted by globalwide economic tremors. For instance, it was thanks to offshore outsourcing that Australia so ably navigated the 2008 economic crisis. That year, IBM released a BPO report showing that 80% of Australian companies were willing to outsource from offshore companies to save 50% in expenses.

Here in Botswana, I would recommend that government be in the BPO vanguard by splashing on a whole host of catalytic factors. In South Africa, for instance, the Department of Industry, Trade and Competition devoted R1.3 billion between 2007 and 2018 to bolstering the BPO industry in one way or the other and committed a further R1.2 billion in 2019 alone, gestures which no doubt underlie the solid performance of the industry.

Even when the lockdowns were in progress, the industry was accorded essential services status so that it kept the momentum going. As if not to be outdone, the South African BPO industry body, Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA), has commendably done its part in aiding the growth of the industry by supporting skills development, sharing best practice, and providing its members with access to other business networks and associations that drive and influence the sector’s transition into the digital economy. In Mauritius, the Prime Minister himself, and not a man of lesser stature, directly oversees the BPO sector.

For Botswana to make a mark in the BPO arena, it has to build a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality destination for outsourced business services, attributes all of which South Africa excels in. In addition, South African BPO players provide higher-quality services owing to strength across five key areas: availability of skills, infrastructure, risk profile, business environment, and industry size. In Botswana, we will need to nurture some of these strengths with the instrumentality of government.

With the advent of COVID-19, it is of essence that traditional BPO providers build capabilities to enable rapid deployment and ramp-up of fully functional teams under crisis scenarios. Operational resilience, that is, the ability to pivot when an ordinarily disruptive set of circumstances hits, is key. South Africa demonstrated this capacity most eloquently when 90 percent of the workforce was able to switch to remote work in residential settings, when 50 percent of operations in key competing locations such as the Philippines and India came to a virtual standstill.

Lastly but by no means the least, a competitive currency is a reasonably efficacious undercutting strategy. In recent months, the South African Rand has significantly weakened against the US dollar, in which the cost of outsourcing is typically denominated, and this has enabled South African BPOs to compete more effectively with Asian offerings.

It concerns me that last year, the Pula appreciated by 1.6 percent against the SDR (Special Drawing Right), which is a compound of five currencies, namely the US dollar, the British Pound, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, and the Chinese Yuan. If that relatively ripped Pula trajectory persists, it will not help our BPO competitiveness at all Rre Moses Pelaelo.

Continue Reading

Columns

Flight To France

24th November 2021
THE “DRAGON” PURSUES THE “WOMAN”

The Lord’s wife seeks refuge in a European  “Wilderness”

In March 37 AD, General Atiku, Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar died after 23 years in office. He was succeeded by his nephew and adoptive heir Gaius Caligula. 

Caligula had forged a fraternal bond with Herod Agrippa, a grandson of Herod the Great, whilst hitherto cash-strapped Agrippa worked at Emperor Tiberius’ court in some capacity. It was on the basis of this mutual affinity that Caligula installed Agrippa as King of the Middle East territories his uncle Phillip the Tetrarch, who passed on in AD 34, had ruled over.

In 39 AD, Agrippa’s regal tentacles spread even wider when he was given the Herod Antipas domains after he politically poisoned the latter to Caligula. Thus it was that Agrippa became Rome’s client King of the whole of Palestine minus Judea. Meanwhile, the tiny territory of Chalcis in Syria was given to Agrippa’s brother Herod, best known to history as Herod of Chalcis, on the pleadings of Agrippa. 

It so happened, General, that during the rather short, six-year reign of Agrippa, four Jewish High Priests took turns in office, all appointed by he himself as per authority vested in him by the Emperor. One particular appointment, of a Boethusian High Priest at the expense of the incumbent Mathias Ben Ananus (the apostle Matthew), rankled with radical Jews.

Mathias was replaced in 43 AD, when he was scarcely one year in office. Given that the Boethusians held the Davidic dynasty in contempt, it goes without saying that the apostolate band were irate. In the event, Simon Peter and James the son of Zebedee with typical Zealot radicalism  conveniently saw common cause with Simon Zelotes and set about plotting the assassination of Agrippa. 

