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Ministry of Finance backs Pemandu salary proposals

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has, from an economy informed perspective, given the salary increment as is proposed by Pemandu report consultants the nod, fresh confidential report leaked to Weekend Post has revealed.  

The top secret report by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, titled “economic background paper to inform government’s position on the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers” indicates that the Pemandu recommendations to the government of Botswana are reasonable. Pemandu has recommended 20% increment for public servants on grades A and B; 10% for grades C and D; and 15% for grade E and F. It further states that in the absence of increments to civil servants on higher notches, of grades E and F, “we recommend the following; 15% for grades A and B; and 10% for grades C and D.”

The additional costs to the government however will be P1.23 billion, the Pemandu report stated, adding that the report is based on among others the affordability to the government; that it is fair to all; and sustainable to the government; and will act as a motivation to government employees. 
The Ministry of Finance states in their classified report dated 27th November 2018, that: “It is therefore important that the recommendations from the Pemandu study on the public service remunerations should be considered against all these other competing needs on the government budget, as well as the limited fiscal space available in the medium term.”

According to the Ministry report, which is based on the baseline budget for 2019/2020, and to be submitted to cabinet, one can consider two scenarios for the implementation of the recent Pemandu recommendations; “scenario 1 it’s either government adopts full implementation of the recommendations; or scenario 2 government adopts and implement at least 50% of the Pemandu recommendations.”

The Ministry explains that with the adoption of these scenarios, especially scenario 1 (full implementation of the recommendations), it would however entail serious trade-offs to be made on whether to cut some of the activities and projects included in the preliminary budget figures for 2019/2020; and/or make no provision for the just submitted report of the Presidential Commission on the review of salaries and conditions of service for the political and traditional leadership and some specific officers.

The report conversely emphasises that the government should take cognizant of any provisions for the normal adjustments of salaries of public servants salaries to compensate for annual inflation; and make any provisions for emergencies such as droughts and possible outbreak of animal diseases. They were also advised to take note of any provisions for adjustments of salaries of the political and traditional leadership that may arise from the recommendations of the presidential commission on the review of salaries and conditions of service for the political and traditional leadership and some specific officers.

In the case of Botswana, the report cautions that the adoption of any of the scenarios will require government to finance the budget deficit through borrowing, both domestically and externally, and/or drawing down on its cash balances held at the Bank of Botswana. It is understood that this nonetheless can also adversely affect the country’s ability to attract foreign direct investment required for economic growth and creation of jobs.

While the Ministry states in the report categorically that it has “no objection to the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers,” it says though that it is important that the government’s offer in the negotiation for salaries and conditions of public service should take into consideration the unfavourable fiscal outlook.

The Finance Ministry also advises that the financial requirements for implementing any recommendations arising from the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers will have to be considered against this backdrop of the tight fiscal situation. More importantly, report points out that the government will have to make more hard choices at the appropriate time, given the competing demands on the budget.

In the end, as a country, it says government cannot afford to deviate from the path of fiscal sustainability by going beyond the threshold of a budget deficit of 4.0 % of GDP, as this could result in serious consequences for the economy. In view of the limited fiscal space in the medium term, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development therefore recommends that government’s offer “should not exceed scenario 2, which translates to 50% of the total remunerations (to public servants)” recommended in the Pemandu study.

While the adoption of this scenario, the Ministry acknowledges that it would result in the worsening of the deficit for 2019/2020 to P7.9 billion, or -3.7 % of GDP, against the country’s threshold of 4.0 %, but it would nonetheless leave some room for expenditures that may arise from the recommendations of the presidential commission on the review of salaries and conditions of service for the political and traditional leadership and specified officers.

Meanwhile, when delivering his inaugural 2018 State of the Nation Address on November 5, 2018, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi had previously said once the Pemandu Associates report had been finalised, government would engage public sector unions on the recommendations thereto. In addition, President Masisi in the SONA also informed the nation of his appointment of a commission, headed by Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe, to review the conditions of service for the MPs, councillors, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the judiciary which has since submitted its recommendations in December.

Masisi had said that it was government’s wish of for any recommendations agreed upon – to be budgeted for and effected on April 1 2019, which is the government financial cycle. Sources at the government enclave told this publication however that the controversial Pemandu report has long been completed but “shelved” for reasons best known to government particularly Office of the President and Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM). The report was compiled by the Malaysian consultancy private firm which was contracted by the Botswana government at the cost of USD 1,677,390 (BWP 17,666,271.4800), inclusive withholding tax of USD 218, 790.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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