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Botswana fails the labour test again in ILO – report

A report by International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee of Application of Standards from ILO office in Geneva, Switzerland has put Botswana on the spotlight with regard to labour relations.

The damning report seen by WeekendPost captures the latest violations of ILO conventions which include the deregistration of the Bargaining Council, and continued clamp on workers and Trade Union rights. According to the report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations released in January 2018 – in essence the government of Botswana failed to act on ILO findings.

The findings included that government should allow Prisons Service employees to unionise in compliance with Convention 87; and amend the Trade Unions and Employers Organisations Act to align it to ILO Standards and other national laws. It also advised government to liaise with the ILO Technical Committee for holistic review of Labour Laws in Botswana for alignment to international standards; work in consultation with tripartite partners to develop a time-bound action plan of implementation by ILO and report progress made to the committee on or before November 2017.

However the recommendations have not been executed to date as promised by the government, a development which worries ILO. The Committee in the latest report paints the country with a dark brush in labour relations as it points out at the 2011 Botswana Industrial strike which was dubbed the ‘mother of all strikes’ that led to the dismissal of some health workers because of the strike action; followed by the brutal repression by police of a peaceful picket organized in August 2016 dented Botswana’s image.

The report also captures the refusal to allow the labour centre, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to raise its concerns before Parliament as regards the proposed amendments affecting the public sector. The committee said in the report that it is also concerned about the classification at national level of the prison service as “disciplined force”, and requests the government once again to take, within the framework of the ongoing labour law review, the necessary legislative measures to ensure that prison officers enjoy the right to establish and join trade unions.

The Committee also notes with concern that section 46 of the new Trade Disputes Bill No. 21 of 2015 enumerated a broad list of essential services, and that in line with section 46(2), the Minister may declare any other service as essential if its interruption for at least seven days endangers the life, safety or health of the whole or part of the population or harms the economy.

“Recalling that essential services, in which the right to strike may be restricted or even prohibited, as is the case in Botswana, should be limited to those the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population,” the Committee highlighted. It also pointed out that, while the economic impact of industrial action and its effect on trade and commerce may be regrettable, such consequences in and of themselves do not render a service “essential”.

The Committee therefore considers that “certain services enumerated in section 46, including diamond sorting, cutting and selling services; teaching services; government broadcasting services; the Bank of Botswana; railways operation and maintenance services; public veterinary services; and services necessary to the operation of any of these services, do not constitute essential services in the strict sense of the term.”

Referring to the Conference Committee’s request to ensure that the TDA is in full conformity with the Convention, the Committee therefore requests the Government to take the necessary legislative measures to ensure that the list in section 46(1) of the TDA is limited to essential services in the strict sense of the term, and invites the Government, with regard to the services mentioned above, to give consideration to the negotiation or determination of a minimum service rather than imposing an outright ban on industrial action.

Representation and composition of the Bargaining Council

The committee also states in the report that it had also requested the Government to ensure that where no union represented one third of the employees in a bargaining unit, collective bargaining rights would be granted to all unions in the unit, at least on behalf of their own members. Additionally, the Committee notes that section 37(5) of the draft TDA Bill also provides a one third minimum threshold requirement for union recognition at the industry level.

The Committee recalls that the determination of the threshold of representativity to designate an exclusive agent for the purpose of negotiating collective agreements which are destined to be applied to all workers in a sector or establishment is compatible with the Convention in so far as the required conditions do not constitute an obstacle to the promotion of free and voluntary collective bargaining in practice.

In this regard, the Committee considers that if no union in a specific negotiating unit meets the required threshold of representativity to be able to negotiate on behalf of all workers, minority trade unions should be able to negotiate, jointly or separately, at least on behalf of their own members.

Regretting that no information has been provided in this respect, the Committee requests the Government to take the necessary measures to ensure that if no union reaches the required threshold to be recognized as a bargaining agent, unions should be given the possibility to negotiate, jointly or separately, at least on behalf of their own members.

BOFEPUSU to mobilize international organisations against Botswana

Meanwhile the Federation has stated that they are mobilising international organisation as the June 2018 International Labour Conference approaches. The national labour centre states that the continued government‘s contempt for ILO and its international standards continue to dent Botswana’s international image and integrity.

“This is clear testimony that the government does not respect international labour and international institutions. We have witnessed drastic amendments and enactment of labour laws with sole objective of curtailment of workers and trade Union rights something which is against principles of human rights, democracy and violate international labour law,” BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General told this publication this week.

Unions want new government official leaders under Masisi presidency

According to the BOFEPUSUS DSG, when there was unionisation and ushering in Collective Bargaining following domestication of ILO Conventions in 2007, it is clear that Government did not prepare for this paradigm shift, as top bureaucracy (Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Councillors, District Commissioners) are clueless about contemporary labour relations that involve social dialogue, collective bargaining.

“These are very weak, uninspiring and hopeless people occupying higher offices which seriously affect productivity and prosperity of this Country. This situation was largely bred by President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama ‘s style of leadership that bordered on dictatorship, coercion, top down approach at the expense of social dialogue and enhancement of rights. This then entrenched a system of nepotism, corruption, bootlicking, sycophancy and incompetence.”

The unionist added that what is even scary is that the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi ‘s Presidency is poised to retain majority of these people. “There is need for a positive and progressive overhaul and revamping at Government enclave to bring in a new culture of competence, creative thinking, and this requires independent and professional minds,” he stated.

In order to achieve this, he said the incoming President would have to go on a shopping spree for a new Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration to replace Molale, new Permanent Secretary to the President to replace Carter Morupisi, rearrange Directorate of Public Service Management with people who objectively understand industrial relations.

“It is critical to have strong and effective Ministers of Public Service and that of Employment, Productivity and Skills Development.” Motshegwa therefore stressed that Masisi needs to shed off Khama’s people in the civil service in order to allow for a new thinking in the public service, otherwise he will be seen as a disciple President of Khama, and will correlatively retain Khama’s enemies and failings.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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