Somehow, General, the Herod establishment got wind of the plot and Herod of Chalcis had James executed and Simon Peter thrown into the slammer pending his own turn at the scaffold.  Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas were quick to hit back. First, Simon used his guile and connections to have Peter spirited out of prison, whereupon Peter sought refuge in Rome.

Simon Zelotes is the “Angel of the Lord” spoken of in the relevant passage (ACTS 12:7) as  that was his emeritus title as one of the Essene top brass. Second, Simon Zelotes had Agrippa assassinated by way of snake poison. Although Simon Zelotes got away with this intrigue, Barabbas, General, was not so lucky: as he made his getaway across the Jordan River and bogged down by age-related lethargy, he was seized and summarily executed by decapitation on the orders of Herod of Chalcis.  

Simon Zelotes set up a new base in Cyprus, leaving his step-daughter Mary Magdalene in the lurch in Judea. What would be her fate, General, now that she was associated with a fugitive from justice?

SCHISMS IN THE CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

The accession and rather untimely demise of King Agrippa, General Atiku,  had quite significant ramifications on the nascent Christian movement. Of particular import was the relocation of the Qumran community to Damascus in Syria. Indeed, the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Document makes a point of highlighting “the New Covenant in the Land of Damascus”, which now the Essenes propagandised as the place where the awaited Jewish Messiah would appear and not in Jerusalem as the Old Testament prophets had foretold.   

The change of scene, General, was spearheaded by James the Just, the immediate younger brother of Jesus and the incumbent leader of the Christian movement. It was necessitated  by the fear that the perpetually impecunious Agrippa (whilst he was alive, that is), who at some stage had been declared bankrupt, might eventually deplete the Qumran kitty (a portion of which the Herods were entitled to), of which James was the custodian following the ignominious death of Judas Iscariot.

James had also served notice that the Herods would  have no part to play in a sovereign Israel, that the conduct of its affairs would be the preserve solely of the Davidic dynasty, which he now headed. As if to underscore this apartness,  James even went on to reprise the Star &  Sceptre political tag team with Theudas Barabbas (before his assassination), which harked back to a similar partnership of yesteryears between his father Joseph and the same Barabbas, who was still revered as the iconic Zealot revolutionary.  

The likes of Simon Peter (who had returned from Rome a free man since his alleged crime had lapsed with the death of King Agrippa as was the practice those days),  however, set up their base at Antioch in Syria, which suggests that there was a bit of dissonance between James and Peter at the time. Peter was reinforced by Paul and the latter’s personal doctor Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The Peter faction was also anti-Herod but in its formative stage it touted Peter as the successor to Jesus at the expense of  James. 

In sum, General, there was a three-way split in the Christian movement after Jesus went into obscurity. This was the James party at Damascus, the Peter party at Antioch, and the Simon Zelotes party in Cyprus. It was the Peter party that with the benefit of hindsight stole the thunder in that it was at Antioch that members of The Way began to call themselves Christians. This was in AD 44. 

MARY MAGDALENE IN FRANCE

Meanwhile, General Atiku, Mary Magdalene was in a very precarious position. At the time, she was already pregnant with Jesus’ third child, having conceived in December AD 43.  It is not clear though whether she too had incurred the wrath of the Herods in view of what her step- father Simon Zelotes had done to King Agrippa, but taking precautions, she sought the protection  of Agrippa’s eldest son, Agrippa II. Agrippa II was only 17 years at the time and was based in Rome under the auspices of Claudius, who had become Roman Emperor in AD 41.

A former student of the Apostle Paul, Agrippa II was well disposed toward the Jesus family and so he readily acquiesced to Mary’s entreaty, whereupon he arranged for her safe passage to the famed Herodian estate in Gaul, France, in collaboration with his other brother Aristobulus. It was in Gaul that the brothers Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas had by turns been banished by the Roman Emperor after their ouster in AD 6 and 39 respectively .  

