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Gov’t sued for unlawful salary cessation

A senior teacher at a government school, Ellen Morula is taking government to task following a decision by the government to stop paying her monthly salary under controversial circumstances since July to date.

The decision she has cited through her attorneys, violated the Employment’s Act and Public Service Act. Morula is being represented by Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm and the respondent is government through Attorney General (AG) on behalf of Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM). The teacher, whose salary has been halted for 3 months now and counting, is employed at Madiba Senior Secondary School in Mahalapye.

The senior teacher wants the government through the employer, DPSM, to pay her all arrears salaries, benefits, including pension contributions and medical aid subscriptions immediately and forthwith. According to court papers seen by Weekend Post, she also said the government should pay 10 percent per annum as interest on the outstanding salaries and benefits from the date they fell due. The court documents indicate that the dispute matter started in 2014 when Morula arranged and requested to swap working stations (self requested transfers) with other colleagues but fell ill along the way and wrote to cancel the request.

She narrated that she was then advised to notify those who were party to the requested transfer which she did, but was shocked later when she was given instruction to go to Swaneng Senior Secondary School despite having cancelled the transfer request.
However she then conceded to move to Swaneng with the advice of the Ministry of Education officials, with the condition that she would later move to Shashe River Senior Secondary School in Tonota, where, owing to her ill health, will be closer to the cardiology clinic in Francistown.

When she got to Shashe, she said in court papers, she was told by the school head that they do not need a Biology teacher and was ordered to go back to Madiba which she did. Morula continued: “surprisingly, and after a long passage of time, on the 24th May 2017, I received a letter written by the Director alleging that I have refused to go on transfer and that I should show cause why a disciplinary action should not be taken against me.”

She said that she then responded in which the essence of her response was that “I went to Swaneng again after receiving the show cause letter and I was informed that there is no accommodation for me, and when I went back after 2 weeks I was told that I can only be housed at Palapye.” According to the senior teacher, she made it clear in that letter that given her health condition; travelling 80km every day would be detrimental to her.

However, after that, the next communication she later received was in the form of a letter from the Director indicating something to the effect that: “the following changes with effect from 4th July 2017 have been made on your assignment: assignment status changed from active assignment to suspended assignment.” The letter further highlighted that “reason for the change: failure to resume duty following voluntary transfer.” The Madiba Senior School teacher pointed out that she could not interpret what the letter meant and consequently went further to seek legal advice.

She further emphasised that to her shock and dismay “following the letter, my salary, medical aid contributions, and pensions were stopped by the DPSM”. In the meantime Morula pointed out that she continued to discharge her functions as a teacher as she continued to be allocated classes at Madiba by the school management. “On the 5th September 2017, I received a letter dated 28 August 2017 inviting me to a disciplinary hearing on the 14th September 2017 at Madiba at 10am. On the said day and time, I appeared at the said place for the hearing, I found no one, I waited until about lunch time, still with no joy.”

She explained that she then approached the head teacher at Madiba, to check if there is an update on the status of the disciplinary hearing and “the head teacher was also in the dark”. Morula said in the said papers before court: “I am advised by my attorney, which advise I accept as true, that the employer in terms of Public Service Act can only stop payment as a punishment following a disciplinary hearing as per section 40 of the Public Service Act.”

She further stressed that no disciplinary hearing has ever taken place against her, prior to the termination of payment of her salary and benefit. “I am further advised the DPSM has a legal duty to pay me monthly salaries and failure to do so is in violation of the employment Act. My attorneys will deal with this point in argument,” she submitted. As a result, her attorney Ndadi also stated in court papers that the client is gravely suffering financial prejudice and embarrassment, and any further delay will invariably worsen her situation. Morula will know her fate as soon as the case takes course in court, as expected, soon.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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