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BOPEU wants Bargaining Council disbanded

Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) attorney Dutch Leburu disclosed to the Court of Appeal this week that the union wants the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) dismantled. 

Leburu said this in relation to a matter in which government in cohorts with BOPEU is appealing Justice Tshepo Motswagole’s April ruling in which he nullified the unilateral decisions by government to award public servants 3% increment (and later 4%) outside the auspices of the Bargaining Council. The appeal came as a result of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) having approached High Court through an application seeking to set aside government’s decision which it argued was in breach of the PSBC as increments were not a decision of it (PSBC).

The move also led to BOFEPUSU withdrawing from the PSBC to allow for the court process to take course. When delivering his oral arguments on Thursday before CoA Judges; Justice(s) Ian Kirby (CoA President), Monametsi Gaongalelwe and Zibani Makhwade, Counsel Leburu said all unions should withdraw from the Bargaining Council and altogether, kill it. “All unions should withdraw from the PSBC,” Leburu said adding that “they should instead bargain through sector by sector.” According to Leburu, the PSBC only binds members of unions in it; that is members of trade unions admitted into the Bargaining Council at any given time.

“We submit that PSBC resolution doesn’t apply to all Civil Servants. It only tells us the space of which we can withdraw membership from,” Leburu said adding that “scope limits those who could be in the PSBC but are not.” The BOPEU attorney emphasised that “individualism applies and not collectives per se”. He further said that even under Acting Jointly Agreement (AJA), in the PSBC, it is made by the majority and that’s collective, which they don’t believe should be the case.

Leburu warned the CoA Judges against ruling not in his favour while stressing that all parties should withdraw from the PSBC and bargain with government individually. He said it is not proper that PSBC is the only sole authority of bargaining. After Leburu uttered the words, Justice Kirby then interjected to ask him whether it therefore would not be an incentive to rule in protection of PSBC so that unions who voluntarily withdraw affiliation can go back and keep the Council intact.

The lawyer insisted that still there would be a vacuum in the PSBC while continuously stressing to the Judges that they should consider the danger he is pointing out to them. According to Leburu, Justice Tshepo Motswagole of a lower court, High Court, was wrong in his findings. “He was wrong in finding that the Bargaining Council decisions applied to all members even those outside the unions admitted in the PSBC including BOPEU and that they should abide by the decisions.”

Leburu added that there was therefore nothing wrong in BOPEU accepting the 3% salary hike for its members as they were outside the PSBC and it did not stop PSBC from continuing negotiating further. He asserted that “absolutely nothing” could stop government from increasing salaries of public servants, whether in terms of common law or practice. On his part, BOFEPUSU lawyer, South African, Advocate Alec Freund started his oral submissions by emphasizing that Court of Appeal has the opportunity to settle the collapse of PSBC in its ruling of the matter. He asserted that PSBC is binding to all public servants, regardless of union membership.

According to Freund, who differed sharply with Leburu, when an agreement is concluded at the PSBC, it applies to every employee or public servant. “It’s one deal for all,” he said. He highlighted that when unions bargain in their individual capacities in the absence of the Bargaining Council, it is a very unpopular arrangement in an international juris-prudence. “It’s the worst possible system for the employer,” he told the Court of Appeal bench. The Advocate added: “it will be a tragedy if PSBC breaks down. PSBC should be brought to life. What was the purpose of establishing the Bargaining Council in the first place? We said it should be the forum that will establish useful notes.”

Salary increment for public officers, he said should be uniform while also pointing out that agreements concluded provide a uniform approach to all even those outside the PSBC and this is the industry way. “Bargaining is the duty to negotiate in good faith until impasse. Workers can exercise their powers through an industrial strike and, an employer can exercise his power also through unilateral action.” Advocate Freund maintained that salaries and conditions of service for public servants or increments should go through a process of bargaining at the established structure of the Bargaining Council.    

Meanwhile, an Attorney representing government, Advocate Tim Bruinders also from South Africa also said, while sharing the same sentiments with BOPEU, that when those admitted to the Bargaining Council talk about agreements they only bind themselves and not anybody else. He added that what mainly concerns government is that resolutions of the Council go to an extent of binding PSBC non-parties.   

“It doesn’t mean government cannot negotiate in good faith for other recognized unions outside the ambit of the Bargaining Council. Government doesn’t mind negotiating with many parties,” he said. Upon hearing both sides of the arguments, Justice Kirby leading the trio on the bench, in the matter that will set the record straight on the scope of the PSBC – reserved the judgement to a later date he said will be announced.

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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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