Mary Magdalene, General,  was not all alone on the ship that conducted her to France. She was accompanied by her step-father Simon Zelotes; her mother Helena-Salome; the apostle Philip; the three sisters of Jesus; the wife of James the Just; and Trophimus, who is mentioned in ACTS 20:4; ACTS 21:29; and 2 TIMOTHY 4:20. In his book The Life of Mary Magdalene, Archbishop Rabanus Maurus partly documents the voyage thus: “And favoured by an easterly wind they travelled on across the Sea between Europe and Africa, leaving the city of Rome and all the land of Italy to the right. Then, happily changing course to the right, they came to the city of Marseilles in the Gaulish province of Vienne.” Upon arrival in France, Mary Magdalene had the privillege of being welcomed by the Queen of Marseilles. Once in 

France, Simon Zelotes, who  became known there as Lazarus the Great One, wasted no time in setting up a mission in Provence in south eastern France.

MARY MAGDALENE Vs ROME

Unbeknownst to much of Christendom, including the Christian clergy itself, General, the fate of Mary Magdalene is cryptically documented in the Book of Revelation! It is unfortunate that Revelation is placed last in the New Testament corpus when by rights it should have come immediately  after the Book of Acts and not after the  21 epistles in between since it is actually a continuation of the Jesus story. Although it is called the Revelation of Saint John, that is a misnomer.

It is a revelation by Jesus Christ himself, who we now know was very much in existence and in circulation more than fifty years after his sham crucifixion. That is exactly what REVELATION 1:1 states, although Christians have naively taken this to be no more than  figurative language. It was Jesus in his physical, blood-and-flesh  form who related much of the contents of Revelation to the apostle John, the literal author of the book. Jesus dictated the account; John  simply was the scribe. 

The relegation of Revelation (literally “The Unveiling”, the true meaning of the Greek world apocalypse from which the term “Revelation” is translated) to the very extremity of the biblical canon, General,  was contrived by Roman Emperor Constantine as the teachings of the Roman Church were founded, primarily, on the writings of Simon Peter and the apostle Paul. Says authoritative historian Laurence Gardner in his book The Magdalene Legacy:  The Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy: “At first glance it appears baffling that The Revelation was included in the New Testament at all, since it follows the post-Resurrection lives of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their offspring through a balance of the 1st century.

However, the inclusion of The Revelation proved to be a remarkable strategy in that its very esoteric nature enabled Rome to turn it to considerable advantage by misrepresenting its text from the pulpits; this, of course, was at a time when the general populace did not have Bibles to read for themselves.” Gardner goes on to say, “The Church has done its best to put people off this book ever since by portraying it as a sinister work of foreboding and doom. By way of propaganda from the 1662 Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, even the very word apocalypse has become emblematic of disaster.”

REVELATION CHAPTER 12, General,  is particularly pertinent with regard to the saga of Mary Magdalene. It talks about a pregnant woman  “clothed  with the sun” and with a “wreath of 12 stars on her head” (Verses 1 and 2).  This woman is being pursued and tormented by a  “great fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems” (Verse 3). The dragon’s aim is to “devour her child when it is born” (Verse 4). The woman “fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready  by God” (Verse 6).

Despite her trials and tribulations, the woman at long last “brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away to God and to His throne” (Verse 5). The dragon, though, will never relent: it  is “angry with the woman, and came away to do battle with the rest of her seed, who are keeping the precepts of God and who have the testimony of Jesus” (Verse 17).

As we  have reiterated time and again,  General, much of the New Testament was written  in a coded language with a view to keeping the Romans in the dark. Thus in the Book of Revelation, Mary Magdalene is simply referred to as “the woman” and Rome as “the dragon” or “the serpent”.  History documents that the Romans did display a reddish dragon on their imperial banner.  Moreover, Rome itself was known as the City of the Seven Kings in that this was the total number of Roman emperors before the empire became a Republic in 509 BC.

The woman is of royal pedigree because she is “clothed with the sun”,  an  age-old symbol of both royalty and divinity. The 12 stars on her head obviously refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, for whom she was the de facto queen being the wife of Jesus,  the Davidic King, and the wreath on her head denotes the fact of the nation of Israel’s enduring  subjugation to the Roman yoke.    The “wilderness” in this context is France, where Mary Magdalene as related above sought refuge with the assistance of Agrippa II.   

The pursued woman did give birth to a male child, which Mary Magdalene did as we shall relate in the next instalment. As a youngster, the child himself met no harm, but his relations, the broader Jesus family and their scions,  who became known as the Desposyni or the Sangreal, were continuously harassed  by Roman emperors, with some of them put to death, a detail we shall go into at the appropriate stage. 

