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Masisis admin under scrutiny as it purges unions

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s move to make a u-turn on the resuscitation of Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) and instead de-recognise trade unions last week has put his administration under heavy scrutiny in relation to trade unionism in Botswana.

The move effectively means that over 65 000 public officers in the public service are no longer effectively represented in the public service. The unions’ loss of recognition status also means that they cannot validly participate in negotiations for the revival of the PSBC.    Public Sector trade unions Botswana Land boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers’ Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Sectors of Educators’ Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated Local Central Government & Parastatal Workers’ Union then this week dragged government to the Industrial Court to fight de-recognition.

In the affidavit before court passed to Weekend Post this week the unions are worried that their members will not only lose confidence and faith in the unions, they are likely to terminate their membership of the Applicant as a result of the loss of recognition. The unions through Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) said in the papers that as a result of the loss of recognition they may no longer be able to collect subscriptions from their members. 

“This is because they will lose the contractual and statutory rights to have check-off facilities administered on their behalf.  Funeral schemes and other group schemes that the unions operate using the check-off facilities may collapse if premiums and subscriptions are not being collected using the check-off facilities that the Applicants currently enjoy by virtue of their recognition,” BOFEPUSU National Organising Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole stated in the court affidavits.

Government derecognized the trade unions in a letter dated 16 October 2008, stressing that they were not entitled to continued recognition in terms of the Public Service Act. “The contentious letter raises serious doubt as to the validity of the continued recognition of the unions.  It effectively suggests that the unions have no entitlement whatsoever to continue to be recognised. 

The reason that is given for the submission that unions are no longer entitled to recognition is that the government has no record of their compliance with Section 46 of the Public Service Act.  The letter concludes by giving the unions until 31st July 2019 to comply with the provisions of section 46,” Motshwarakgole stated in the court affidavits. BOFEPUSU further states that the date of 31 July 2019 is meaningless to them because they have no intention whatsoever to seek recognition afresh in terms of section 46 of the Public Service Act. 

“As far as they are concerned their recognition which predates the promulgation of section 46 of the Public Service Act continues to be valid and has up until recently been regarded as if it were as valid as recognition that has been granted under section 46 of the Public Service Act.  It is the Applicants’ respectful position that they are entitled to all the rights and privileges that a trade union is entitled to under section 46 of the Public Service Act,” Motshwarakgole asserted in the papers.

He said in the affidavit that government will not be prejudiced in anyway, and that for at least the last eight years the government has conducted itself as if the unions were for all intents and purposes validly recognised; with all the rights and privileges that flow from recognition, including the right to participate at the PSBC.  He added that there therefore cannot be any harm if what has prevailed for the last eight years can be extended for a few more months pending the outcome of an application for final relief.

In 2017 the PSBC became defunct after Manual Workers Union resolved to pull out of the PSBC.  The union’ decision to pull out of the PSBC was the result of being frustrated about the Khama government being continuously found, in dispute after dispute that came before the courts, to have bargained in bad faith. The other unions could not get admission to the PSBC on their own.  This is because on a proper interpretation of the constitution of the PSBC they must be at least one union that on its own meets the one third threshold for admission into the PSBC.

In any event it is understood that the unions have attempted to have the Minister of Presidential affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi mediate a settlement of the dispute between the parties. Motshwarakgole continued: “the settlement discussions did not bear any fruit.  The Attorney General seems to have taken the position that the Director of Public Service Management is correct in contending that the unions need to be recognised in terms of section 46 of the PSA in order to continue enjoying some of the rights and privileges that they have in the past enjoyed.”

Furthermore, it is understood that the parties’ desire to re-establish the PSBC may be frustrated. This, notwithstanding that, President Masisi made the revival of the PSBC one of his government’s priorities.  In fact under his leadership, the government undertook to have the PSBC up and running by the end of September 2018. Masisi who took over from former President Ian Khama who also gave trade unions a torrid time ending up rendering the PSBC dysfunctional, also failed to reach his deadline and eventually de-recognising the unions.

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DPP drops Kably threat to kill case

22nd March 2023

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe Liakat Kably has welcomed the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s decision not to prosecute BDP councillor, Meshack Tshenyego who allegedly threatened to kill him. However, the legislator has warned that should anything happen to his life, the state and the courts will have to account.

In an interview with this publication, Kablay said he has heard that the DPP has declined to prosecute Tshenyego in a case in which he threatened to kill him adding that the reasons he received are that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. “I am fine and at peace with the decision not to prosecute over evidential deficits but I must warn that should anything happen to my life both the DPP and the Magistrate will have to account,” Kablay said.

Connectedly, Kably said he has made peace with Tshenyego, “we have made peace and he even called me where upon we agreed to work for the party and bury the hatchet”.

The DPP reportedly entered into a Nolle Prosequi in the matter, meaning that no action would be taken against the former Letlhakeng Sub-district council chairperson and currently councillor for Matshwabisi.

According to the charge sheet before the Court, councilor Tshenyego on July 8th, 2022 allegedly threatened MP Kably by indirectly uttering the following words to nominatedcouncilor Anderson Molebogi Mathibe, “Mosadi wa ga Liakat le ban aba gagwe ba tsile go lela, Mosadi wame le banake le bone ba tsile go lela. E tla re re mo meeting, ka re tsena meeting mmogo, ke tla mo tlolela a bo ke mmolaya.”

Loosely translated this means, Liakat’s wife and children are going to shed tears and my wife and kids will shed tears too. I will jump on him and kill him during a meeting.

Mathibe is said to have recorded the meeting and forwarded it to Kably who reported the matter to the police.

