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Government considers scrapping off overtime

Government of Botswana is considering scrapping off the overtime allowance on all government employees. The move is aimed at saving money to create thousands of temporary jobs. But part of the union movement is not happy with the proposal.

Weekend Post has established that consultations on the matter are ongoing with the intention to call the allowance off to reduce the wage bill. Botswana Government wage bill is estimated at just under P18 billion annually. Minister of   Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale has been instructed to consult with the Attorney General on the matter.

President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has also announced recently on national broadcaster, Botswana television hinting that government spends a lot on overtime and that action needs to be taken. The President indicated that about 5000 teaching posts will be created from the money saved.  This publication has gathered that ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators are next week expected to sit and ponder on the issue as a standalone agenda item at its parliamentary party caucus in which a bold decision may emerge from the meeting.

According to a highly placed BDP legislator who preferred anonymity, the main intention by government is to cut the overtime to save more for other pressing national developments and projects particularly as it believes employees overuse and in some instances abuse the overtime. “Government pays close to 400 million pula on overtime annually. If we cut the money it will be used for creating employment of around 3000 to 4000 positions in government,” the BDP lawmaker told this publication.

He said the thousands employment portfolios will include among others employing temporary teachers to fulltime, employing full time teachers at public pre-schools across the country. The BDP legislator added that more posts will be created for absorption of district veterinary officers (bakenti le balemisi). “This will also cut the wage bill by reducing some aimless employees who usually play morabaraba under trees because have no job to do,” the source added.

However, careful of the repercussion to the civil servants voting pattern at the polls following the stopping of the overtime, the Member of Parliament (MP) cautioned the party to exercise restraint on the matter and deliberate with such electorates in mind. He observed: “you know that we are going to the 2019 General Elections and we have to be very careful about this matter as it can back fire at the polls. We already know we are not appealing to the civil servants as we are not of their liking. They prefer to elect for opposition than BDP as evidenced in the last 2014 elections.”

Meanwhile labour unions particularly Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) have raised the red flag over the overtime scrapping proposals and recent amendment of labour statutes which are done at a supersonic speed. The statutes which regulate the labour are all under review or have already being reviewed like the Trade Dispute Act (TDA), Employment Act, Trade Unions and Employers Organisations. According to BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole, the laws are amended to align them to International labour Organisations (ILO) standards and conventions.

He said they are worried that the government has excluded the Public Service Act in the ongoing amendments despite ILO suggesting that it also amends in consultation with labour. On overtime, Motshwarakgole said he has caught wind of the proposed stopping of overtime for public servants. He however pointed out from the onset that they expect thorough consultations on the matter before effected.

The nonconformist union leader also proposed that the overtime should not be totally discontinued but rather should be replaced with at least a ‘committed overtime’ amounting to around 15/20/25% of employees salaries. “But this one is not good as workers can be easily exploited.” Motshwarakgole said adding that overtime should not be worked if it gets stopped at the end and all workers should just work the normal 8 hours.

On his part BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari said if the government stops the overtime it will be a gross violation of workers’ rights. “This shows that the BDP is ill-informed on workers’ rights. But again it is impractically impossible to stop overtime, unless there will be literally no work beyond the 8 hours scope of work,” he warned. Meanwhile, for the first time, Botswana made it to the top 40 countries at the International Labour Conference that are regarded as violators of the core conventions of the ILO.

Botswana was charged with violation of convention 87 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. 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.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

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.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

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.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

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.”

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