President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could have lost power under the president of Lt Gen Ian Khama in 2014, had it not been Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s decision not to contest under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.
Masisi, who succeeded Khama as the leader of the ruling party as well as president of Botswana in April 2018 said his predecessors’ poisonous relationship with public sector trade unions had severe impact that the ruling party lost significant support — leading to a 46 percent popular vote — the first time below 50 percent since independence.
“Just analyse a little bit what are the things which contributed to our decline in 2014 where we nearly lost the elections. Had it not been the miscalculations of the BCP as they always miscalculate, we would have lost. BDP would have been in the opposition,” Masisi contended. “So it is only natural that when you come on board following this analysis you target those points that made people to run away from us. Labour relations was a big thing, particularly the labour movement [BOFEPUSUS] which were in my view stronger than the effect of opposition parties. So I had to deal with it. You sit down and you have to talk to people. They are people, and they are citizens of this country. You accept that you made the mistake but then walk on with them.
“Another issues was that, public servants salaries were suppressed for too long. I had a team that I gave the mandate to engage with the unions and whenever there was a problem during the negotiations I will summon everybody and tell them what to do. We reached an agreement and it is them [public sector unions] who pronounced the agreement.”
As part of normalising relations with the unions, government recently reached an agreement with public sector union to increase public servants salaries by 10 percent and 6 percent for the scales A-B and C-D respectively for the next two financial years. This was the biggest increment for public servants in the last 10 years, and the first which was applied in pyramid format as the unions have consistently suggest over the past years.
Masisi also indicated that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) was another major factor that contributed to BDP’s dismal performance in 2014 general elections, because it created fear in the society, including among cabinet ministers. “There was a lot of fear and anxiety. People were afraid of using their phones and they suspected everybody to be spy. You were all scared. Even ministers were scared and they told me.so I dealt with it,” he said. Masisi said this is the basis for his campaign to continue leading the BDP and the country after 2019 October elections.
He said the opposition in its current form has nothing to offer and he is confident that BDP will emerge victorious after the elections. The BDP leader however said, his decision to reverse some of the things which were leading to the decline of the party has rubbed others the wrong way, and he believes it could be the reason why for the first time in the history of the party, a president is challenged for the party leadership. “I sense a little bit of nostalgia from some of my colleagues. Some want to go back to the old ways of doing things,” he said.
Still at the media engagement session, Masisi warned about the dangers of changing party leadership on the eve of general elections. Masisi warned party faithful that removing him from party leadership would result in creation of two centres of power and would have negative repercussions on the party. Incidentally, Masisi last week told democrats at South East regional congress the same reasons against displacing him from power.
"If by accident you decide not to elect me presidential candidate, I would still continue as party president and also president of the republic. I call central committee and I direct the party. This is what we call two centres of power,” he said. "In the time between, when you are out in the trenches trying to be understood on who you are, you will have little time to rebrand. Even the party t-shirts branded me will be put aside and you'll have to create new ones."
MASISI DENIES SETTLING POLITICAL SCORES USING STATE ORGANS
Masisi has affirmed that high ranking public figures who are subjected of investigations by various security and law enforcement organs will face the wrath of the law, and will have their day in court. Masisi said he would not protect anyone and neither has he influenced state law enforcement organs to settle political scores. In the wake political turmoil in the ruling party, several high ranking public figures, who served in Khama’s administration have been raided and arrested in connection with corruption activities during their tenure in power.
Masisi however believes those who being investigated should not use the ‘political score settling card’ which he said it is becoming fashionable with particular section of people, urging that they should rather defend themselves in court if they are indeed innocent. “When somebody steals wheelbarrows and cement belong to Ipelegeng and is charged, why would those stealing huge amount of money not face the wrath of the law? Everyone must face the wrath of the law,” he argued.
MASISI TELLS OFF THE WEST ON BOTSWANA TOURISM
The recent pronouncement on the possibility of lifting hunting ban, has attracted negative media reports in the western media. However, Masisi has not taken kindly to criticism of Botswana for supposed ‘failure” to protect animals. “People sit in the comfort of where they come and lecturer us about the management of species they do not have. They want to admirer from distance. In their admiration of species they forget that we too, the people of Botswana are species,” he said.
“They talk as if we are trees and grass that elephants eat. I can smell it. It’s a racist onslaught. “ Masisi said the elephant management survey of 2011 indicated that Botswana’s carrying capacity was about 54 000 but Botswana’s current elephant population is about 130 000 and 70 percent roam outside designated parks.
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.