In a notice to the Magistrate Court to have the case against Tshenyego, acting director of Public Prosecutions, Wesson Manchwe  cited the nolle prosequi by the director of public prosecution in terms of section 51 A (30) of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana as reasons for dropping the charges.

A nolle prosequi is a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action.

“In pursuance of my powers under section 51 A (300 of the Constitution and section 10 of the criminal procedure and evidence act (CAP 08:02) laws of Botswana, I do hereby stop and discontinue criminal proceedings against the accused Meshack Tshenyego in the Kweneng Administrative District, CR.No.1077/07/2022 being the case of the State vs Tshenyego,” said Manchwe. The acting director had drafted the notice dropping the charges on 13th day of March 2023.

The case then resumed before the Molepolole Magistrate Solomon Setshedi on the 14th of March 2023. The Magistrate issued an order directing “that matters be withdrawn with prejudice to the State, accused is acquitted and discharged.”

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DPP seizes prosecution duties from Police

22nd March 2023

Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has finally taken over prosecution from the Botswana Police Service (BPS). The police have been prosecuting for years, but the takeover means that they will now only focus on investigations and then hand over to the DPP for prosecution.

Talks of complete takeover began as far back as 2008, but for years it seemed implementation was sluggish. However, the Minister of Justice, Machana Shamukuni, revealed that the complete takeover is expected to be completed soon.

During a presentation to the Committee of Supply by Shamukuni this week, it was revealed that the project has been implemented in 22 police stations nationwide, including Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, and Kasane. He further stated that the project has been allocated P3,000,000 for the 2023/2024 financial year to facilitate the opening of more satellite offices for the DPP.

Shamukuni said the Lobatse station is scheduled for a complete takeover by the end of May 2023, while the Kasane DPP satellite office has been established and became operational as of February 1, 2023.

“As reported previously, preparations are at an advanced stage to open a satellite office in Tsabong to curtail expenses, as well as frequent long-distance trips to these areas, as it is currently serviced by the Lobatse DPP office,” Shamukuni said.

Shamukuni said that the takeover strategy is to enable a seamless and gradual takeover of prosecution from the BPS without overwhelming and overstretching the thin resources at its disposal.

According to Shamukuni, the implementation of the prosecution takeover project has increased the workload of the 211 prosecutors in the DPP establishment.

Furthermore, the Justice Minister said DPP statistics show that the DPP has a total of 11,903 cases and dockets as of January 2023. He indicated that this is a significant increase in the number of cases being handled by the DPP, considering that in November 2021, the DPP had just over 8,471 files.

“Out of the total case load, 8 382 are cases pending before various courts while 3521 are dockets received from law enforcement agencies of which 1 325 are awaiting service of summons while the rest are being assessed for suitability of prosecution or otherwise” said Shamukuni.

He further stated that The DPP has consistently maintained an 80% success rate in matters completed at court.

“As at the end of January 2023, the success rate stood at 82.3% against a target of 90% whilst the average performance in respect of turnaround time for conclusion of cases at court stood at 17.5 months against a target of 18 months,” he said.

BACKLOG OF CASES – LAND TRIBUNAL

Meanwhile, Minister Shamukuni has revealed that Gaborone land Tribunal is experiencing a backlog of cases. Before parliament this week, Shamukuni revealed that a total 230 appeals were completed for the period of April 2022- December 2022 and only 76.5% of them were completed within set time frame.

The minister said that the Gaborone division has experiencing a backlog of cases due to manpower constraints and he further indicated that presiding officers from other divisions have been brought in to expedite case disposal.

He further indicated that the land tribunal is a specialized court that has been empowered to resolve appeals arising from land boards. “It has been mandated to determine appeals from the decisions of Physical planning committees of Districts Councils” said Shamukuni.

Land Tribunal relocated to the Ministry of Justice from Ministry of Land and Water Affairs in November 2022.

“An amount of P37, 842,670 is requested to cover salaries, allowance and other operational expenses for the Department of the land Tribunal,” alluded Shamukuni

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BCP, AP stalemate in 7 constituencies

21st March 2023

When the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Alliance for Progressives, Botswana Labour Party (BLP), and conveners reconvene next week, the controversial issue of allocation of the seven constituencies will be the main topic of discussion, WeekendPost can reveal.

Not only that, but the additional four constituencies will also dominate the talks. The idea is to finally close the “constituency allocation phase,” which has proven to be the most difficult part of the ongoing negotiations.

Earlier this year, the two parties announced that the marathon talks would be concluded by February. Even at a media briefing last month, BCP Secretary General Goretetse Kekgonegile and Publicity Secretary Dr. Mpho Pheko were optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded before the end of February.

However, it is now mid-March and the talks have yet to be concluded. What could be the reasons for the delay? This is a question that both Kekgonegile and Pheko have not responded to, as they have ignored the reporters’ inquiries. However, a senior figure within the party has confided to this publication as to what is delaying the highly anticipated negotiations.

“We are reconvening next week to finalize constituency allocations, taking into account the additional four new ones plus the outstanding seven,” he explained. It later surfaced that Gaborone Central, Gaborone North, Mogoditshane, Tswapong North, Francistown West, Tati West, and Nata Gweta are all contested by both BCP and AP. This is because the other 50 constituencies were allocated by December of last year.

The three parties have failed to find common ground for the Bosele Ward by-elections. Are these constituencies not a deal breaker for the talks? “None of the constituencies is a deal breaker,” responded a very calm BCP official.

In Bosele Ward, AP has yielded to BCP, despite most of its members disapproving the decision. On the other hand, BLP has refused, and it will face off with BCP together with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The decision by BLP to face off with BCP has been labelled as a false start for the talks by political observers.

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