An international body, Public Services International (PSI) is coming after government following recent developments with labour unions which they have termed as anti-workers rights prevailing in the country.
PSI is a global union federation of 669 public services trade union representing 20 million workers in 154 countries. It represents workers in social services, health care, municipal services, central government and public utilities.
In Botswana, recently, the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) collapsed owing to persistent unilateral salary increments by government while negotiations were ensuing at the Council. This led to trade union party, Botswana Federation of Private, Public and Parastatal Workers Union, (BOFEPUSU) out of frustration, pulling out from the talks hence collapsing the Council.
Further, government is at an advanced stage of ensuring that the Public Service Bill becomes law, yet another step considered an endeavour by Khama’s government to trample on the workers’ rights. The bill essentially dis-empowers the PSBC and gives more power to the government through the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) and Permanent Secretary to the President. The PSP has been given authority to undertake disciplinary actions.
Moreover, the government has, despite strong resistance by local trade unions, passed a controversial law at parliament, Trade Dispute Act, which essentially categorized the teaching services, state broadcasting services, veterinary services in the public service, diamond sorting, cutting and selling services, operational and maintenance services of the railways among others – as essential services.
Unions believe their categorization was a calculated move to deprive them of their own weapon against powerful employers – which is their right to strike. WeekendPost is in possession of a letter directed to head of Botswana government President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama in which they highlight to him that the state of affairs concerning the workers’ rights in the country are upsetting to say the least.
They therefore highlighted to him that Botswana and it’s trampling of workers’ rights issues will set the agenda at the International Labour Conference (ILC) next month in Geneva, Switzerland where hundreds of countries will partake.
They state that: “PSI strongly believes that these developments are not only a cause for concern, but also an issue for action by the 106th International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2017.” The General Secretary of PSI Rosa Pavanelli told Khama in the communiqué that PSI fully supports the complaint lodged about Botswana government to the impending 106th ILC sitting in June 2017, Geneva.
Pavanelli said the public service unions affiliating to PSI in Botswana, shall always confront any of the mentioned or identified challenges that infringe on the rights of their members, in any way whatsoever.
“In light of the various developments taking place in Botswana, particularly in reference to the public services, PSI has seen it fit to send a statement/open letter to the President of the country, His Excellency, Sir Seretse Khama on the issues,” she pointed out.
She continued to explain that the issues under dispute that put Botswana on the spotlight include the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act of 2016, the proposals for the amendments of the Public Service Act of 2008 and other developments taking place in the public services.
Pavanelli told Khama that she has been keenly following the developments taking place in the public services in Botswana over the enactment of the Trade Disputes Act (TDA) of 2016, the proposed amendments to the Public Services Bill of Botswana, and the culminating events informed by the posture of the Government of Botswana over the collective bargaining processes in the recent months.
She complained that “the proposed Public Service Bill amendments, which seek to amend the Public Service Act of 2008, have, amongst other things, provided for the unilateral appointment of the Secretary of the Public Service Bargaining Council by the President, and not by all the parties in the council; only limited to the employees of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM).”
In the letter, she is gravely concerned that the PSBC is not involved in dispute resolution, “particularly since it is not clear what, in the absence of dispute resolution, will the function of the PSBC be, in line with the proposals of the bill”. Moreover, Pavanelli stated that the proposals to the bill provide for the conference of benefits on employees whilst negotiations are ongoing, something which seriously undermines and mocks the bargaining process in its entirety.
“These and other such proposals to the amendments to the bill remain problematic in the spirit of building industrial harmony and tranquillity. Furthermore, in all these proposed amendments, there is an apparent lack of commitment to provide rationality for these proposals, and to bring unions closer to such deliberations.”
Adding salt to injury, she explained that the recent court incidents over the PSBC and the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act of 2008 all show an apparently glaring shortage of commitment and sincerity from the Government of the Republic of Botswana to amicably resolve the outstanding matters of workers’ rights infringement in the public services.
According to the PSI General Secretary, this was raised following their prior correspondence, but no action has been taken. Instead, she said, they seem to witness an unabated, uninterrupted and consistent continuation of the process towards promulgating this bill into law soon, despite all the concerns raised.
Pavanelli noted that following the correspondence from the PSI Office on the 30th August 2016, directed to Khama’s office, there has been no change at all in relation to the commitment of the Government of Botswana to considering the concerns of public sector trade unions in the country over the enactment of the act.
“We also have a strong belief that since Botswana has ratified a majority of the core conventions, including Convention No.87 on the right to collective bargaining, and that Botswana is part of the ILO Governing Body, the Government of Botswana should ensure that it consistently upholds the rights enshrined in these conventions. We continue to reiterate this fact,” she stated.
“In that regard, Honourable President, PSI kindly brings the following to your attention: that we again call upon your government to open up for consultative, genuine and conclusive deliberations on both the TDA (2016) and the Public Service Bill Amendments in order to reinstate the confidence that has been eroded on the good faith by the Government of Botswana on all parties to the tripartite structure,” further reads the letter from Pavanelli.
She added: “we shall consistently liaise with your office to ensure that legislative amendments are a process involving all tripartite structures in social dialogue format, so as to avoid unnecessary industrial tensions and unrest.” The PSI official also requested Khama’s government to desist from creating wedges between union and non-union members, as it would likely back fire in future.
Meanwhile BOFEPUSU had vowed to expose Botswana in the global stage, particularly at ILC, for infringement of workers’ rights which is likely to tarnish Botswana’s reputation as “a shining example of democracy” abroad.
Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.
There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024. Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”. Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”
Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.
However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party. This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.
There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.
As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.
Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said. Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.
Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.
This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned. “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.
The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.” Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”
He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.” Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.
He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court. “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.
He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.” He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.
“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”
He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo. “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.
Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.” He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.
The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.
The report was released a week ago. Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says. It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge. The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.
“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.” On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.
“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry. The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says. According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.
The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week. The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods. Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health
The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.
The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.
The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.” “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.