Appeal case on scope of PSBC resumes
A case in which the Government, in collaboration with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has appealed the judgement of Justice Tshepo Motswagole of the Gaborone High Court which nullified the unilateral decision by Government to award salary increment outside the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) is slated for next week at the Court of Appeal in Gaborone.
The appeal follows government (and BOPEU) application of stay of execution of the said (Motswagole) judgement in May in which Judge Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe who sat on bench alone “upheld” – pending the current appeal. Prior to the appeal, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) made an application seeking the court to set aside government’s decision which it contended that it was a breach of PSBC as it was not a decision (of the PSBC) process. Most importantly, they also wanted the court to clarify the scope of the PSBC, which is mandated to negotiate salaries and conditions of service for all public servants.
When making the judgement on the matter (currently being appealed), Justice Motswagole stated categorically that: “government breached its duty to bargain in good faith when it granted unilateral 3% increment of salaries on March 30, 2016. The scope of the PSBC- being a joint industrial council – extends to all public servants and is not only restricted to trade union members,” he said. At the time, BOPEU was not sitting in the PSBC and it is understood that hence the team up with government against their rival BOFEPUSU.
BOFEPUSU, also feeling drained and outdone by the flip flopping on the matter would later withdraw their membership from the PSBC, the decision which is effective to date. However the federation still contends the matter is still relevant to them and they are watching closely. “To us this case is still relevant and important as the Bargaining Council is there. It is non – functional currently but it does not mean that it does not exist. In future, we may want to apply for admission,” BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari told Weekend Post in an email conversation.
According to Rari what they are fighting for is a principle that governs industrial councils all over the world, whether the council ultimately gets deregistered and another one concocted “as we hear is the intention of government,” they are of the strong view scope of the PSBC would remain the same as an industrial council. “So to us is an issue of fighting for principle that would ultimately protect the PSBC and the principle of bargaining in this country irrespective of the form that PSBC is composed,” BOFEPUSU SG insisted.
Background of the case until the current appeal
When narrating the marathon case, Rari stated that it is the case that resulted in some public servants (those whose unions were outside the PSBC) getting and increment of a 3% for 12 months (July 2015 to July 2016) and later also getting another increment of a 4% for about three (3) months, while the other section of the public service, those whose unions were admitted into the PSBC, were not getting such salary adjustments. He explained that this was because in an attempt to restore the powers of the PSBC after government has by-passed the council by unilaterally adjusting salaries for public servants in April 2015, BOFEPUSU then approached the Industrial Court to get a interim interdict of the unilateral increment and the by – passing of the PSBC.
He then said the Industrial Court through Judge Rihukhia sort of held that the scope of the PSBC is restricted to those public servants whose unions are admitted into the PSBC. “In taking this view, the decision of the Industrial Court meant that government could adjust conditions of service for those public servants whose unions are not in the PSBC even when the PSBC is still seized with a negotiation process, to the exclusion of those whose unions are admitted into the PSBC, hence the selective and discriminatory 3% and 4% salary adjustment of 2015 and 2016 respectively as mentioned,” Rari further highlighted.
In realizing that the Rihukhia judgment was perpetuating the undermining of the PSBC by limiting its scope and influence, he said BOFEPUSU approached the High Court for a final determination of the matter. “The case was heard at the High Court by Justice Motswagole who agreed with BOFEPUSU that the PSBC is an industrial council hence its scope and decision affect and binds all public servants inclusive of those whose unions that would have at the material time not admitted in the PSBC safe only for those expressly excluded by the PSA.”
Rari said Judge Motswagole went further in his judgment to as a consequence declare that the 3% and the 4% that was being granted exclusively to those public servants whose unions were not in the PSBC was unlawful as adjustment of conditions of service for public servants was purely a preserve of the PSBC. Judge Motswagole as a result interdicted the 4% and 3%, he added.
“However, government and BOPEU fighting on the same corner decided to approach the Court of Appeal on urgency to pray for the stay of Execution of the Motswagole judgment pending the hearing of an appeal against it,” he highlighted. He added that Justice Gaongalelwe, sitting as a single Judge of the Court of Appeal agreed with government and BOPEU and stayed the execution of Motswagole judgment leaving the situation as it was before the Motswagole judgment. According to Rari, the Judgment by Justice Gaongalelwe in upholding the pray by BOPEU and government of a stay of execution of the Motswagole judgment, made a number of decisions that caused serious debates in the judicial circles.
Some of them he added that it included the issues of the stoppage of payment of the 3% and the 4% to non – unionized and those whose unions are not in the PSBC was still before judge Motswagole on a return date, but Judge Motswagole usurped the powers of another court in determining on it. He also said while Judge Motswagole entertained the stay, he however decided that the case will come 5 months later in spite of the fact that this case from lower courts has always been urgent as it affected increment of thousands of public servants.
Rari further pointed out that this is the decision that resulted in BOFEPUSU withdrawing from the PSBC as the decision effectively meant that the members of the BOFEPUSU affiliated unions, which was then admitted into the PSBC, would not enjoy any increment until after October 2017 when the CoA would listen to the scope case. “That was in May 2017, and BOFEPUSU would have to wait for more than 5 months before bargaining while their members would be getting any increment and they had already gone for more than a year with an increment hence the decision by BOFEPUSU to withdraw from the PSBC,” he justified. Meanwhile, in the appeal next week BOFEPUSU has engaged Advocate Alec Freund while government will be represented by Advocate Tim Bruinders.
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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan
Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme of “Ithuse” meaning “help yourself”
The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.
DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.
DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.