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.
New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.
The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.
It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong. According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.
Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.
“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.
According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”
He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.
Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.
“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.
Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.
“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.
Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”
He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.
He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”
The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.
This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.
A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”
“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.
“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.
According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.
The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.
The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation. The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).
Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.
The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.
“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”
The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”
“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.
Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.
In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.
Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.
BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.
As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.
“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.
Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.
“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.
This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.
“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.