A University of Botswana renowned scholar in the Department of Management, Professor Motsomi Ndala Marobela has cautioned that President Mokgweetsi Masisi is likely to be a carbon copy of ex-president Lt Gen Ian Khama with regard to his relations with trade unions in Botswana.
Masisi served under Khama in various portfolios prior to his Vice President post. Maisisi had stint as Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration and in 2011 he was appointed a full Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. He also served as a Minister of Education and Skills Development ahead of his appoint as Khama’s deputy.
In the academic study paper released this week titled “The State of Industrial Relations in Botswana: collective bargaining in turmoil and trade Union resistance,” Professor Maroba stated that Masisi will be a direct duplicate of Khama in as far as purging trade unions is concerned particularly because Khama has all over the years been Masisi’s mentor, and therefore has essentially made Masisi. The paper explores the state of industrial relations in Botswana and specifically, it investigates collective bargaining as a structure of mediation.
According to the academic in the paper, which he co-authored with Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, Deputy General Secretary of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Unions (BOFEPUSU), both Khama and Masisi’s governments’ hostile political attacks on the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), which led to its dysfunctionality and ultimate collapse, resembles an ongoing behavioural pattern of government agenda of attempts to silence the labour movement.
To buttress his point, the distinguished academic said while Masisi has promised to resuscitate the Bargaining Council, curiously his government backtracked on his initial promise and recently went on to deregister six main trade unions in the labour movement, though the court temporarily lifted deregistration, after the Unions made an urgent application and sought relief. From the case, which is still ongoing before the courts, the researchers state that “it (therefore) becomes clear that Masisi and Khama are the two sides of a coin,” and that their main goal is to secure the interest of the ruling party.
According to Professor Marobela, Masisi is another Khama in dealing with trade unions because he was a key player under Khama administration when he was minister responsible for the presidency and the public service, and he led a blistering onslaught on a biting public sector strike which occurred in 2011, flatly refusing to offer a reasonable salary increase and eventually dismissed striking workers. It is understood that the behaviour has earned him Khama’s blue eyed boy back then as “recently, Khama revealed that he nominated (him) the current president to succeed him because he was firm in dealing with the striking workers.”
The UB professor also observed that as vice president of Botswana Masisi knew about workers poor conditions of service; that he was there when government disregarded the Bargaining Council; and that he was still there when government subsequently deregistered the bargaining council. â€¨
However, Marobela further highlighted that it is Masisi’s recent outbursts and anger at a public forum (Kgotla meeting in Serowe) recently when simply asked about his frosty relationship with his predecessor (Khama) and his thoughts about poor pay and motivation of government workers. His seemingly angry attitude to questioning, Professor stated, earned the new President an unkindly editorial from a local newspaper.
Unions already losing hope on new Masisi administration
Meanwhile trade unions have started to doubt the Masisi government implying that his charm is misleading as there is no action to what he says on the ground. The BOFEPUSU DSG fumed in a press statement dated 15th January 2019 that, President Masisi continue to utter statements to the effect that government is willing to start negotiations and work well with trade unions, while it is clear that his administration is not committed to improving the welfare of workers, and not prepared to establish the Bargaining Council.
He further on stated that it is distressing that the new Director of DPSM (Goitseone Mosalakatane) continues in her deceitful to mislead the President who in turn misleads the nation in State of the Nation Address (SONA). In another incident, a Coordinator for six cooperating unions being Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Land Board & Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Nurses Unions (BONU), Manual Workers; Tobokani Rari said in a separate statement that Masisi administration is basically dishonest.
Rari stressed that: “trade unions were of the view that there is a mismatch between what Masisi pronounced to the public and what is actually happening on the ground, and as such, there is need to hear from the president himself.” “At the meeting, some of the issues were the inability of DPSM to avail the Pemandu report contrary to President Masisi’s pronouncement during the SONA that Pemandu will be availed in December,” he also emphasised.
He said Masisi further expressed his regret and disappointment that the trade unions have not received the Pemandu report in spite of his pronouncement in SONA that unions will get the report during the month of December 2018. He also said government was commitment to the resuscitation of the Public Service Bargaining Council to advance the interests of public sector employees in a fair and transparent manner. The unions maintain that all what the president promised; handing the Pemandu report and resuscitating Bargaining Council has not materialised, to date, and that they have lost hope on his government right from the beginning.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.