Curiously, General, the Revelation passage indicates that the woman was transported to safety on “two wings of a large vulture”. This suggests an aircraft, and a hideous, military-type for that matter,   and not a ship as official history documents. This is not exactly far-fetched considering that the Anunnaki, who flew in aerial vehicles, have been ruling Earth from behind the scenes despite their official departure in the 6th  century BC. If Mary Magdalene had been earmarked as the progenitor of the planet’s blue blood, which she indeed was, then the Anunnaki had cause to ferry her to France in an aeroplane to make doubly sure she got to France in  one piece. It may explain, General, why upon her arrival in France she was welcomed by no less a figure than the Queen of Marseilles herself.  

NEXT WEEK: THE “QUEEN” IS IMMORTALISED

Continue Reading

Columns

Magma Carter

24th November 2021

When I was growing up dinosaurs didn’t exist.  I don’t mean I’m so old I pre-date the days of the prehistoric beast, simply that in those days, nobody bar a few nerdy scientists, gave them much of a second thought.  

But in 1993 all that changed.  Movie buffs amongst you will immediately recognise that year as the release year of the original Spielberg Jurassic Park movie.  That’s not to say there hadn’t been films portraying these ancient beasts before – several had come and gone, seemingly without a trace, the oldest being from 1933 and filmed in black and white.  But what set Jurassic Park apart, aside from the impressive special effects and the sprinkling of magic Spielberg dust, was the relatively recent discovery of DNA and its genetic significance.

The scriptwriters exploited this concept with the quasi-credible discovery of a living lizard species, derived from dinosaur DNA, captured from an ancient mosquito, and preserved for millennia in a chunk of amber.  From there several other species are cloned and kept on an island which acts as a dinosaur game reserve, now open to the public.  But that wouldn’t have made much of a story, so of course some of the more dangerous dinosaurs had to escape and cause mayhem and murder in the modern world.

The film grossed over a billion dollars and won 3 Oscars for sound and visual effects.  And more importantly it generated so much interest in dinosaurs that the study of palaeontology experienced a record increase in applications.

So that’s where all the dinosaur hype and fascination started and since then it has spawned more movies from the same franchise, animated series such as Ice Age, and  led to a global fascination with finding out more about these beasts of the past.  

But only recently something quite fascinating emerged concerning these creatures, and that is that they began life as much smaller creatures and it was a major climate event on earth which led to their monster growth.  This finding is the result of a study between scientists from the UK’s Birmingham university in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts at the China Institute of Mining & Technology.   Their joint team of researchers recently presented compelling evidence that massive volcanic events probably helped the dinosaurs diversify and thrive, reaching their monumental sizes. 

Their results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and explain that the Triassic Period, which began roughly 250 million years ago, was a time of massive ecological change after the largest mass extinction event on record.  Earlier dinosaurs had been skinnier, more reptilian, less of the massive, marauding Spielberg monsters but it was during this time period that dinosaurs diversified until they became wondrous beasts such as T. Rex and Triceratops, dominating ecosystems all over earth. 

Scientists looked at a phase spanning 2 million years during the Triassic Period known as the Carnian Pluvial Episode or CPE, ‘pluvial’ deriving from the Latin word for rain, meaning it was a period of warm, moist, cloudy meteorological activity . During that episode, from 234 million to 232 million years ago there was a huge increase in global temperature, humidity and rainfall — a climate often referred to as a “mega-monsoon.”

Researchers analysed sediment and plant fossil evidence from a lake in Northern China and were able to match four intense phases of volcanic activity with the changes of the Carnian Pluvial Episode.  The study links the timing of the episode with four distinct peaks in mercury levels, a well-established indicator of volcanic activity,  which led to changes in the vegetation. 

