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Unions drags Govt to court over de-recognition

In an unprecedented turn of events, government has this week took a decision to de-recognise all the public service trade unions in Botswana. However trade unions have confirmed that they are currently drafting court papers in pursuance to fight the de-recognition at court.

The decision comes following President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s initial plan to resuscitate the Public Service Trade Unions but was short lived as his government stated that they do no longer recognise such as trade unions. It is the first time government make such a pronouncement although they have been working with such unions together under the ambit of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) which later became dysfunctional due to internal bickering of government and union parties under the Lt Gen Ian Khama administration.

The de-recognition affected all public service trade unions including Manual Workers Union, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), Botswana teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), Botswana Land Board and Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAWHU), Trainers and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and Botswana Government Workers Union (BOGOWU).

In a confidential letter passed to Weekend Post this week marking de-recognition; government through Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) Director Goitseone Naledi Mosalakatane informed unions of their non-compliance of recognition. “In response to the sound and wise advise proffered, the Directorate has been conducting a due diligence exercise to ensure that there is full compliance of the law. Our records thus far do not seem to indicate that your union has complied with the requirements of section 46 of the PSA,” Mosalakatane stated.

Section 46 of PSA states that “a trade union which is representative of one third of the employees of the employer engaged in the same trade as members of the same union, may apply to the Director for recognition for purposes of collective bargaining.” She further observed that if the unions have complied with the requirements of section 46 of the PSA, then they should furnish her with a copy of the letter of recognition emanating from the Director in terms of section 46 so that they may update their records.

The public service unions have been engaged in the process of resuscitating the PSBC in terms of part XIII (collective bargaining) of the Public Service Act (PSA). The employer (government) and all public service unions that are involved in the process are currently trying to craft a constitution for the PSBC as contemplated by section 51 of the PSA.


The said section (51) states that “as soon as practicable after the commencement of this Act, the representatives of the Government in its capacity as an employer and all recognised trade unions whose members are public officers to whom this Act applies, shall conclude an agreement on a Constitution for the Council.”

WHAT IS THE IMPLICATION OF DE-RECOGNITION

The implications of the de-recognition is that there will never be any Bargaining Council because the Public Service Act indicate that the Council can only be established by the Employer and all recognized Trade Unions. BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa has wondered that “how do you attempt to resuscitate Bargaining Council with Unions that you say are not recognised? Surely we are headed for an ugly showdown.”

He further said President Masisi must be careful of his advisors on Labour Relations, because they are the same people who misled Khama into confrontation with Trade Unions and that it is clear that beyond his promises and rhetoric, Masisi‘s administration is the same as Khama’s and might even be worse. The unionist said Masisi who pride himself as a man of rule of law, has an obligation to see to it that his Government respect prevalence of Collective Bargaining as provided for by the law and ratified Conventions.

 Failure to do so, he said they will report Botswana again to International Labour Organisation (ILO) for failing to respect the workers right to collective bargaining. Recently Weekend Post reported that government through the DPSM raised the issue of recognition of trade unions and that has stalled the progress of resuscitating the PSBC.

BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari stated then that: “we are really disappointed by the conduct of DPSM, how DPSM after almost 8 years could raise the issue of whether the trade unions are recognized or not? Our strong view is that they are some few individuals within the DPSM who are remnants of the repressive past immediate Ian Khama administration who are deliberately misleading government.”

The unionist observed that it is well known and documented that the recognitions that were acquired by trade unions in accordance with Section 48 of the Trade Unions and Employers Organisation Act prior to the coming into effect of the Public Service Act (PSA) in 2010 (in particular section 46) were carried over to the new dispensation. Section 48(1) of the Act provides that “if a trade union represents at least one third of the employees of an employer, that trade union may apply for recognition under section 32 of the Trade Disputes Act.”

WHAT ENSUED FOLLOWING MASISI PRONOUNCEMENT FOR PSBC TO FUNCTION?

Government had invited the unions for a meeting on 17th August 2018 to come and discuss the resuscitation of the PSBC. On 17th August, it is understood that parties to the resuscitation of the PSBC agreed that a task team be instituted to deal with the resuscitation process and report to the reference team.It is said that on the 28th of August the first meeting of the task team was convened, at this meeting the issue of compliance to Section 52 of the PSA was raised in particular in relation to the invitation of BOGOWU.

 Section 52 requires that for the purposes of coming up with the constitution of the PSBC recognised trade unions and the employer DPSM shall convene to discuss and agree on the constitution. Indications suggest that the 6 trade unions, Manual Workers union, BOPEU, BTU, BOSETU, BONU and BLAWHU raised the issue, requiring that DPSM should confirm whether BOGOWU is recognised and there comply with PSA, Section 5.  

This was justified to be that in 2013, the Court of Appeal held that BOGOWU has not been properly recognized and declared its recognition illegal. Following the decision of the court, DPSM wrote to all stakeholders declaring that they have de-recognised the BOGOWU. In 2016, DPSM also wrote again to BOPEU warning BOPEU that they cannot act jointly with BOGOWU because they are not a recognized union. “So the 6 unions wanted prove as to whether the status core has changed.”

Instead of DPSM providing the evidence of recognition of BOGOWU, it is further understood that they raised an issue that all unions are not recognized according to section 46 of the PSBC, and this is in spite of the fact that the recognition of the unions that were recognized prior to the coming into effect of the PSA were carried over to the new order as a matter of right. It then came to a standstill when government indicated that all unions were not recognized then the reference group agreed that the process should be halted pending the resolution of this issue of recognitions.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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