Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Unions (BOFEPUSU) has said it is banking on Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi normalize relations with labour when he assumes the office of the President in April next year.
The union federation said this at a press conference on Thursday whose purpose was to summarise the year 2017 as they saw it and position them-selves for the next one which will see VP Masisi installed president in April. The Federation says it is prepared to give Masisi the benefit of the doubt. Speaking at the press conference, BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari said as an observation that Botswana is sliding way back on the issues of democracy and that’s the trade union’s conclusion this year as they await Masisi.
“We are looking forward for the incoming President Mokgweetsi Masisi on the 1st of April 2018 in terms of what his administration will do to reverse all those that the current president Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama did,” Rari pointed out. He waxed lyrical that Khama was a president who did not want to sit with the unions and it appears is also leaving office when he never met the trade unions despite writing to him several times asking for a meet up.
Rari continued: “so we are now looking upon the incoming president to see whether he will perpetuate what his predecessor has done that is shunning trade unions and not wanting to meet them.” On his part, BEFEPUSU deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa cautions Masisi that he will inherit a rotten and arrogant civil service and therefore when he lands the highest office should start with firing Minister in the Office of the President Eric Molale, Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi and top Permanent Secretaries and Directors if he wants to improve the performance and policies in the public service.
On opposition cooperation
Rari said they have witnessed amazing developments in the opposition side in particular the birth of a new party Alliance for Progressives (AP) which is a splinter of the BMD following protracted disagreements. According to Rari, opposition political parties need to really have a strong mechanism of dispute resolution to avoid what led to the split of BMD.
“The issues in the BMD were left out until it was too late to an extent that at the end it was not able to be resolved. That pointed to a weakness in our opposition that while they are waiting to take over as government probably in 2019 they should also know that there are ways in which to deal with dispute resolution.”
He said the development is a set-back in the opposition political parties agenda of trying to unseat the ruling BDP. As BOFEPUSU he said they are waiting for their conference/congress which will make a pronouncement and give a way forward on opposition support since there is a split in the parties. “They will give us a word go on it and after that will make a pronouncement on it,” he emphasised. On a different note, Rari however said UDC, which they have been supporting all along, has lost track and even became distant from BOFEPUSU. On AP he said they just started and do not know yet and how it will turn out so can’t say whether they will support them or not.
The BOFEPUSU Secretary General said the other issue which was of highlight this year was the crisis in the judiciary. He pointed out that the judiciary was under attack this year courtesy of the current regime of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which did a lot of damage to the judiciary.
“It became even more glaring that the executive arm of government was encroaching into the jurisdiction of the judiciary and blaring the separation of powers when judges were suspended for flimsy reasons like on account that they failed to pay back the money (housing allowance) which they were supposed to pay back. We feel that it was deliberate as certain Judges were targeted and the excuse was used. We believe most importantly believe it doesn’t feature well in the democratic credentials of Botswana as they are slowly but surely getting eroded,” Rari insisted to the journalists.
Not only that in the judiciary but Rari also highlighted that some Judges are also facing possibility of been taken to court on the basis that they wrote and said their views about the Chief Justice and that in the event even refused to apologise, and the issue is still ongoing. “We are hearing that the Judges are under surveillance by the security apparatus of this country. This is a clear sign of interference by the executive on the operations of the judiciary,” he said.
The unionist also went on further to state that the Court of Appeal has also of recent been used as a gate keeper where cases that go against the executive are reversed or overturned at the highest court. “As if that is not enough, Khama also violated the law by refusing to appoint a certain individual in the form of Omphemetse Motumise despite the right procedures having been followed in his recruitment. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended Motumise to Khama. But Khama turned him down on the basis of reasons he could not disclose although we hear he said it’s for security reasons. The matter was before the courts and they ruled in favour of Motumise but still he has not been appointed.”
In addition to judiciary concerns for the year Rari said they also took to court a matter to say they cannot deal with Judges of the Court of Appeal that have not been appointed legally or not legally constituted through legal process. He continued: “we took it upon ourselves as role players in the democratic space of this country that we need to protect the judiciary and the case came in our favour and later on a bill was taken to parliament to legitimize what has always been the case.”
More Labour laws amendments concern
The BOFEPUSU leader asserted that they are also worried by manner in which government hurried the amendments of the labour statutes as almost all are under review and in some cases these are done at a supersonic speed that make them wonder whether they are really in good faith.
For example he explained that the statutes which regulate the labour are all under review or have already being reviewed like the Trade Dispute Act (TDA), Employment Act, Public Service Act, Trade Unions and Employers Organisations. TDA, he said they amended it not to allow certain cadres to undertake industrial action in the country. That’s why we saw Botswana making it to the top 40 countries at the International Labour Conference that are regarded as violators of the core conventions of the ILO, he pointed out.
He emphasised that ILO has got a list of conventions and there are those that are regarded as core and fundamental and one of them is convention 87 and the ILO does not take lightly if it’s violated. Botswana, he added that was charged in that they violated it because they have amended the TDA and in amending it they made employees who are not within the framework definition of ILO regarded as essential services but were made essential services.
“Botswana for the first time appeared before ILO disciplinary conference to answer to the charges before the committee of applications of standards before the ILO and they were grilled, they answered by their answered proved to be unsatisfactory and conclusions were made. Their conclusion was that Botswana should go and assemble a team of tripartite and with the expert from ILO, should then start to do amendments to reverse the amendments that they have done to the TDA to comply with convention 87.”
According to Rari, this is a dent on the democratic credentials of a country and a major highlight for this year. He stressed that it happened under the watch of the BDP government and the outgoing President Khama and therefore if there is anything that he will get out of office feeling guilty of it is one of them because he allowed it to happen under his nose.
Collapse of the Bargaining Council
The BOFEPUSU Secretary General insisted that under President Festus Mogae, President Sir Ketumile Masire, Botswana did quite ok in terms of ratification of conventions and then moving towards implementing the ratified conventions because they went further in allowing legislation being amended to go hand in hand with the ratified conventions.
He continued: “but then came in Khama, we moved about 10 steps back because he made sure that conditions for trade unions became very difficult and it even became evident this year when he bypassed the PSBC and did all they could to take the trade union to court so that the PSBC does not operate to an extent that at the end the unions become frustrated and could not operate until BOFEPUSU pulled out of the PSBC.”
He also this also applied to Commissioner of Labour who following dis-affiliation of BOFEPUSU in the PSBC, last week said now that since there are no trade union parties at the PSBC, it cannot sit and therefore said to the effect that the entity should be de-registered. “So we smell ulterior motives in the conduct of government and the Commissioner of Labour in that regard,” Rari said.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.