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Unions drags Gov’t 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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Motamma Horatius on politics and motherhood

13th January 2021
motamma

While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.

Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.

Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.

After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.

“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.

“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”

The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.

While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age.  By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.

“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.

She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.

“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.

“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”

“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”

At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.

“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.

“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’

Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.

Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.

According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).

The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.

Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.

Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.

According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.

According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.

These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.

Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.

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Gov’t imposes austerity as financial year closes

11th January 2021
President Masisi

Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.

In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.

“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.

The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021.
It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.

“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.

The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.

With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.

When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).

However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).

Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”

Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.

The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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BDP readies for Congress

11th January 2021
BDP congress

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely.
However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.

Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.

Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.

President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.

According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.

The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.

With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made.
The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.

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