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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Of Labour, Decent Work Agenda and SONA

Opinions

MPHO MARUPING

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.

Mpho Maruping writes from Kudumatse

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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