Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), has this week emerged victorious in a case in which its former employee, Primrose Solomon was suing for unfair dismissal and praying for reinstatement or compensation.
When delivering the verdict on Tuesday this week, Industrial Court Judge, Isaac Bahuma resolved that Solomon’s dismissal was procedurally fair. “This case is about applicant’s claim for reinstatement and compensation based on her contention that the dismissal was unfair. The Court has made a finding that the respondent has proved on a balance of probabilities that applicant misconducted herself in handling the URB application,” reads the judgement. “The Court also found that the disciplinary process proceeding the applicant’s dismissal was fair. Consequently the applicant’s claim has to fail and Court so finds.”
Solomon, who was Portfolio Executive in Structured Finance Department at CEDA was dismissed from the organisation on the 26th of February 2018, owing to her handling of an application for short term finance by United Refineries Botswana (Pty) Ltd, a company co-owned by former Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma.
The court heard that on the 14th of November 2017, James Moribame, who is Head of Structured Finance of which Solomon was under, received an application from URB (Pty) Ltd, for a short term facility of P9.2 million as well as restructuring of their interest in the non-performing loans.
The application was handed to Solomon for appraisal of which she raised red flags among others; URB had a credit facility of P30 million which they were failing to service; URB was trading at a gross loss, the cost of raw materials exceeded market price; URB had no audited accounts since inception; URB had violated its share agreement with CEDA by diluting the latter’s shares; URB was not tax compliant; URB was technically insolvent and was facing closure by FNBB (P25 million) and BDC (P15 837 868.62).
Despite the red flags, Moribame gave Solomon a go ahead to appraise the application with the view of recommending funding, but the latter could not do as requested within the stipulated time [5 days for short-term finance]. This resulted in Moribame, out of exasperation instructing Solomon to hand over the task to another colleague, Aobakwe Mokgethi who then delivered the task the same day.
After completion of appraisal of URB application, Mokgethi sent the appraisal to Management Committee for consideration. The document was copied to Solomon, who in turn sent an email detailing the red flags which were ‘ignored by her colleague’ during appraisal. The application however did not succeed because URB had reached CEDA threshold of P30 million and also that then Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse refused to give a waiver.
On the 19th of December 2017, Moribame generated a report in which he accused Solomon of having promised on different occasions to submit the report, but failing to do so, resulting in him giving wrong information to management that the report was ready when it was not. The report resulted in Solomon being charged, subsequently appearing before the disciplinary hearing, which concluded on her dismissal on the 26 of February 2018.
Solomon, considered the dismissal unfair, and approached Industrial Court to seek relief. In seeking the relief, Solomon said the dismissal was not merely a result of how she handled the URB issue, but because of previous issues in which CEDA CEO had given her an ultimatum to either resign or face disciplinary action.
Solomon had accused Thamane of having acted negligently by failing to bring to the attention an application to management for consideration. Thamane, according to Solomon, was so incensed by the accusation, a justification which Solomon contended that it led to her expulsion and that the URB issue was the scapegoat.
The court however, arrived to the conclusion that there was no evidence to prove the link between what had happened earlier to the URB disciplinary action, which the court concluded it was fair and procedural, therefore upholding CEDA’s decision to dismiss Solomon from work. According to the evidence, given by CEDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thabo Thamane, and other CEDA senior executives who were subpoenaed by the court, Solomon was dismissed for misconduct relating to handing of URB matter, of which the court agreed.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”