The Minimum Wage Advisory Board, following a bout of exchanging notes and ideas in 2018, has submitted its recommendation to Minister of Employment, Labour, Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabelo for possible implementation after cabinet approval.
However, Mabeo has indicated that it is not guaranteed that the recommendations will be adopted as they are. “The board has just submitted recommendations to my ministry for forwarding to cabinet in near future. The board [made up of unions, workers, government, employers and independent members] sits and deliberates and come up with recommendations for approval by the executive,” said Mabeo, confirming receipt of the proposals from the board with this publication.
The board was expected to present its recommendations in March 2019. The last revision to minimum wages was done in 2017 and there has been mounting calls for it to be reviewed especially from political parties as the rates are said to be low. Data from Statistics Botswana, contained in the Formal Sector Employment Statistics 2018, shows that minimum hourly rate increased 52 percent between 2009 and 2017. The current minimum hourly wage rates range from P3.21 to P5.79 per hour.
The debate on increasing the minimum wage has been the focus on the country’s increasing income inequality. Botswana is in the top three most unequal countries in terms of income distribution as measured by the Gini Index. Proponents of the minimum wage have urged the government to protect its citizens from exploitation by increasing the minimum wage, and have contended that it will reduce inequality. Businesses operating in Botswana have defended the wages they pay their employees, arguing that what they pay is in line with the country’s minimum wage laws.
The minister reiterated that the recommendations will not be fully implemented as they are. “We should look at how employees are paid compared to the [performance of] economy. We want to create a balance so that the business community would be able to absorb many people without retrenchments. We do not want a company to be making a lot of money but not compensating workers as it could be. In short what we are saying is, ‘do not pay less than this amount. But if one [employer] wants to go overboard then they will be allowed to,’” he explained.
The industries in question include Building, Construction, Exploration and Quarry, Wholesale Distributive Trade, Manufacturing, Service and Repair Trades, Hotel, Catering and Entertainment Trades, Garage and Motor Trade and Road Transport. Currently their hourly rates range from P3.21 to P5.79.
The board according to informants suggested increase of at least 20 percent on the mentioned sectors and further said; “If the working week is 5 days, then the working day may not be more than 9 hours and a period of rest totalling 1-hour should be provided during the day. If the working week is more than 5 days, then the working day may not be more than 8 hours or more than 48 hours in a week. A break of at least 30 minutes must be given after 5 consecutive hours of work”.
Mabeo highlighted that among other factors the board looked at was inflation rate and revealed that spanners are at work to go to national living wage which gravitates to a set living wage. This is one of the recommendations in the classified recommendation paper. A living wage, unions have said, it is not enough to improve one's quality of life or protect against emergencies.
“For example, workers will not earn enough to eat at restaurants, save for a rainy day, or pay for education loans. It doesn't include medical, auto, or renters/homeowners insurance. In other words, it's enough to keep you out of a homeless shelter, but you'd still have to live pay check-to-pay check. If you can't afford insurance, and you get sick, you could still wind up homeless,” they observed.
MABEO, UNIONS OFF TO ILO CONFERENCE
Botswana delegation led by Minister Mabeo left for Geneva, Switzerland this week to attend this year conference and centenary celebrations. “We had a meeting this week to prepare for the conference and I must say we agree on a number of things and the meeting was a success,” Mabeo told this publication. Among a number of strides they made, the tripartite committee has established a labour law review committee and this will see Botswana for the first time in years not accounting in any of the sub-committees.
In the last conference BOFEPUSU had reported the government at the ILO for what they regarded as “trampling and disregarding the lawfully instituted Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC)” and also queried the controversial amendment of the Trade Dispute Act. ILO representative, under the Freedom of Association branch, Keren Curtis also visited Botswana to meet the tripartite structure to follow up on the BOFEPUSO letter reporting key violations of workers’ rights in the country.
“We are not going to appear to any committee because we have rectified our past issues. We formed a labour law review committee to look to avoid litigations on either public services act. We have also made great progress. So far we have met at least 90 percent of what we were supposed to,” Mabeo said.
This year’s meeting will see ILO celebrating its centenary and looking at the future of the work to avoid retrenchments in the work place that is engulfed by mechanization as well as fusing technology in the work place. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has been tasked to present the subject titled “future of work.
Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.
The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.
He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected
“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.
The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.
Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.
He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them. “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.
“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.
“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”
To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.
In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.
“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.
Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’
Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.
So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’
Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.
“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.
The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.
The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent
“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”
The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.
“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.
For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.
In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.
In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.
The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.