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Teachers, BEC Exam war in numbers

It is tools down at the Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) marking centres in Gaborone – and BEC will have to dig deep financially if it is to obviate the situation.

Close to 20 000 teachers are in the capital city to mark scripts for roughly 40 000 candidates in the Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations. For the past five days multitudes of teachers who applied to examine both JCE and BGCSE registered a labour dispute with the BEC complaining about what they term slavery conditions of work.

The aggrieved teachers told this paper that the employer, BEC has amended this year’s contract, doing away with benefits they have all along been entitled to. At the top of the frustrations was the removal of subsistence pay from the contracts replacing it with composite pay of which teachers are compelled to pay back a certain percentage after completion of the marking exercise.

“Subsistence pay included night out, transport allowance, food and taxi fares. These monies we got five or six days into the work. Thereafter we will get our script remunerations, which comes after the work maybe days before Christmas,” said one of the teachers who asked to remain anonymous.

In the former contract, papers varied according to subjects with others rating P11, P15 or P20 per paper. However this time around with composite pay, everything is compressed into one. “That is, there is no night-out and other allowances. We get an advance pay of about P3000 which we will have to pay back after we get our pay for marking,” added another teacher at Naledi Senior Secondary School marking centre.

This has not been received well by the teachers who want the same conditions as in the past contracts, or else they will continue with ‘boycott’. Teachers had initially demanded P5000 as advance payment, which they did not have a problem with paying back as long as they are paid P100 per script. Senior Secondary School teachers had wanted P70 per script in their proposal while Junior Secondary School teachers had asked for P100 per script, the two groups agreed to converge at the demand of P100 per script after discussions.

Another issue that is proving to be a thorn between teachers and BEC is the issue of tax. Whatever money is paid to the markers will be taxed at 10%. “But you know BURS tax starts at 25%, this means we will be owing BURS 15% which we will have to pay them somehow from our pockets. So that’s all we want BEC to address or else it will be stalemate,” said another teacher at one of the marking venues.

TEACHERS DISOWN NEW CONTRACTS

Coming for the temporary job of marking, teachers say they were not aware of the new contract prepared by the BEC, instead they heard about it through grape vine hence they couldn’t believe it. On the 4th of December when they were supposed to begin the work they noticed from the contract that it has changed and BEC representatives came in to address in a bid to explain the developments.

It is at this gathering that a number of un-answered questions were raised by teachers which BEC agents failed to answer hence worsening the contractual conflict. “Batho ba ba neng ba tsile ha, ke di junior ko BEC, re bata Mokopakgosi ka sebele kana Dow a te gore address because ke belaela sengwe golo ha,” one teacher said at a gathering in Mogoditshane Senior School (marking centre).

Most of the contracts were to come into effect from the 4th to the 22nd of December. There are close to 20 000 teachers who have voluntarily sought to mark scripts in Gaborone this year. Each teach is expected to mark a maximum of 250 scripts, depending on availability, but the number could be lower. If a teacher is to mark the maximum number of scripts, he or she will register about P25 000 if BEC was to agree a P100 per script rate; or P17 500 if BEC was to go with the proposal of P70 per script.

If the assumption is that each teacher marks the 250 scripts at a rate of P100 then the Examinations Council will need a budget of about P500 million to be able to pay teachers who are doing the marking. At the rate of P70 per script for 250 scripts per teacher, the Council must budget P350 million. For instance about 198 teachers have applied and have been accepted to mark mathematics scripts – this spells out that for this subject alone there should P4 950 000 reserved to pay the markers at a rate of P100  per script for 250 scripts.  

BEC TO INVITE OTHER MARKERS

Meanwhile the council has insisted it will not accede to teachers’ demands and would rather call others to examine. A directive to teachers this week discouraged them to hold meetings at marking venues. “Examiners are discouraged from holding any more meetings at marking venues unless it is absolutely necessary. The executive management or its representatives will not hold any consultations, meetings or activities that have the potential to disruptor delay the marking exercise,” BEC executive manager, Jenamiso Nthele ordered.

On the other hand the Mathematics Association of Botswana (MAB) has called on both parties to put the interest of the learners at heart when addressing their differences. “Teachers have the duty to protect the integrity and credibility of the profession. As much as we support all efforts aimed at improving the welfare and working conditions of the teachers such efforts should be done within the confines of the law, procedurally and in good faith,” wrote Mathews Masole, chairperson of MAB.

He appealed to appealed to mathematics teachers and “other subjects’ teachers” to honour their 2017 exam marking obligation, “positions which they voluntarily applied for,” he stated. Masole said his Association believes in credible marking process and urged BEC to avert these kind of developments in future.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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