“We’re often able to link volcanism to global warming, but our study is unusual in that we’ve also linked it to periods of intense rainfall,” said Jason Hilton, a paleobotanist at the University of Birmingham in England and co-author of the study. “With each pulse of volcanism, we see an increase in plants adapted to wet and aquatic… settings.” Jing Lu, a researcher at the China University of Mining and Technology and also a co-author of the study, added that these eruptions “were powerful enough to drive evolutionary processes during the Triassic. During the episode, plant species that couldn’t adapt to the more humid environment went extinct, as did a number of animal species, from large reptilian herbivores on land to small gastropods in the water. “These changes freed up ecological space for other groups of organisms such as dinosaurs, to thrive”

But every dog, and every dinosaur, has their day and the dinosaurs also faded away, most likely due to a massive meteor strike on the surface of the earth in what is now modern-day Florida, which set up a massive tsunami and eventually resulted in a global Ice Age, temperatures too cold for dinosaurs to survive.

If there’s a moral to all this paleo-historical research it is that earth’s climate is governed by many factors, one of which may indeed by petrol fumes in the atmosphere but many of which are completely beyond our control.  Another massive meteor strike may occur next week or it may not. We could see a sudden surge in volcanic activity again or we might not.  But most of all the lesson is that talk of what is good or otherwise for the planet is based on a false premise.  Whatever happens on the surface of the earth, it keeps on spinning round and round the sun every 365 ¼ days  as it has done since the Big Bang and there is  no reason to suppose it will cease to do so, even if it were to transform into a an arid desert in its entirety.  That is the embodiment of perpetual motion, a force which man has yet to master.

No, what people really mean is ‘good for trying to keep the planet just the way we like it’ which is rather different and may be a complete impossibility.  Indeed mankind, like the dinosaur, may become extinct at some point in the future as part of the natural way of the world.

The planet, though, will be fine!

Continue Reading

Columns

Heaven on Earth

9th November 2021

 Jesus is admitted into the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which was a metaphor for the Essene priesthood

At Qumran, General Atiku, there were a number of caves on the cliffside (Qumran overlooked the Dead Sea), located  not very far from the site where the crucifixion had taken place.  Two of these caves were particularly important. One was Cave 4. Cave 4 was called Abraham’s Bosom. It was the burial cave for the Davidic King and the Pope, the Father of the Essene community. Across the chasm from Cave 4 was Cave 8. This was the burial cave of the Davidic Crown Prince. It was also known as Paradise.

Putting politics aside, the rightful Davidic King was Jesus and the Crown Prince was his immediate young brother James. Thus Cave 8 was owned and taken care of by James. The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm this. One text thereof, called the Copper Scroll, says ‘there was a tomb of the son of the third Great One”. In the Essene hierarchy, the third-ranking person was the Davidic Messiah, Jesus. But Cave 8 would not have belonged to his son in that he had no heirs yet. As such, it belonged to James, who was next in line till Jesus produced a heir.  Also in Pesher, the term “son of” meant “next in line” or “deputy”.      

Cave 8 had another purpose – a storage of money that was in the custody of James.  This was Essene initiation fees paid by Gentiles. It was entrusted to the care of the more cosmopolitan Davidic princes, who directly received the money because coming from Gentiles it was regarded as unclean money. Because James was in charge of these funds, he was cynically referred to as “The Rich Man”. This explains why Joseph of Arimathea (James) is characterised in the gospels as a rich man.

Cave 8 and Cave 7 were adjoined. The two caves had one entrance through the side of the roof, with steps leading from the entrance down to the floor of the cave. The entrance was covered with a huge stone that only people on the outside could roll away. The remains of the two joined caves can be seen even today in the ruins of Qumran. When Jesus was brought down from the crucifixion tree by James, he was laid in Cave 8 in keeping with his Davidic status. Judas and Simon Zelotes were laid in Cave 7. Note, General, that had he actually died, Jesus would have been placed in Cave 4.

Since this was the eve of the Sabbath, guards were posted around the caves to see to it that when the Sabbath took effect at midnight, Sabbath rules were not infringed upon in any way, shape or form. Ananus, the youngest son of former Jerusalem Temple High Priest Annas, was one of those who stood guard. In particular, he wanted to ensure that none of the three men in the tomb was removed during the Sabbath. He was to alternate with Theudas Barabbas, who had been strategically posted there as shall become clear shortly. 

