His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana’s submission on labour during the State of the National Address (SONA) has severe inaccuracies which need to be corrected.
For his submission on labour, it portrayed that President Khama’s administration will leave the High Office having dented labour relations profusely, particularly in relation to public sector trade unions. Inaccurate reporting is a clear indication of work not done. My strongest conviction is that a wrong information was submitted to the President, given that a programme such as Decent Work Agenda (DWA) country programme never took-off, painfully the President was made to submit inaccurate information to the public.
According to the State President, “Botswana Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) will be coming to an end in December 2017. The objective of the programme is to promote employment creation, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work. The programme has provided expertise in the development of the drafts on the National Policy on Wellness and Disease Management in the World of Work and the National Occupational Health and Safety Policy. In view of the importance of this programme, Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development is working with employers and workers to review this programme with a view of renewing it.”
For a start the massive labour programme has never been budgeted for, even to be officially launched by the Minister of Labour, as it is a norm whenever a national project is adopted safe for the signing of the programme in 2015 by the then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele, Vic Van Vuuren, Director of the ILO, Machailo Ellis for BOCCIM and Allan Keitseng for the BFTU, and thereafter nothing was executed to fulfil the objectives of DWA country programme. It baffles the mind, when the programme started, under which Ministry and how was its strategic plan outlined for execution and monitoring?
Decent Work Agenda Country programme is premised on four main strategic objectives, which are wanting since the country has not shown any commitment towards fulfilling them. The first objective according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) focuses on, “respecting, promoting and realising the fundamental principles and rights at work, which are of particular significance, as both rights.”
Recently the government has all been out in reviewing labour acts in an ulterior motive to sabotage labour. The Public Service Bill is all out to make trade unions irrelevant by promulgating articles that weaken labour organisations. Almost the entire public service cadres are essential service, a typical testimony of suppressing labour by the government. If there was any intention of promoting DWA in Botswana, the country could have not attempted to temper with progressive Public Service Act (PSA).
The PSA No 10 of 2008 ushered in unionism in Botswana where the labour movement grew in leaps and bounds. The 2011 national Public Service epic strike was facilitated by the Act which prompted workers to have a collective voice to fight against oppressors and rogue administration. Changing of laws was triggered by the might of trade unions probably motivated and protected by PSA reformism.
Regrettably, the government dismally failed to utilise the third strategic objective of DWA, which is, “promoting social dialogue and tripartism” as the most appropriate methods of quelling industrial relation unrests. The government exacerbated the acrimony of labour unrests by formulating gruesome labour policies. The government had to enable smooth tripartite engagement to promote cordial and harmonious interaction between the employer and trade unions.
May be trade unions might have prompted the government to take punitive actions such as deliberate stance to deny public sector trade union members’ salary hikes. Public sector unions made political pronouncements of their support for political opposition parties. But was the action justified to trample on its DWA country programme by further sabotaging its rationale, such as, “adequate level of social protection for workers and their family members?”
Government regressed totally from the DWA framework as the strategic objective makes deliberate actions to bulwark workers and their families against social and economic hurdles. The government should be seen not promoting actions that advance impoverishment or disadvantaging workers such as salary denial, given that real wages were surpassed by inflation. In short, if ever the government purports that the programme has been there, it was diluted and corrupted by filthy actions such as relinquishing the responsibility of protecting workers and their families by the same government.
Trade unions might have blundered to disassociate from the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), but they needed to protect its membership who were reeling in economic depressions. The actions facilitated the employer to award public sector employees their long protracted salary increment. Inappropriately, during this unhealthy squabbles between unions and the employer, the DWA country programme architects never showed displeasure of an interrupted plan, because nothing was in place.
DWA country programme should ensure that workers’ salaries and wages are adequate to sustain their families. Workers should, “Earn an income that meets their basic economic, social and family needs.” With the minimum wage that is way below the wage equilibrium levels, it is burdensome for workers to sustain their families. The government has not made any commitment to review the Minimum Wage Board that is ceremonial as all powers are vested on the Minister who’s not obliged to accept the Board’s recommendations.
Progressive countries such as in the United Kingdom (UK) have adopted independent and national minimum wage model that covers all sectors of the economy, unlike in Botswana where it is industry based, and unfortunately a preserve for few enterprises. Another DWA strategic objective plans on, “developing and enhancing measures of social protection, social security and labour protection that are sustainable and adapted to national circumstances.”
While the government has made tremendous strides in initiating social security programmes for various groupings of the community, labour protection needs rigorous improvement to guard workers from workplace abuse. In Southern Africa, Botswana probably comes second after South Africa in providing social security for its citizenry (Ferguson, 2007). Though the benefits for social security for specified groupings are minimal to sustain families, that commitment to establish social security programmes is commendable.
Nevertheless, the government is found wanting in monitoring whether employers extend social security to its workers. A thorough introspection is obligatory for labour inspection unit. Labour inspection department needs to be reformed, and more radical changes brought to its operation. Labour inspectoral personnel needs serious overhaul of their conditions of service to make the personnel effective and not prone to bribes by employers. The department should also be equipped in terms of resources to facilitate them perform their duties diligently.
Mosoetsa (2014) “Eating from the Pot,” observed that government hand-outs sustain families, since all family members benefit from a single-member government stipends. The little stipends afforded to families the more they become insignificant, however respectable government stipends vastly benefit a larger family members. With high rate of unemployment, able bodied family members also benefit from food hampers given to the needy and old-age members of respective families.
Social security programmes are reviewed annually, with the provision of implementing other programmes that could cushion other precarious citizens and workforce against economic hardships. The benefits afforded to social security beneficiaries are disappointingly insignificant given their monetary rate.
Another dimension of DWA country programme focuses on the, “Respect for the fundamental rights at work, including the right to join a trade union and engage in collective bargaining.” This obligation by the government has been the major downfall given the current furfure that lead to the collapse of PSBC. The wrangles between the employer/government and trade unions diminished the DWA motive of upholding fundamental rights at work.
The turmoil existed and evidenced made workers sceptical to join trade unions, while others decided to ditch trade unions. This was a deliberate move by the government to make workers lose faith on trade unions. Some members opted to have multiple trade union membership, which compromised their loyalty to a single trade union. History shows that workers with multiple membership tend not to be trade union activists since they are mainly bread and butter faithful.
To conclude that, the country’s DWA country programme has been fulfilled and awaiting reviewing is raising some eyebrows. However accolades should be given where there are due, National Occupational Health and Safety Policy draft is near completion, which plays a crucial contribution in accomplishing some feats of DWA strategic plans. Unfortunately the exercise was fulfilled outside the framework of DWA country programme.
This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.
The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.
The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.
Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.
We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.
More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.
The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the market.
Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.
We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?
Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?
Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?
They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?
What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?
They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?
We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?
To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?
Batswana must be made aware that the end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.
For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with the arduous imperative of analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.
Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.
Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute in Botswana is overdue.
If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.
Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.
Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.
Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication
Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.
Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.
Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.
The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.
So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.
The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.
We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.
They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.
As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.
Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme. WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org
The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.
As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.
I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.
I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?
Counting the cost of sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.
It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.
Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.
The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.
Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.
By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.
Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org