Mabeo, Molefhi charm trade unions
The Minister responsible for Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabeo is efficiently doing President Mokweetsi Masisi’s bidding. This week he successfully charmed trade unions, a day before the Botswana contingent left for the 107th International Labour Conference (ILC).
Initially the furious unions were hell bent on Mabeo being hauled over hot coals for sitting on the recommendations suggested to the Botswana government by the International Labour Organization (ILO) based in Geneva, Switzerland last year. However after the Thursday evening meeting which went “very very well,” the unions are at peace with the minister.
BOFEPUSU had reported the government at the ILO for what they regard as “trampling and disregarding the lawfully instituted Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC)” and also query the controversial amendment of the Trade Dispute Act. ILO representative, under the Freedom of Association branch, Keren Curtis also visited Botswana to meet the tripartite structure to follow up on the BOFEPUSO letter reporting key violations of workers’ rights in the country.
The tripartite organizations included the government, trade unions and Business Botswana. The objective of the meeting was for the ILO representative to consult with local stakeholders on the matter. In a meeting held this week to prepare for the Geneva meeting, Mabeo took time to cool down the union leaders before the conference.
“I have told them (unions) that I’ am a new minister since April 1st and whatever which has been dragging should be dusted off and we should be able to open a new chapter. I ‘am now engaging and I will continue to. The minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi was also there assuring unions of his ministry’s support as you know the two ministries work hand in hand with the workers,” Mabeo said in an interview.
While unions’ representatives were still elated by the development, Mabeo informed them of another great development. “I have informed cabinet and already there is a circulating memo on various ministries regarding the amendment of the Trade Dispute Act bill as well as Public Service Act. They only learnt about it at the meeting and they were pleased,” Mabeo said.As part of the recommendation from last year’s meeting the government was told to revisit the two acts which were labelled draconian by the labour unions.
Among other issues unions were against making almost every cadre an essential service, a move which effectively curtailed workers’ rights. This according to the Minister should they be given a stage at the meeting they will inform ILC over the development which has been given thumbs up by the unions.
Mabeo, as one of the government representative was told by the Committee of Application of Standards (CAS) last year to form working committee made up of the tripartite representatives with experts from ILO to review the trade dispute act. “The committee was formed which is a good thing but the government was reluctant to review the act which to us was the most paramount thing,” BOFEPUSO Secretary General Tobokani Rari said.
For the very first time as Mabeo put it, the Botswana delegation has shared notes before the ILC kick starts. This is important as Botswana will appear as a united force at the meeting especially after embarrassing scenes of hostility by the unions last year. “We agreed to share the notes as Botswana, but we will do it while there before congress to avoid misunderstandings,” Rari confirmed.
After a deadlock ensued as to who will lead the workers delegation last week, Mabeo convened the two federations, BFTU and BOFEPUSU encouraging them to work for one common goal. At the end it was agreed that BOFEPUSU will lead the delegation. At the last year’s conference, BFTU led the delegation. The last batch of Botswana delegation which will be led by BOFEPUSU will leave today for the 107th International Labour Conference slated for the 28th to 8th of June at Geneva Switzerland.
Apart from failing to review the law, Rari said Botswana has failed to meet a number of deadlines set by the ILO while taking too long to respond to some of the demands by the international labour movement. With the Trade Disputes act unions are calling for the revision of Section 78 which puts a condition to unduly influence who should represent workers at the Bargaining Council.
Such conduct is contrary to the Article 3 of the Convention 87 of the ILO which restricts governments from enacting laws which prescribe who should be elected by employees to lead the unions. Trade unions should be free to conduct their affairs without governmental interference, unions posit.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
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.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
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.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
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.”