THE DEATH OF JUDAS

At midnight, when Ananus took leave of his vigil and Theudas Barabbas replaced him, the latter stole into the cave (of course he had help to remove the huge stone cover). In the Passion story, Barabbas is disguised under the name Nicodemus (meaning “Conquering One,” exactly as Barabbas was hyped in his capacity as a leading Zealot revolutionary). The gospel of John says Nicodemus brought with him myrrh and aloes. From the nature and workings of these herbs, General, it is easy to tell what exactly transpired in Cave 8. 

Myrrh is used as a sedative (a drug that calms a patient, easing agitation and permitting sleep). This of course was used on Simon Zelotes, who along with Judas had been brought down from the crucifixion trees fully conscious. Both had received substantial scourging from the Roman soldiers and were therefore in acute pain. They badly needed some sleep as a form of provisional escape from the pain.       

Aloes are a strong and fast-acting purgative (a substance used to induce rapid bowel movements so that the bowels are quickly emptied).  No doubt these were used on Jesus to expel the poison that he had been fed as he hung on the tree. This was a task to which Theudas Barabbas as head of the Theraputae was best suited. The Theraputae specialised in knowledge of medicines and poisons, including snake poison. In fact, one of their assassination “weapons” was snake poison. In 44 AD, for instance,   Herod Agrippa I was murdered by the Zealots with snake poison. In his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke ascribes Agrippa’s death to having been “eaten with worms”. The term worms was a metaphor for snakes and snakes was a metaphor for the Theraputae top brass.   

Now, the emplacement of Jesus, Judas, and Simon Zealotes in the cave, General, was not only about hoodwinking Pilate. It was primarily about fulfilling a ritual. This was excommunication of the three from the Essene fold. However, the excommunication of Jesus and Simon in particular did not have the blessings of Herod Antipas, who was very close to Simon and held Jesus in high esteem, who he recognised as the bona fide Davidic King.

So Antipas had schemed with Simon Zelotes that while in the cave, he should reclaim the status of  Pope, currently held by Nathaniel, and invoke papal powers to  reinstate both and Jesus and he himself. This had to be done within three days of the crucifixion as beyond that excommunication would be irrevocable. This explains, General, why there were such frantic efforts to medically attend to the men in the cave. 

The herbs and therapeautic methods employed by Barabbas worked like a charm and the following day Simon and Jesus felt much better. Accordingly, Simon Zelotes wasted no time in reclaiming the papacy and exercised it by lifting the excommunication of  Jesus and he himself.   This gesture was communicated to the Jewish establishment by Barabbas. Sadly, Judas Iscariot, General, received the short end of the stick.

He never benefitted from the medical attention Jesus and Simon received. Simon denounced him as a traitor for betraying his colleagues. The adjoining cave – Cave 7 – had a ventilational window. Judas, who had been weakened by scourging, was thrown out the window. Hurtling headlong down the cliff, he landed on some jagged rocks and with his stomach punctured his bowels spilt out.  His death is recorded partly accurately by Luke in ACTS 1:18.    

SIMON FORMS OPPOSITION PARTY

Early on the morning of the first Sunday after the Passover Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, pregnant with Jesus’ first child, pitched up at Cave 7. She could have come on Saturday but movements of a certain radius were forbidden on Sabbath Day. Mary as the wife of Jesus was anxious as to his condition: she wanted to ensure that he indeed was safe, that he had indeed survived the crucifixion ruse. 

The gospels say she encountered two angels. Of one such angel, MATTHEW 28:3 says: “His countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow.” This, General,  is either cryptic language or simply a distortion on the part of the translators. We already know by now that Simon Zelotes was nicknamed “Lightning”. We also have seen that he had at this juncture challenged   Nathaniel for the status of Essene high priest, that is, that  of  the Archangel Michael, and so had garbed himself in priestly attire with a view to reinstating to the Essene fold both Jesus and he. Thus, the correct translation should read, “His countenance was like that of Simon Zelotes in his priestly vestments”. 

MATTHEW 28:2 reads, “There was a great earthquake and an angel appeared”. Ancient records do not mention a single earthquake in Palestine in the first century. Once again, General, this was pure allegorical language. Earthquake was another of the nicknames of Theudas Barabbas. He was an angel because Simon Zelotes had designated him his No. 2 in the Essene hierarchy, that is, the Angel Gabriel. Thus, the two angels Mary saw were Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas. 

