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UB staff demands 7% salary increment

The University of Botswana employees, including lectures and Senior Support Staff, are calling for an increase in their salaries with immediate effect.

As part of the increment they want salary adjustment that was given to government employees as a result of a directive increasing their salaries including back pays since then. In an array of demands in the petition, presented to University of Botswana Council (management) Chair Parks Tafa, the UB staff state that they want the money while stressing the urgency by threatening with legal action in the event it’s not fulfilled.

The petition, signed by University of Botswana Academic and Senior Support Staff Union (UBASSSO) chair Kaelo Molefhe, University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) President Gadzani Mhotsha and Simon Kgaoganang representing Manual Workers states that: “government directives No. 4 of 2016 and No. 4 of 2017 should be ratified with immediate effect to pay University of Botswana employees the cumulative 7% salary inflationary adjustment.”

The trio on behalf of UB staff also point out that management has not been cooperative on collective labour agreements. To illustrate this, they highlighted that “in 2016, the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), issued a Circular Savingram dated 30th May 2016, reinstating Directive No. 4 of 2016 on inflationary adjustment of salaries to certain Public Officer cadres, which had been suspended on 29th April, 2016. The said directive offered a 3% salary adjustment and related allowances increase across the board.” They continued: “DPSM further issued Directive No.4 of 2017 which also offered Public Officers of certain cadres a 4% inflationary adjustment of salaries and allowances across the board.”

 As it is the norm, the UB employees indicated that a discussion on salary inflationary adjustment to ratify the directives ensued between UBASSSU – UBSU pact and Management. They said they reached a common position with Management at the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting of 22nd August 2017 on the issue of 7% inflationary adjustment to UB salaries – that given the fact that such funds were not available (obviously as a result of lack of budgeting on the part of Management) that the matter be taken to the Human Resources Committee of Council (HRC) to seek advice and resolution, before the matter could be subsequently tabled before Council for approval or lack thereof.

“The expectation was that Council following its 8th September 2017 meeting will use its power to contact relevant authorities with a view to source funding for the 7% inflationary adjustment to the UB salaries,” they insisted. They also pointed out that they were shocked to learn that the matter reached the 208th Council meeting just for noting (purporting that there was a deadlock between them and Management). “We consider the act of Management as lacking on the principle of good faith and fraudulent at its best. It was inaccurate and misleading for Management to inform Council that there was a deadlock between the Unions and Management.”

According to the petition, the representation of a false position to Council by Management purporting a deadlock with Unions over the desire for a 7% salary inflationary adjustment and the submission of the Draft Staff Grievances Policy and Procedures (SGPP) that has not been finalised/agreed upon by the negotiating parties for approval is a clear breach of clauses 10.3.1 and 10.4 of the 5 recognition agreements that the University has with the two unions. These clauses it is said provide that; “3.1.1 Matters that are mutually agreed upon at meetings of the NC shall be binding on both parties.” Therefore they say that Management defaulted on the agreed position on both the 7% salary inflationary adjustment and the SGPP.

Another clause state “3.1.2 any matter agreed upon by the NC shall be in writing and signed by both parties.”  The parties in this instance have not signed any deadlock on the 7% salary inflationary adjustment or any agreement on the finalization of the SGPP, the UB maintained.
The UB staff members assert that the deliberate action by Management not to implement the decision of the 176th meeting of Council held on 12th November, 2010 which affirmed the alignment of the University of Botswana salaries with that of Government is ultra vires. “Such a decision by Management to decline action on the government directives on 3% &and4% salary inflationary adjustment is a departure from established practice and is tantamount to unlawfully varying a Council decision, thus thwarting the University of Botswana employees’ legitimate expectations.”

This Council decision, the employees say is consistent with paragraph 53 of ‘The Revised National Policy on Incomes, Employment, Prices and Profits of 2005’ that was passed by the National Assembly on 5th April, 2007 which provides that noncommercial parastatals’ chief executives’ remuneration is automatically linked to that of Government permanent secretaries. As a parting shot, the UB staff warned that “take note that you have seven (7) working days to comply with the demands..and take note also that we reserve the right to seek redress and justice elsewhere as we deem fit.”

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Dingake talks about gay rights in tribute to Kirby

11th January 2022

Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.

Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.

In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).

Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.

I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.

He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.

“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.

He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.

The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.

They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”

Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.

“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang.  A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.

When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”

Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.

In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.

He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.

“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.

He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.

“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.

Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”

He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.

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Electricity prices could go up

11th January 2022
BERA CEO - Rose Seretse

Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.

BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.

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Botswana GDP in upward trajectory as economy recovers

11th January 2022
Peggy Serame & President Masisi

Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.

The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

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