Two main union federations the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) have over the weekend separately resolved to sway the impending hotly contested 2019 General Elections in line with their demands.
BFTU made their Council resolutions at Mahalapye while BOFEPUSU were lodged at Palapye. The purpose of the BOFEPUSU gathering was to deliberate on topical issues affecting the workers while BFTU gathered to give a full account of the activities of the Board and Committees to the General Council.
In terms of the resolutions that were aimed at having an impact on the 2019 elections outcome, BFTU noted that in a functioning multi-party democracy, every general election presents an opportunity to all stakeholders to ask those seeking their votes to enter public office, what it is that they have for them. According to BFTU, the General Council of the Federation, on the 26th October 2018, passed a resolution “for the development of the workers manifesto that would be used to inform, guide and ideally influence political parties’ manifestos in the coming 2019 general elections.”
The federation through the Secretary General, Thusang Butale, stated that it must be remembered that public office holders, that is, Members of Parliament and Local Government authorities, are at the center of the process of national governance and distribution of national resources and it is therefore important that trade unions take a deliberate effort to ensure that the interests of workers will be addressed and are safeguarded by those who require their votes.
Although the Federation has no intention to take any political party side, as a stakeholder and a custodian of the interests of its constituents’, the Federation strongly believes that it has a duty to educate and inform its members about pertinent social and economic issues that affect them in order to enable them to ask those running for public office, pertinent questions about the welfare of the workers and as well as desirable solutions.
“To this end a working group/ reference committee was set up to work on the development of the manifesto with a consultant. The working group comprises of General Council members, relevant Civil Society Organisations and representative(s) from the Global Labour University alumni,” it states. BFTU further observed that they intend to lay a road map on how political and socio-economic issues that affect workers and their families should be addressed by those who seek public office.
“The Federation’s General Council has viewed it as of paramount importance that workers aspirations and expectations be placed before all those who need their votes in order to take up national office. In other words, our members votes are not for free and all those who seek public office should know and fully appreciate that,” the federation pointed out in its resolutions.
According to BFTU, the Manifesto will be officially launched on the 1st May 2019, Workers/Labour Day, in Francistown and across the country and to make this well understood and appreciated by those who need their members votes, the workers manifesto will guide workers as they go to the polls in 2019. The BFTU document of resolutions indicate that the approved theme for the day reflects on the demand for a better Botswana, a strong economy that serves the people and stronger Unions for democratic values and democracy.
The BFTU noted that Botswana’s economy has been doing relatively well since the time of independence and has even withstood and survived the 2008 economic shocks. Botswana, according to BFTU has received accolades from the international community and financial institutions for its multi-party system, functioning democracy, good governance and its relative economic prosperity.
However, the Federation observes with disappointment, that this much talked about economic success story has not translated into prosperity for all. They point out that according to the most recent formal sector employment survey report, monthly average earnings for citizens were P6, 038, whilst monthly average monthly earnings for non-citizens stood at P18, 265.
The Botswana Multi-Topic Household Survey of 2015/16 revealed that Batswana continue to wallow in poverty, and social inequalities and unemployment, in spite of the country’s much talked about economic success story, they state. While at the time of independence Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, BFTU contends that after 50 years of independence, Botswana is one of the ten (10) most unequal societies in the world.
“It is the view of the Federation that Botswana is a rich country of poor citizens. The Federation is therefore worried about this state of poverty in the midst of plenty that is found in Botswana today. As if this is not enough, the Federation has been deeply alarmed by reports of corruption and poor governance that seem to have engulfed the country. Needless to say it is corruption and poor governance that are at the center of Botswana current political crisis,” BFTU lashed out in their resolution paper.
Their counterparts, BOFEPUSU in their separate resolutions that were signed by its President Johannes Tshukudu and Secretary General Tobokani Rari also resolved that the Federation should develop a worker’s charter/manifesto as a blue print or guiding document on policy issues to influence 2019 elections. The workers manifesto, BOFEPUSU says will enable Federation structures, leaders to articulate Federation position on such issues and “further to lobby relevant local political organisations on workers agenda and national matters.”
The Governing Council also resolved that the Federation should institute coordinated campaigns against corruption and money laundering that have resulted in Botswana being grey – listed by multinational financial institutions. Further they resolved that there be institution of private prosecution on unprosecuted matters by Government agencies regarding looting of Public servants Pensions Funds and other corruption scandals on public resources.
The Governing Council resolved that the Federation should forge cooperation to initiative with BFTU in an endeavor to form a Confederation of the two Federations in the long run. In addition, in view of the slave wages that workers at the bottom of the pay structures in various industries in Botswana are subjected to, the Governing Council resolved that the Federation should carry out a research on Minimum Living Wage and stage a campaign to have such implemented.
Having also noted that public servants who were dismissed during the 2011 industrial action remain unemployed and are subjected to harsh life conditions, the Council resolved that pressure should be mounted on government to have such workers reinstated and compensated accordingly.In view of the flagrant acts of labour rights violations in the Private and Parastatal sectors, the Council mandated the Central Executive Committee to lobby members of parliament and all stakeholders to speak against labour rights violations within these sectors, and also lobby for the amendment of the labour laws to protect employees and Trade Unions within these sectors.
BOFEPUSU has also noted that the feud between former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama and the current President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, should be condemned by the federation and all progressive forces in the country with the strongest possible terms, as it compromises the sanctity of the Presidency of the Republic and has the potential to divide the country on regional and tribal lines as per the toxic exchanges between the two leaders.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.