Mary also saw another man who at first she mistook for a gardener. Garden was another name for Cave 8. It was likened to the Garden of Eden, or Paradise – another of its nicknames – because the person in its charge, James the brother of Jesus, became the second Adam when he challenged Jesus for the status of the Davidic King. James was thus the gardener Mary thought she had seen. But it wasn’t James: it was Jesus. Apparently, Jesus and James looked very much alike. 

Realising that it was Jesus and not James, Mary was overcome with emotion and fervidly reached out to hug him but Jesus kept her at bay. Why, General?  Because according to Essene dynastic protocols, she was not, as a pregnant spouse, allowed physical contact with her husband for at least three years. 

All in all, General, the three men at  Cave 8 had, with the blessings of  Herod Antipas,  declared themselves as the heads of the new Essene shadow council of the 12 in opposition to the official one led by Nathaniel pending official elections. Simon Zelotes was the shadow Michael; Barabbas the shadow Gabriel; and Jesus the shadow Sariel. But it would take six more months before they became formally so. 

JESUS FINALLY IS PRIEST-KING

Although the so-called crucifixion took place in the relative quiet and seclusion of Qumran, General, it was not meant to be kept under wraps for long. Pontius Pilate wanted to demonstrate to his subjects that the key people in the AD 32 uprising had been dealt with decisively. The crucifixion though was publicly announced after the Passover celebrations were done with. This was tactical on the part of Pilate: he did not wish to foolishly provoke another uprising at a time when Jerusalem was teeming with the highly radical Galilean pilgrims. 

By the time the crucifixion became common knowledge, however, General,  Jesus was sufficiently fit to make appearances to people who were close to him – his family members and his so-called disciples. He would later appear to a gathering of over 500 at Qumran, most of whom were Diaspora Essenes.  To those who did not know about the crucifixion ruse, he had conquered death.

He was therefore hailed as a veritable Messiah. Voices now clamoured to make him Priest-King – the Melchizedek, the very status that he had laid claim to and that had put him at odds with the Jerusalem establishment. Jesus was careful though in his post-crucifixion appearances: he tactfully picked his audience and cautiously timed his showings. He didn’t wish Pilate to get wind of the fact that the crucifixion was a hoax. In fact, very few Jews were aware he had survived the crucifixion. 

Meanwhile, General, Simon Zelotes decided to make political capital out of what had transpired. In his campaign for the papacy, he boasted that it was he who was responsible for “the miracle in the tomb”. Hence, his marks of respect too grew exponentially. From that point on, he became known as “Simon Magus”, that is, Simon the magician. With his popularity reaching such dizzying heights, he was in September 33 AD elected as Pope, thus replacing Nathaniel.

With his accession to the papacy, he decided to heed the wishes of the people and have Jesus installed as the Melchizedek. This event is what has come to be known as the Ascension although it has been wrongly interpreted as   a physical entry into Heaven,   the abode of God. It is captured by Luke in ACTS 1:9, which reads, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight”.

The incident, General, is nothing more than the admission of Jesus into the priesthood as Priest-King of Israel. The “Kingdom of Heaven” was the inner sanctum of the Essene priesthood. Jesus was conveyed into this inner sanctum by his brother James, who now unequivocally recognised him as such, and ordained by Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas (the “two men who stood by in white apparel” as per ACTS 1:1011). It was the Exodus imagery at play here General. “Cloud”  was another title of James.

It was a cloud that had led the ancient Israelites into the Promised Land (EXODUS 13:21-22) and the appearance of God on Mount Sinai had been accompanied not just by thunder and lightning but by a cloud as well (EXODUS 19:6). Thus, the terms “Thunder” (Nathaniel); “Lightning” (Simon Zelotes); “Earthquake” (Theudas Barabbas); and “Cloud” (James) were retained as symbolic designations in the Essene community. 

If Jesus didn’t die in AD 33, what was his life like in subsequent years and when did he actually die? Thanks to the Pesher device, this we can partly glean from the book of  Acts, the Pauline epistles, and the book of  Revelation.   

NEXT WEEK: THE LORD SETS ABOUT PERPETUATING THE JESUS STOCK!

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!