Botswana Movement for Democracy’s court application, in which they were challenging their ejection from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), was this week dismissed with costs, a decision taken unanimously by a panel of three judges.
The much anticipated court verdict was dramatically delayed after the court staff printed the wrong version of judgment. The High Court upheld BMD’s expulsion by UDC before recognizing Botswana Congress Party (BCP), as a full member of the umbrella project. Since its acceptance in the UDC, BMD has never been at peace with BCP inclusion claiming that they (BCP), were out to grab their (BMD) constituencies and this was part of the politically charged court case.
The BMD argued that the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures when expelling it. When countering the BMD argument, UDC said BMD was irrelevant by saying its expulsion was unconstitutional because the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) body.
When passing a judgment, the Gaborone High Court quashed the BMD claim saying the party which is led by veteran lawyer Sidney Pilane, failed to produce a legal and credible case to convince the courts. A vividly jubilant UDC president Duma Boko, welcomed the judgment stating that, “when I speak about this matter I speak with potency and authority. I have fought this battle and I have all the scars of this battle!”
However, for Pilane it is not over yet as he is not conceding to a defeat by UDC. “I think we will file an appeal application tomorrow (Friday),” Pilane told journalists after the much anticipated judgment. Last month Pilane lost another case involving the UDC, in which he wanted the party president Boko, to be struck from the voters’ roll because he had not registered at his residential place. In this case, the UDC was represented by South African senior counsel Kennedy Paul and senior counsel, public speaker, author and political activist, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. BMD and its leader Pilane, on the other hand were represented by South African senior counsel Alexandra John Freund, as they battled it out in court.
BMD SUBMISSION BY SC ALEXANDRA FREUND
In their heads of submission, Freund said in expelling the BMD, the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures. He stressed that the body which purported to suspend and expel the BMD from UDC styled itself as the NEC. The South African attorney further said that the structural body was not part of the NEC and had no power to suspend or expel the BMD from UDC.
Freud, also submitted that the body which purported to take the offending decisions has not been elected by UDC constitutional structures, therefore it is not constituted. “The only entities of the UDC which could have authority under the constitution, in justifiable circumstances, to suspend or expel a member of the UDC are its NEC, which it made provisions for and constituted in terms of the UDC registered.” He therefore emphasized that the suspension and expulsion decisions were not taken by the Umbrella Negotiating Team (UNT), since it has not operated or existed since August 2012.
The South African senior counsel further narrated and submitted to the court, that prior to taking the decision to suspend and expel BMD, the Presidents and Secretary Generals of the BMD and BPP, were not present and did not have prior notice of the meeting at which these decisions were taken.
“Similarly, neither the BMD President and Secretary General and none of the 5 Conveners of the Negotiation Process participated in the body which purported to be the NEC and in the taking of the impugned decisions, nor did any of them have notice of the offending meetings; both of which invalidated the meetings and the decisions there made.”
Freud said the reasons given for the decisions to suspend and expel the BMD from the UDC, are ostensible and false, the true reason being; an unlawful conspiracy by the BCP and BNF to take the 14 constituencies allocated by the UDC to the BMD in which the party (BMD), will present its members as UDC parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general elections.
Freund then questioned UDC constitutional affairs. “The UDC has not, since its inception, held an elective congress and has never given notice of an intention to hold such a national congress as is required by Article 188.8.131.52 of the UDC registered Constitution,” he said.
UDC’S COUNTER ATTACK BY SC KENNEDY PAUL AND THEMBEKA NGCUKAITOBI
The UDC lawyers evidently held the BMD case in derision. Paul, told the court that it has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. “What we have here is a political situation, and with all due respect, it is unrealistic to seek the court to interfere in political matters,” he said. Paul said that BMD’s submission that the UDC failed to abide by the constitution and allowed the wrong structural bodies to make a decision in expelling the BMD, was irrelevant as the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the NEC body.
Adding to Paul’s arguments, Ngcukaitobi pointed out to the court that the applicant failed to establish a case on the basis of its suspension and that UDC has before expelling the BMD used the right body, structures and processes. “The political party should be allowed to run its course, this court has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. Therefore, we move that this application be dismissed and with costs,” Ngcukaitobi said.
Ngcukaitobi also stressed that indeed all the constituents’ members were present when taking the decision to suspend and expel the BMD. He emphasized that the right decision was taken by the right structures and the right procedure was followed. “The UDC was dealing with a BMD that has split. There has been an internal squabble in the BMD. There was chaos inside the BMD, the BMD has always provoked other members, and its leader is provocative,” said Ngcukaitobi.
The South African young lawyer further emphasized that the process followed indicates that whatever decision was taken, shows that it was a dialogue since 2017, and there was no bias. “On the 11th of November 2017, Pilane was reprimanded in the internal meeting for making toxic pronouncements, but on the 11th of October last year, he denied everything. This was after a meeting on the 18th of September, in which the UDC condemned and blamed their Moshupa-Manyana by-election loss on BMD. Chaos within the BMD is spilling over to UDC, hence the need to take a decision,” Ngcukaitobi reminded the court.
In conclusion, Ngcukaitobi casted doubt on Pilane working together again with UDC, saying political alliance should be based on trust. He insisted that: “What has been politically broken cannot be legally fixed. We have a pointless application here. What we have here is the highest form of breakdown between these two parties. Dismiss the case and ask them to pay the costs.”
As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.
According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.
According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.
“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.
BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.
Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.
Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.
BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.
The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.
Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.
In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made. “Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.
Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25
They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.
In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations. The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.
The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.
The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.
The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public “Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.
Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.
The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.
“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).
The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.
Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.
A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service. Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.
A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.
He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.
Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.
Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates. “The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.
This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.
That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”
Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.
“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.
The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.
According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu
For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”
The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.