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.
Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.
These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.
The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”
The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.
“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”
Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.
The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.
Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.
One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.
But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.
One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.
Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.
In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.
Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.
Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.
United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.
According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.
“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.
A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.
Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.
In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”
While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.
Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility. Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.
For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies. European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.
It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.
According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.
The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.
“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”
“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.” The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”